Bernardo M. Villegas
Articles  >> more topics
Need to Amend SOGIE Bill (Part 1)

          In their well-intentioned fight for the human rights of lesbians, gays, transgenders and bisexuals (LGTB), members of the Lower House have passed a bill that will violate some of the most fundamental human rights contained in our Constitution:  the freedom of conscience, the freedom of religious belief, the freedom of speech and academic freedom.  I hope the honorable members of the Senate will be able to prevent this series of violations of our Constitution (of which I was one of the framers) by significantly amending some of the provisions which will be discriminatory against certain religions, parents, scientists and academicians who will be deprived of their freedom of conscience and freedom of expression. The bill has been labelled SOGIE (Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity or Expression) and is now due for second reading in the Senate, which means the period for debates and amendments.

         The House version is full of inaccurate or clearly erroneous assumptions.  There is much talk about discrimination against gays and transgenders in Philippine society.  One only has to look around and observe the proliferation of very successful and highly respected LGTB people in the entertainment world, media, fashion, and other fields in which Filipinos are well known for their creativity.  There are even beauty and talent contests organized exclusively for them.  Many of them are free to join mainstream talent shows and come out winners in a good number of them.  Having resided in the Malate area around the Remedios Circle as a high school student at De La Salle, I observed how well homosexuals integrated in the community, even organizing their own Santacruzan and other religious processions.  Except for gangsters who victimized all sorts of people whatever their sexual orientation, I never felt that there was discrimination against the gays of Malate.

         As one of the framers of the Philippine Constitution, I find the following provisions, still retained in the Senate version, dangerous because they can violate the human rights of others:

         Discriminatory practices:  It shall be unlawful for any person, natural or juridical to:  a)  Promote and encourage stigma on the basis of SOGIE in the media, in educational textbooks, and other medium; b) Include SOGIE, as well as the disclosure of sexual orientation, in the criteria for hiring, promotion, transfer, designation, work assignment, re-assignment, dismissal of workers, and other human resource movement and action performance review and in the determination of employee compensation, career development opportunities, training, and other learning and development interventions, incentives, privileges, benefits or allowances, and other terms and conditions of employment;  c) Refuse admission or expel a person from any educational or training institution on the basis of SOGIE:  Provided, however, that the right of educational and training institutions to determine the academic qualifications of their students or trainees shall be duly upheld; and d)  Deny an applicant for or revoke, on the basis for SOGIE, any government license, authority, clearance, permit, certification, or other similar documents necessary to exercise a profession, business, or any other legitimate calling.

         The above provisions may appear harmless at first sight.  They, however, can lead to the violation of certain basic human rights safeguarded by our Constitution.  First, there is the freedom of conscience.  I   do not even have to invoke any religious belief to express what I can arrive at by the use of natural reason alone when I make the observation that Nature is such that human beings (like others who belong to the animal kingdom) can be classified biologically as male or female.  I can cite enough expert findings of scientists who will defend this view, even if there may be contrary opinions being espoused by some fringe scientists.  Freedom of conscience and freedom of speech should give me the right to opine, on the basis of my scientific convictions, that LGBT are aberrations from the normal.  As long as I respect the basic human rights of those whom I consider as exception to the rule of nature, I should be able to act according to my scientific belief that I should treat them differently from the non-LGBT crowd.

     On the positive side, as is already being done by many employers, I may recommend people from the LGBT community to be employed as fashion designers, hairdressers, ballet dancers, script writers, entertainers, etc. in which empirical evidence shows that they have a distinct talent advantage.  In fact, having done a lot of research on the BPO-IT industry in the Philippines, I can attest to the empirical observation that a good number of BPO workers, especially the voice-oriented, belong to the LGBT crowd. On the contrary side, I will be wary in recommending the homosexuals to be pupils or teachers in schools for boys or to be seminarians studying for the priesthood, because of the moral dangers of sexual abuse.  That is why, I strongly object to the provision that educational institutions should not able to refuse admission on the basis of sexual orientation.  These institutions are just providing for the moral safety of their constituents.  Let me be very frank:  most of the child abuse scandals that have sullied the reputation of the Catholic Church could have been avoided if the seminaries were stricter in examining the sexual orientation of those who apply to study for the priesthood.  For this reason, I think it wrong to specify only academic criteria for admission in educational institutions.  Moral criteria can be even more important than academic qualifications for the welfare of the majority of the students.

            As a writer and educator, I strongly object to the provision penalizing opinions expressing the abnormality of certain sexual orientations, based on my scientific research.  It would also violate my freedom of religion because my Catholic faith expressly states in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that homosexual acts (not orientation in itself) are intrinsically evil  (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2357 -59).  Because of this religious conviction, it should be lawful for an enterprise—whether commercial or educational—that is cultivating a corporate culture based on the teachings of the Catholic Church, to expel an employee that has been proved to entice co-employees to engage in homosexual acts.  Every institution should be free to set moral standards according to the beliefs of the owners and managers.  In fact, I have suggested to BPO managers to lay off their male workers who have been proved to engage in homosexual acts because of the strong empirical evidence that sexual intercourse among males is the most frequent source of HIV diseases.  Such a policy would not be an act of discrimination but a prudent measure to safeguard the health of the employees as well as to enhance the productivity of the work force.  (To be continued).