Abante scolds UP gender program lawyer: Don’t talk about Sogie

FILE PHOTO: Manila District 6 representative. Welcome Abante. INQUIRER.net file photo / Noy Morcoso

MANILA, Philippines — Manila 6th District Representative Bienvenido Abante Jr. told a legislative official at the University of the Philippines (UP) School of Law to keep his sexual orientation and gender identity issues to himself (Sogie ) during a hearing Tuesday, alleging that the official cannot speak for the state university on these issues.

Hendrix Bongalon, an attorney with the UP Law School’s Gender Law and Policy Program (UP-GLPP), presented the office’s position paper on the proposed anti-discrimination bill during the Committee hearing on the House of Representatives on human rights.

At the beginning of the speech, Abante —president of the committee— asked Bongalón if the latter represented the UP, to which the lawyer replied that he “speaks on behalf of the UP-GLPP.”

Bongalon pointed out that the country does not have Sogie Equality laws, to which Abante replied that the UP should not be exclusive to one group in society.

“You are not representing LGBTQ, you are representing UP […] therefore, speak up and tell us that you represent the UP, not a certain group,” Abante told Bongalon. “You are a government official, right? So if you are representing the UP, you talk about education”.

“What really bothered me is when you represent UP and talk about a certain right of a certain individual. That should not be, the measure is a comprehensive right for everyone, so you are talking about everyone, that is my request, we are not talking here about another bill of special rights. So don’t be a know-it-all with me,” she added.

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According to Abante, the House panel is trying to create a comprehensive bill that caters not only to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual (LGBTQIA+) community, but to all people who may be victims. of discrimination.

The LGBTQIA+ have been a strong supporter of the Sogie Equality Bill, though they have insisted that the bill not only protects them but other sexual orientations and activities within legal means.

READ: Terrible Misconceptions: Why We Need Sogie’s Equality Bill

“If your position paper is only going to talk about a certain right of any group, then that should not be the case here,[…] In other words, I hope you are going to talk about freedom of the press, you are going to talk about student freedom, freedom in the university, that is what you should talk about,” Abante said.

“But if you’re just referring to one group, you’re not referring to a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill. You see, I’m not stupid here, ”she added.

Bongalon tried to explain that he was just trying to read the UP-GLPP position paper.

“I leave this chair’s remarks to Your Honor, and Your Honor, if I may, personally, Your Honor, say that I truly admire and fully respect you, Your Honor, and the members of this committee. […] but your Honor, this is a position paper signed by the director of the program,” said the lawyer.

However, Abante and Cibac party list representative Eddie Villanueva, both Christian preachers, have argued that Bongalon should not speak as if he represents UP ideals.

Abante and Villanueva noted that their family members are part of the UP community, but do not share the views of Bongalon’s office.

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“It seems to the public that he could be representing the entire UP community. So this could be misleading […] so just a reminder to all concerned that we must be careful about making the mistake of representing the entire institution, because our family members are members of the UP community,” said Villanueva, founder of Iglesia Jesús es Mr.

“But to be accused of succumbing to the template of Western lawyers proposing a certain preferential right of a certain group, that is absolutely unfair to the members of the UP community,” he added.

Two other legislators in the Youth Rep. Raoul Manuel and the representative of the 1st district of Albay. Meanwhile, Edcel Lagman defended Bongalón, saying it was clear that he was reading the UP-GLPP position.

Both Manuel and Lagman pointed out that it is impossible to speak for UP on these issues as it is made up of complex and diverse members.

“Mr. President, I think it was clear who our expert represented, I think it’s clear to me that he does not represent the UP community, especially since we have a diversity of views even in a na institution, of course, stands as our national state university”, said Manuel.

“Regarding Lic. Bongalon, I would like to state that from the beginning he said that he was going to read the position document of the UP Gender Law and (Policies) Program, signed by Professor Leo Battad. He did not misrepresent that he was going to speak for the entire UP community, which is a complex community,” Lagman added.

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Tensions have been high in that committee, as religious groups invited as specialists and LGBTQIA+ rights advocates clashed over their beliefs, with the former saying an anti-discrimination bill is no longer needed.

However, Abante assured Reyna Valmores, president of the progressive LGBT group Bahaghari, that the community would be protected despite their differences with them.

The committee is hearing four similar anti-discrimination bills, including House Bill No. 188 authored by Abante. No consensus has been reached on the status of the four bills, and Abante stresses the need for more hearings.

READ: At House hearing on anti-discrimination bill, Bible verses fly to counter proposal

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