Bishop-solon rejects co-authorship of pro-LGBT bill

Published August 28, 2020, 9:09 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

Baptist bishop-turned-congressman, Bienvenido “Benny” Abante Jr. felt compelled to explain himself Friday after choosing not to become a co-author of a pro-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) bill that was approved by the House Committee on Women and Gender Equality.

Cong. Benny Abante

“The LGBT are human beings like all of us. Many of them are professionals and assets in our society,” Abante, the House Minority Leader, said in a manifestation.

“I might not agree with their lifestyle but I will defend their rights to express themselves with all the freedom that the Constitution provides,” said the Manila 6th district representative.

Minutes earlier, the Committee approved a substitute bill declaring May 17 as National Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia, and Persons with Diverse Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity or Expression and Sex Characteristics. A panel member then moved to have all congressmen present made as co-authors to the measure–a common practice that’s celebratory in nature.

Panel chairperson Bukidnon 1st district Rep. Ma. Lourdes Acosta-Alba approved the motion, but Abante subsequently requested to have his name withdrawn in a calm manner.

“My refusal to be included as a co-author of these bills do (sic) not in any way speak of denying the LGBTs their rights. The Bible speaks also of respect of human rights, especially the poor, the children, and women as our Constitution provide (sic) this protection for such rights,” Abante said.

Also calendared for discussion that day were the 15 bills pushing for sexual orientation or gender identity or expression equality, or SOGIE equality measure. At its core, the bills call for the protection of LGBTs from discrimination.

“Nobody in this country is a second-class citizen, especially the lumads, the indigenous people, the minority, even the PWDs (persons with disabilities). Because of this I filed in the Committee on Human Rights a bill, titled, the ‘Anti-Discrimination Bill’ which comprehensively include our love for our LGBTs,” Abante said.

The Minority leader was referring to House Bill (HB) No. 5969, the full title of which reads “An Act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion or belief, sex or gender or sexual orientation, language, disability, educational attainment, and other forms of discrimination, providing penalties therefor, and for other purposes.”

In the previous 17th Congress, the House of Representatives managed to pass on third and final reading a SOGIE bill after over 20 years of re-filing. The plenary vote was a unanimous 197-0.

However, the measure failed to prosper in the Senate, meaning its proponents had to go back to square one this 18th Congress. It should be noted that Abante wasn’t a congressman during the 17th Congress.

At the conclusion of the hearing, it was decided by the Acosta-Alba panel that the 17th Congress version of SOGIE that attained third reading status would be used as the working draft to represent all the 15 pending bills.