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Stiffer penalties for hate crimes vs. LGBTs pushed after transgender’s killing

Senator Bam Aquino on Wednesday pushed for heavier penalties for hate crimes against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, following the killing of a transgender woman in Olongapo City over the weekend.

“We should impose heavier penalties so that these discriminatory and inhumane acts will be eradicated,” Aquino said in a press statement.

He believes the killing of Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude is not an isolated case because the number of hate crimes against LGBT in the country has risen in the past years.

Citing data from the Philippine LGBT Hate Crime Watch, he said there were 164 cases of murdered LGBTs in the country from 1996 to June 2012.

Laude, 26, was found dead inside a motel in Olongapo City Saturday night. Police have yet to determine the motive in the killing.

The suspect, Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, is now being held on board the USS Peleliu, one of the vessels that joined the 2014 Amphibious Landing Exercises (PHIBLEX) in Subic in Zambales earlier this month.

Aquino said based on a study funded by the UN Development Program and the US Agency for International Development, there were 28 killings involving the LGBT community on the first half of 2011 alone.

“This number will continue to rise unless we do something about it immediately," said Aquino, author of Senate Bill No. 2122 or the Anti-Discrimination Act of 2014, which seeks to combat discrimination of any form.

The bill seeks to prohibit and penalize discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion or belief, gender, sexual orientation, civil status, HIV status and other medical condition, among others.

Among the acts that will be prohibited are inflicting stigma; denial of political civil, and cultural rights; denial of right to education such as refusal to admit or expulsion and imposition of sanctions or penalties; denial of right to work; denial of access to goods and services; denial of right to organize; inflicting hard on health and well-being; engaging in profiling; abuses by state and non-state actors; and detention and confinement.

Under the bill, persons found guilty of any of the discriminatory practices shall be fined from P100,000 to P500,000 and an imprisonment of up to 12 years.

The Commission on Human Rights will be tasked to investigate and recommend the filing of complaints against any person committing the prohibited act.

"If the Commission has reasonable cause to believe that any person or group of persons is engaged in discrimination under this Act, the Commission shall recommend a legal action in the appropriate prosecutor's office or court," the bill states.

Aquino said the first hate crime laws in the United States were passed after the American Civil War, beginning with the Civil Rights Act of 1871, to combat the growing number of racially motivated crimes.

While California passed in 1978 the first state hate-crime statute in connection with four “protected status” categories: race, religion, color, and national origin.

Aquino said President Barack Obama signed in 2009 the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expands the existing United States federal hate crime law to gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

Other countries have also enacted hate-crime laws, including Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Spain and the United Kingdom. —Amita O. Legaspi/KBK, GMA News