Senators on early Tuesday morning reprimanded the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) over an official's remarks seeking a petition supposedly to be addressed to Senate Majority Joel Villanueva on the immediate passage of the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression (SOGIE) Equality bill.
At the continuation of Senate plenary deliberations on the earlier deferred budget proposal of CHR for next year, Villanueva showed a video clip of Atty. Krissi Shaffina Twyla Rubin, officer-in-charge of CHR's Center for Gender Equality & Women’s Human Rights during a pride month celebration in Quezon City last June.
In the video, Rubin was heard saying "mayroon kaming isang petisyon, isang love letter sa ating senador. Hulaan niyo kung sinong senador? Mayroon tayong love letter kay Senator Joel Villanueva. At ang ating panawagan po, dear Senator Villanueva, dear senators natin, lahat po kayo, sana pakinggan niyo ang boses ng ating LGBTQ community at ang ating sigaw ano pong gusto nating ipasa? SOGIE Equality bill."
Villanueva asked several times Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who defended the CHR's proposed budget, if the remarks of Rubin was authorized by the CHR commissioners and if this was the official stand of the commission.
"Mahirap po ito ginoong pangulo...Ang buong pag-aakala ko po ang Komisyon ng Human Rights, ang bawat isang indibidwal na Pilipino, ang bawat karapatan ng bawat isang Pilipino ang nire-represent nila hindi po isang sektor lang. Bawat isang mamamayang Pilipino, senador ka man o hindi. Babae ka man o lalaki, ire-represent ka ng Komisyon ng Human Rights," Villanueva said.
Estrada said the remarks were made with the consent of the focal commissioner for women and it was addressed to Villanueva because he chairs the Senate Committee on Rules, which is tasked to schedule the deliberations of bills in the upper chamber.
Citing the remarks of CHR Chairperson Richard Palpal-latoc, Estrada said the supposed petition is still with the commission and they have no intention of sending such to Villanueva.
When the CHR, through Estrada, said that Rubin's statement was the official stand of the CHR, the Senate decided to suspend its rules and asked the CHR chairperson to speak instead of their budget sponsor.
Villanueva mentioned that he has been pushing for a Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill in the last two Congresses, but Palpal-latoc admitted that he wasn't able to read the proposed measure.
This did not sit well with Villanueva and asked how the CHR came up with that position without reading the bill he has been espousing.
"Hindi niyo po bina-violate ang karapatan ng representasyon na 'to? Hindi ho ba ako pupwedeng madinig muna yung aking adhikain at yung mga panukalang batas na aking inihain dito sa Senado bago po kayo magdesisyon na pepetisyunin niyo po ako, bago kayo magdesisyon na tatayo sa entablado, yurakan ang aking pagkatao?" Villanueva asked.
"Wag na po ako, yung ibang tao na lang. Hindi po ba tama bilang Commission on Human Rights?" he went on.
Palpal-latoc explained that the CHR agreed to participate in the pride celebration but the petition was "later found out by the commission."
The CHR said only Rubin and the focal commissioner were only aware of the petition.
Estrada and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano came to Villanueva's defense, noting that harm had been done to the majority leader.
Cayetano pointed out that being against the SOGIE bill does not necessarily mean that the individual is against the LGBTQIA+ community.
Cayetano noted that Villanueva has been tagged a "bigot and anti-LGBT" and it was fueled by the remarks made by Rubin during the event.
"The point is the commission a partisan in hitting the majority leader because he has some concerns in some provisions on SOGIE and because in social media, in media, in the public, in the rallies, pinapalabas na anti-LGBT siya, that's very unfair," Cayetano said.
"I respect what you're fighting for. I respect your advocacy etcetera but the way you did it na commission kayo...is not acceptable, it's not being done in a civilized way," he added.
To end the discussion, Palpal-latoc said, "We regret how the Senate felt about what happened about the petition, especially Senator Villanueva."
"The CHR commits in improving its processes as our mantra says 'Kami ang CHR ng lahat, naglilingkod maging sino ka man. And we are fully committed to work with the entire Senate in refining the SOGIE Equality bill and as we equally support the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill," he added.
Villanueva asked again if Rubin's statement is not the position of the CHR, Palpal-latoc said "it is not the official statement of the commission."
"It was the official stand of the commission to advocate for the passage of the SOGIE bill but with regard to the actions made during that activity, no, your honor," Palpal-latoc explained. — BAP, GMA Integrated News