Rjay Castor

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva and Senator Risa Hontiveros are at word war yet again after the former claimed that the “bottomline” of the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) Equality bill is to legalize same-sex marriage in the country. 

Photo Courtesy by Senate of the Philippines/CNN Philippines 

"Yun po yung pinaka-bottomline nito. Gusto nila ng same sex marriage? Ano ba? 'Wag na tayo maglokohan. Is it what they are asking for? Pero sinasabi nila hindi. 'Wag na tayong maglokohan. Same-sex marriage talaga ang gusto," Villanueva said in an interview with reporters.

Hontiveros, who authored and sponsored the measure in the 17th Congress, refuted Villanueva’s claim, reiterating that the bill under Committee Report No. 15 did not include provisions on marriage licenses.

"Hindi aabutin ng higit benteng taon ang labang ito kung tayo ay nakikipaglokohan. Walang nakasaad sa SOGIE Bill ukol sa same sex marriage… This is not the bill that will grant marriage licenses. It is that simple and that clear. In fact, explicitly excluded sa Committee report ang marriage licenses," Hontiveros said. 

The senator said Villanueva’s interpretation of the bills is ambiguous, emphasizing that "laws are worded to be as precise as possible… Any ordinary lawmaker should know that, let alone a majority leader.” 

SB 1600 or the SOGIESC Equality Bill mandates the State to address all forms of discrimination and violence on the basis of SOGIESC. This includes refusing admission to or expelling a person from any educational or training institution; imposing disciplinary sanctions harsher than customary that infringe on the rights of students; and refusing or revoking the accreditation of organizations, groups, political parties, or institutions.

On December 6, 2022, the bill hurdled the Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality after 19 senators signed its committee report. Once a bill passes the committee level, it is set to be sponsored at the Senate plenary. 

However, after Villanueva showed a pile of letters from religious groups who raised concerns about the passage of the bill, 18 senators have asked for a chance to participate, and “a chance to be heard.”

This resulted in the bill being remanded to the Committee on Rules, which he chairs, instead of Hontiveros’ panel, citing Section 32 of the Senate rules.

Villanueva left an assurance that the bill will not languish in the rules committee.

"Of course not,” he said responding to Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda. 

Edited by Khezyll Galvan