Student groups from various Catholic schools in Manila have reiterated support for a bill in Congress that aims to protect members of the so-called LGBTQ+ community.
The student councils at Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, St. Scholastica's College, and Miriam College released a joint statement on Sept. 3 supporting the proposal.
Senator Risa Hontiveros submitted his SOGIE, or Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression Equality bill, last month, after legislators failed to address a previous bill submitted to the last Congresss.
Senate President Vicente Sotto, however, said that there was "no chance" that the Senate would pass the new bill.
He said Congress could pass an anti-discrimination bill but not one that focuses only on members of the LGBTQ+ community.Eddie Villanueva
, leader of the Jesus Is Lord Church, has strongly opposed the bill, claiming it would "undermine" the role of parents, "threaten" academic freedom, "imperil" freedom of speech and religion, and "puts into question the very foundation of our laws."
Villanueva said that out of the 13 versions of the bill in Congress, 10 would require parents to secure a family court order should they want their children to undergo any medical or psychological examination in matters related to SOGIE.
"Since when has it become our official policy to give the government authority to decide on our children's lives, especially on an issue as sensitive as their identity?" said Villanueva.
He also zeroed in on a provision that would punish those making public speeches meant to shame or insult the LGBTQ+ community.
Religious speeches from clerics would be exempt from penalties, but Villanueva said for everyone else there is a problem.
"What happens to a Christian like me, and to the majority of people … if we are to be threatened with punishment every time we share our Bible-based beliefs on matters of transgenders and homosexuals?" he asked.
Amid the heated debates, the university students said the public should "recall the teachings of the Church" and "champion the cause of equality."
The students said they base their support for the bill on "Christian values of compassion, love, and acceptance."
"LGBTQ+ persons live in constant fear of stigma, harassment, and in many cases, death," noted the students in their statement.
LGBTQ+ is short for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. The "plus" remains open to some interpretation, with some observers saying it stands for "love and acceptance."
"These are our fellow Filipinos who are deprived of, and denied the full enjoyment of their rights," added the student statement.
It said that the bill, if passed into law, will safeguard the rights and welfare of Filipinos of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression.
They noted that Filipinos of diverse sexual orientation always face discrimination.
"They are thrown out of their homes, rejected by their families, bullied in schools, barred from employment, denied healthcare, or ridiculed in the streets," said the students.
They said a delay, and subsequent non-passage of the bill in the last Congress," was nothing short of disappointing."
"It is time to renew our commitment to equality for every Filipino," they said as they call on legislators to immediately pass the bill into law.
Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan earlier called on legislators to consider public sentiment in drafting the proposed law.
"Listen to your constituents and what they have to say about the issue. So a debate I think is very, very important on the matter," said the prelate.
He said Catholic bishops have been supportive of the anti-discrimination bill.
In 2015, the bishops issued a statement supporting the passage of an anti-discrimination law, but made clear that they do not encourage choosing one's gender, among other things.
The prelates said an anti-discrimination law is a "gesture of charity" if discrimination means that certain individuals, because of sexual orientation or gender identity, are systematically denied fundamental human rights.