Will proposed Civil Partnership Act prosper in 19th Congress? Herrera has fingers crossed

Bagong Henerasyon (BH) Party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera is giving the proposed Civil Partnership Act--which will benefit members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community--another shot in the 19th Congress.

(Jason Leung/ Unsplash)

Herrera, who won a fresh mandate during the May 9 polls, refiled the measure as House Bill (HB) No.1015.

The veteran party-list lawmaker filed similar bills on civil partnership during the 17th and 18th Congresses, but these did not prosper. She is hopeful the refiled bill has a better chance under the new Congress.

“It is about time that the Philippine government grant couples—whether they are of the opposite or of the same sex—adequate legal instruments to recognize their partnerships, respecting their dignity and recognizing equality before the law,” Herrera said in her bill’s explanatory note.

She noted that while there has been greater acceptance of minority groups in recent years, the Philippines has not made sufficient strides in providing some of the most basic civil rights to couples who are not eligible for marriage under existing laws.

Herrera said that a large part of this affected population are members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and asexual (LGBTQA+) community, who, by reason of their sexual orientation and who they live with, are excluded from entering into legally recognized unions.

“This exclusion exacerbates the reality that most, if not all of these couples confront,” said the former House deputy speaker.

She lamented that under the current set-up, those who identify themselves as LGBTQA+ cannot declare their partners as beneficiaries under social security and insurance plans. They are also unable to inherit through intestate rights in the event of the death of their partner.

“These restrict basic liberties that are available to most citizens, despite these couples taking part in loving, committed and long-term relationships,” Herrera pointed out.

Herrera said her bill aims to be a “landmark effort to provide civil rights, benefits and responsibilities to couples previously unable to marry, giving them due recognition and protection from the State".

The proposed legislation, she added, seeks to protect civil partnership couples by penalizing unlawful and discriminatory practices committed by persons or institutions against them on the basis of their civil partnership status.

“Ultimately, at the core of a civil partnership are fully consenting adults who, like many Filipinos, merely wish to love, care and support each other as they build a life together during their fleeting time here on Earth,” Herrera said.

Under the bill, no civil partnership shall be valid unless the parties are at least 18 years of age, are not prohibited to enter into a civil partnership by reason of public policy such as blood relations, and are free from any existing bond of marriage or civil partnership.

Each of the contracting parties shall file separately a sworn application to enter into civil partnership contract with the proper local civil registrar. Civil partnership couples may fix their property relations by executing a pre-civil partnership agreement.

They will also be afforded all benefits and protections granted to spouses in a marriage under existing laws, administrative orders, court rulings or those derived as a matter of public policy or any other source of civil law.

The Herera bill also provides penalties to any person who knowingly and willingly refuses to issue authority to enter into a civil partnership or contract despite being authorized to do so, denies rights and benefits entitled to civil partnership couples, commits discriminatory employment practices, or commits unlawful and discriminatory practices to children of civil partnership couples.

Offenders could face a fine ranging from P100,000 to P500,000 or imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years, or both, at the discretion of the court, the bill said.