Two Filipino lawmakers announce intent to submit LGBT hate crimes bill

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Two Filipino lawmakers have announced their intent to submit a bill aimed at preventing anti-LGBT hate crimes.

While there are multiple cities in the Philippines that ban anti-LGBT discrimination, so far all efforts to pass such civil rights laws nationwide have been blocked, and many LGBT rights advocates and organizations have expressed alarm over the number of homophobic and transphobic hate crimes being committed in the country.

Currently, the death of transgender woman Jennifer Laude is making headlines after Philippine authorities filed murder charges against a US Marine, Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, who is known to have met Laude in a bar outside a former US naval base. The US allowed the Philippines to take Pemberton into custody on October 27.

In response, Dinagat Islands Representative Kaka Bag-ao and Akbayan Party List Representative Barry Gutierrez are calling on the Philippines to pass a nationwide law that protects its LGBT people. In a press release by the Akbayan Party List, Gutierrez is quoted as saying, “Akbayan is seriously studying the possibility of filing an anti-hate measure that will increase the protection of members of the LGBT community who remain vulnerable to various forms of violence and crimes due to their sexual preference. We have tinkered with this before and Jennifer’s killing has created a new urgency.

“We need to exert a firm action to deter perpetrators from committing these crimes that stem from no particular reason other than their own prejudice based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.”

He added that the bill he and Bag-ao are proposing is focused on three important reforms:

1. The bill is being studied in relation to the constitutional freedoms in the 1987 Philippine Constitution, including freedom of expression. This is to ensure that it will not muzzle nor penalize the people’s freedom of expression but violent crimes which target, among others, people because of their SOGIE [sexual orientation or gender identity/expression].

2. We are studying further revisions to the Revised Penal Code which will either (a) include as an aggravating circumstance to crimes against persons or property the circumstance of committing such crimes because of a bias against one’s SOGIE or (b) qualify a crime against person or property to a different crime of higher penalty whenever the perpetrator committed the crime because of a bias against one’s SOGIE (for example, instead of homicide the crime will be murder), with a presumption that whenever the victim is an LGBTI person then the crime is already qualified.

3. We are also studying the manner by which ‘hate crimes’ may be proven, given the existing definitions of crimes.

He added, “We are currently in consultation with the LGBT community for the necessary actions that will put an end to these unwarranted hate-motivated acts and hopefully eliminate further violence and loss of lives among its members. Further, we hope to set in place the fitting penalties that will deter the perpetrators from committing these acts and allow the LGBT people to openly express their sexual orientation.”

Gutierrez and Bag-ao also implored the government to pass the federal Anti-Discrimination Act of 2014 as soon as possible. If made law, it would criminalize discrimination based on “ethnicity, race, religion or belief, gender, sexual orientation, civil status, HIV status and other medical condition, among others.” Anyone found guilty of such discrimination would be fined P100,000 – P500,000 (about $2,231 -$11,156 USD) and imprisoned for up to twelve years.

Bag-ao, the principal author of the Act, is also quoted in the Akbayan Party List’s press release. She said, “This measure will ultimately bring forth a culture of acceptance of LGBTs in our society. It does not prescribe special rights. Instead, it cements into our legal system the basic rights found in the Constitution and in international agreements.

“It is our duty to create safer spaces for Filipino LGBTs. By passing legislation against discrimination and hate crimes, we can ensure that the rights, welfare, and dignity of our fellow citizens are upheld and protected.

“Now, more than ever, concrete action on the part of Congress is an imperative. Clearly, in the murder of Jennifer, our struggle goes beyond discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. Our fight extends to hate that is translated into violence.”

The senator who introduced the Anti-Discrimination Act, Bam Aquino, said in an October 15 press release, “Hate crimes against the LGBT sector and other minority groups have no place in a civilized society.”

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