Deputy Speaker and CIBAC party-list Rep. Bro. Eddie Villanueva has managed to defer the passage of the proposed Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity or Expression equality bill on the House committee level at least for one more hearing.
Committee on Women and Gender Equality chairperson Bukidnon Rep. Ma. Lourdes Acosta-Alba was poised to have the committee report on the controversial measure prepared for submission to the bills and index office near the end of its virtual hearing Wednesday when Villanueva raised a point of clarification.
“Narinig ko po magsa-submit na kayo ng committee report. Does it mean na approve na itong pending bill na ito? (I heard that you will be submitting the committee report. Does this mean that this pending bill is already approved?) No more sensible hearing?” asked Villanueva, leader of the charismatic Christian group Jesus is Lord Church.
Acosta-Alba was slow to answer at first, but respectfully replied: “Since the Deputy Speaker himself suggested that we also invite other sectors, then I suppose, if the members would also agree, then we could have one more (hearing).”
“I think for now we will defer the preparation of the committee report,” she noted.
Just minutes earlier, the committee secretary informed Acosta-Alba that 20 out of the 32 panel members – a healthy majority – had voted in favor of adopting the 17th Congress House version of the SOGIE equality bill as the working draft for the purpose of approving it in the current 18th Congress.
The move was meant to expedite legislation especially since the 17th Congress version was unanimously passed on third and final reading in the House of Representatives via a 197-0 vote.
The SOGIE equality measure espouses non-discrimination against members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community. House members filed 16 such bills this Congress.
Had the committee report submission been greenlit, the committee approval of the SOGIE equality bill would have simply been a matter of formality. The next hurdle would be the plenary itself wherein all congressmen would have to vote.
But the understandably conservative Villanueva underscored the need for more thorough discussions on the measure’s provisions. He asked the chair if the panel could invite resource persons from the business sector and academe next time so as to substantiate the claim of discrimination against LGBT members.
“Well-noted on your suggestions, and for our next meeting, let us also hear out the other groups from the business and education sector,” Acosta-Alba said in response to the deputy speaker.
Villanueva kept referring to the measure as the “LGBT bill” and not by its proper name of SOGIE equality.
The scripture-reading solon expressed worries that the passage of the measure could end up discriminating against straight members of society by giving the LGBT members supposed special rights.
“I am for the balanced crafting of this bill,” Villanueva said. No date for the next hearing was announced.