Press Release
February 8, 2023


Mr. President, dear colleagues, a brief manifestation. In December last year, I was ready to sponsor this Committee Report no. 15, or an act prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

Pebrero na po ngayon at tinatanong na po sa akin ng mga myembro ng LGBTQI+ community kung ano na nga ba ang nangyari sa bill. Bakit daw hindi ko pa ito inisponsor. They want to know what is happening.

Madame President, I owe them an answer. And I owe them an answer in public. Here in plenary.

I have been made to understand that the majority leader has obtained 19 signatures to remand the committee report to the Committee on Women because a number of pastors still want to speak. This was a couple of weeks ago. Today, I am still waiting for it to be remanded. I have no illusions that the bill will sail through this chamber quickly, and I am ready to defend it on the floor as a Sponsor defends any bill -- with arguments and logic. *What I was not ready for was for this bill to be in this kind of suspension or limbo*

While I will always defer to the majority of this collegial body, perhaps some points need to be made for the historical record. *Tatalima ako pero di ako tatahimik.*

Firstly, while I believe in genuine participation and consultations, the evangelical groups participated actively in our committee hearing and in the TWG. Ito po ang mga naimbitahan sa hearing at TWG at lumahok pa rin po sa hearing or TWO or pareho: United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Union Theological Seminary (UTS), Intercessors for the Philippines, Mindanao Evangelical Leaders Council, Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, Jesus is Lord, Bible Values Movement, The Lord who Cares Foundation, Living Waters Philippines, Simbahang Kristianong Lumad, Davao Region Evangelical Association Ministers, Philippines for Jesus Movement at Christian Coalition Movement. Maliban po dito ay ako po ay nakipag dialogue sa Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches bago Mag Pasko at sa aking pagtingin ay mabunga ang aming pinagusapan.

Secondly, and perhaps my dear colleagues also need to hear this in open session to allay any fears that none of the recommendations of the religious groups were accepted. I already agreed on a number of concessions -- these include the explicit exemption of marriage licenses in the provision on licenses para malinaw na *this is not the bill that legalizes gay marriages,* the explicit inclusion of the principle of academic freedom and the *non-disturbance of parental responsibility in the Family Code,* and I agreed to reconsider criminal liabilities on schools that impose heteronormative uniform requirements and parents who seek medical tests to determine the SOGIESC of their children. Some of you, dear colleagues, have expressed concerns on this.

Thirdly, I am willing to begin a conversation on trimming some of the criminal prohibitions. Mahalaga lang po sa akin na manatili ang pagbabawal sa 1) workplace prohibition -- dahil ito po ay karapatan natin lahat bilang mga manggagawa; 2) expulsion from schools on the basis of SOGIE - because this is not in accord with the best interest of the child; 3) discrimination in access to emergency and necessary medical services - because this is against the principles of the universal health care law and basic humanity; 4) SOGIE-based abuse against persons deprived of liberty; at 5) discrimination in access to social protection instruments gaya ng ayuda.

Fourthly, we have been listening to and hearing our religious groups for 23 years among all groups. I am willing to keep on engaging and listening in good faith, and I can engage with those who speak from a place of faith and religion being a woman of faith myself. *But I was voted by the Republic to pass secular laws.* Laws that protect the least of us. Laws that reflect our commitments to international law and to human rights norms.

I hope you agree with me that the oppressions that visit our LGBTQI+ community are real, documented and undeniable. Wag na sana natin ipagkait sa kanila ito.

Yes we will revert the bill to committee, yes we will hold another hearing, if that is what you want, dear colleagues. But I ask this of each of you my colleagues: if you still think that the oppressions against LGBTQI people are imagined and exaggerated, reach out to a member of the community. Ask your staff who is gay. Your friend who is a lesbian. Your family member who identifies as bisexual. Ask them about the aggressions and micro-aggressions they face each day.

Our God is a God of love. Of inclusion, of compassion, of lifting up those at the margins. In the words of Pope Francis, "We are all children of God, and God loves us as we are and for the strength that each of us fights for our dignity."

*When we pass measures that protect those that society casts aside, we do God's work.*

*To my friends in the LGBTQI+ community, I will continue to fight for you and fight with you. Love is the currency of our struggle. Love will always win.*

Salamat po.

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