July 16, 2024

In line with the celebration of Pride Month, the Cordillera Pride Community Leaders (CPCL), an advocacy group focusing on the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual (LGBTQIA+) community, reviewed the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance (Ordinance 13-2017) of Baguio City.

CPCL Chairperson Van Sanchez said while the city made progress in protecting LGBTQIA+ rights, more work is needed to enhance the ordinance and realize its full implementation.

Ordinance 13-2017 is an all-encompassing local law that prohibits discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, health status, disability, and age, and provides penalties for violations.

It aims to eliminate all forms of discrimination and ensure full and effective equality of opportunity, participation, and inclusion in society.

During its first regional session on June 3, CPCL Board Member Darwin Babon said the ordinance lacks provisions prescribing referral mechanisms that provide victims with intervention to help them cope with physical abuse, trauma, anxiety, or other emotional challenges caused by discrimination.

Babon also suggested the ordinance should explicitly identify and prohibit discriminatory and oppressive policies imposed by institutions.

As an example, he said requiring transgender students to conform to specific haircuts and dress codes should be removed from school policies.

To ensure the city government allocates funds for programs addressing discrimination, Babon said the ordinance should specify a certain amount for this purpose.

The ordinance currently does not mention specific funding allocation for these programs, thus the need for a clear budget allocation to support these initiatives, he said.

Sanchez said they hope to formally submit their proposed amendments to the ordinance to the Baguio City Council by the end of this year. 

Speaking on behalf of the Baguio City Council, Councilor Elmer Datuin assured the group the city council is supportive of causes promoting the rights of marginalized individuals, including those in the LGBTQIA+ community.

He added the city council will back any efforts by non-government organizations against discrimination by enacting appropriate legislative measures.

The group plans to lobby the enactment of similar ordinances in other local government units in the region by working closely with the Department of the Interior and Local Government-Cordillera, Regional Development Council, and Regional Social Development Committee.

Meanwhile, Northern Luzon Pride (NLP), a non-government advocacy group for the LGBTQIA+ community, presented a joint manifesto calling for the passage of the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression (Sogie) Bill.

The manifesto was collaboratively crafted with Bahaghari UP-Baguio.

The Sogie Bill aims to “provide comprehensive protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.”

NLP Chairperson Herson Arcega said enacting the bill into law will not grant individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community special privileges or extra rights, but will instead ensure that queer individuals have equal footing with everyone else.

The joint manifesto also urges the immediate passage of the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill.

This legislation aims to address various forms of discrimination, including those based on race, ethnicity, religion, disability, and sexual orientation.

Furthermore, the manifesto underscores the need for awareness and education on issues involving the queer community, enhancement of support services for queer individuals, and collaboration with other organizations and movements working towards social justice.

NLP Board Member Jessica Faye Marino emphasized the urgency of passing these two aforementioned bills, highlighting that the Philippines lags behind other Asian countries such as Taiwan, Nepal, and Thailand in enacting legislation to protect gay rights. – Jordan G. Habbiling