In line with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines’ campaign to do MORE, BETTER, and FASTER through partnerships with other organizations, the IBP and Rainbow Rights Philippines (R-Rights) conducted the webinar “SOGIESC 101 and Initiatives: Understanding Concepts, the Safe Spaces Act and Anti-Discrimination Ordinances.”
Atty. Jazz Tamayo, President of R-Rights discussed the concepts of SOGIESC (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics) which includes discussion on the experiences of discrimination and on being sensitive towards another person’s SOGIESC in all dealings such as personal, via online, in the workplace, and even educational and training institutions while Atty. Eljay Bernardo, Legal Advocacy Officer and Paralegal Program Coordinator of R-Rights asked support for the passage of Anti-Discrimination Ordinances in the Local Government Units (LGUs) as a grassroots initiative to reach a wider audience against various forms of discrimination
During the welcome remarks, IBP President Domingo Egon Q. Cayosa shared that “It is heartwarming to know that Rainbow Right Philippines is led by Filipino lawyers.”
“You have the support of your Filipino lawyers and of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines” he added.
Extending the reach of the Free-Legal Aid Program
IBP Pres. Cayosa noted that “the free legal aid program for the past 48 years was limited to appearances in the Court, giving of legal advice and documenting indigent clients.” He shared with webinar attendees that under his watch, “the concept of legal aid now was greatly expanded and enhanced which now includes developmental legal aid, not only attending to litigants but also for advocacy such as on gender and development, OFWs and human rights issues.”
He noted that IBP “should proactively address issues, enlighten people and advocate” rather than “passively wait for issues to arise.” This is what IBP intends to deliver through its “developmental legal aid.”
Safe Spaces Act is effective even in the absence of LGU ordinance
During the Open Forum, IBP Director for Gender and Development and immediate past president of IBP Cebu City Chapter, Atty. Regal Oliva clarified if ordinances are required to be passed before the provisions of the Safe Spaces Act can be implemented in the LGU.
Sharing her personal experience, Atty. Oliva said that policemen from Cebu City refused to file a case against a violation of the Safe Spaces Act because the city has not yet passed an Ordinance to implement it.
Atty. Tamayo said that “the law is very clear, though it mandates the passage of Ordinances, it is not a precursor for it to be implemented. The LGU cannot use as a defense that they do not have an Ordinance; hence, they cannot prosecute offenders.” However, “LGUs are being asked to pass Ordinances.”
IBP sought suggestions to further advocate Gender and Development
On Anonymity and Malicious Prosecution
IBP Pres. Cayosa asked the resource speakers from R-Rights “for improvements to be pushed in Rules of Court and Code of Professional Responsibility which IBP is willing to support.”
Atty. Tamayo suggested that “anonymity in the filing of cases” such as in the prosecution of a violation under HIV Law puts their client “at the risk of disclosing themselves.” She hopes that in the future, being an HIV positive or being a member of the LGBTQI “would no longer be a concern.” However, she noted that before that time arrives, “there must be protection concerning anonymity.”
She added that “protection of gender advocates from malicious prosecution” will further the advocacy.
On Court Attire
Atty. Oliva suggested to IBP Pres. Cayosa “to amend the rules concerning court attire.” As she narrates her experience, “If I have to appear in Court, I have to study the judge if I will be allowed to wear heels or not.”
Atty. Bernardo gave an alternative solution. He said that “the policy can be amended by removing the terms men and women in the prescription of the attire, specifically enumerating what is prescribed for men and what is prescribed for women.” This will make the policy “gender-neutral.”
Atty. Tamayo also shared that “in more progressive institutions or companies, they have simple rules. They do not have to specifically provide masculine or feminine attires.” They simply state “any top with collar, any pants but not denim.”
She added that “Clothes do not affect people’s competence.” Hence, she wonders “why there is so much concern for uniforms, haircuts, and presence of tattoos.”
On the passage of ADOs in LGUS
Atty. Tamayo also hopes that IBP can facilitate and even encourage the passage of ADOs in LGUs in addition to all the suggestions.
IBP Pres. Cayosa said that IBP will maximize its networks because it has “robust relationships with League of Governors and League of Mayors” to push for these initiatives. It will not simply suggest but “advocate.”
Though IBP Pres. Cayosa warned that “not all these suggestions can be considered but we have to start somewhere.” As he emphasized, “we have to bring these to the attention of decision-makers and political leaders” and he observed that many of them “are lawyers as well.”
This webinar on SOGIESC was the second webinar on Gender and Development. The first webinar was on Gender-Fair Language with Atty. Nico Robert R. Martin, Assistant General Counsel of the Judicial Integrity Board, Supreme Court.