By William Casis
FilAm Star Correspondent

President Rodrigo Duterte supports a separate comfort room for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ), said Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

“(Duterte) said there should be a third restroom for them, we talked about it (last August 18)”, added Panelo.

Panelo issued the statement following the discrimination of  transgender woman Gretchen Diez in a Quezon City mall comfort room on August 13. It stirred talks on the passage of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) equality bill.

Panelo himself said he is in favor of the separate restroom to avoid problems.

“That will solve everything,” further stated Panelo, adding that Duterte is in favor of the SOGIE bill.

In the Senate,  Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri is open to having gender-free comfort rooms in the Senate as his colleagues prepare to consider the SOGIE equality bill.

“Why not? We can start in the Senate,” Zubiri said when asked about “gender-free” comfort rooms as part of the SOGIE bill.

“Let’s keep an open mind. We are now entering 2020 and in this generation, lots of changes happened in the last years. So, let’s keep an open mind, come up with solution that is acceptable to all parties and let’s take it from there,” Zubiri said.

He also said the senators should debate on the SOGIE bill, which was re-filed by Sen. Risa Hontiveros after it failed to pass in the previous Congress.

But Zubiri said he is also backing Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara’s anti-discrimination bill, which he believes would also include SOGIE.

“It could be a happy compromise because there are some sectors which don’t want (SOGIE),” said Zubiri who maintained that there should be equality for all.

This was the same view aired by Sen. Christopher Go, who said all Filipinos should be treated equally and justly.

“I support this,” the neophyte senator said of the Hontiveros bill.
“It is only right to protect the welfare of our country’s gender minorities who have contributed to our development and nation-building and have served and continue to serve the Filipino people well,” Go said.

“As a country that prides itself for its diversity, it is our moral obligation to safeguard a culture of acceptance and inclusivity to ensure that our children and generations of Filipinos to come will live in a nation where they feel loved, cared for and accepted,” he added.

Sen. Leila de Lima sought an end to “bathroom discrimination” following the humiliation suffered by Diez.

De Lima said the incident is a clear case of discrimination and therefore violates the human rights of the members of the LGBTQ community.

She reiterated her support for the immediate passage of the SOGIE bill to help stop gender-based discrimination and abuses.

Hontiveros’ proposed measure seeks to prohibit all forms of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

Other senators who have expressed misgivings about the SOGIE bill are Senators Joel Villanueva and Ronald dela Rosa.

“You cannot give a special treatment in a particular law at the expense of another sector,” stressed Villanueva, son of Jesus is Lord Church founder Eddie Villanueva.

While claiming to be pro-LGBT, Dela Rosa said he would rather wait for a law that would address this problem.

The newbie in the Senate said  many Filipinos are still conservative and some may not be ready to share a restroom with other genders.

“ What if a man pretends to be gay just to be allowed entry to a women’s restroom?”

Sen. Cynthia Villar said she also has no problem with the SOGIE bill as long as everything will be placed proper perspective.

Sen. Sonny Angara  has filed Senate Bill 137 or the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Act of 2019, to cover as wide a range of discriminatory practices as possible.

He said there is still a lot more to be done to totally eliminate all forms of discrimination in the country. He acknowledged that discrimination remains a problem be it for women, children, persons with disabilities or the LGBTQ community.

Angara’s  bill lists 13 “acts of discrimination” that covers a broad spectrum of actions and the consequences of these on the affected parties.