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Acceptance and Respect: Equality Before The Law

IBP and R-Rights Partnership Meeting

The INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES under Atty. Doming Egon Q. Cayosa’s leadership has established a campaign to do MORE, BETTER, and FASTER through partnerships with other organizations. In pursuing its advocacy to strengthen its commitment on Gender and Development, it will enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Rainbow SOGIE Rights Philippines, Inc. (R-Rights).

R-Rights, led by Atty. Jazz Tamayo, is a legal organization composed of persons of diverse SOGIESC and gender activists which aim to contribute to the promotion and visibility of the human rights in the Philippines, specifically on SOGIE advocacy. It also helps engender a broader institutional and societal understanding of the need for proper legal protections and has already established initiatives focusing on their rights, welfare, and needs.

During the partnership proposal meeting, Atty. Cayosa noted that under his watch, “IBP has been bolder in getting into other areas where it used to shy away.” He also noted that IBP should pursue matters of public interest affecting the justice sector where “IBP should be heard and be seen.”

A Historic milestone for IBP

Atty. Regal Oliva, the past President of Cebu City Chapter and Director for Gender and Development says that she was “happy that this development has taken place, especially in the IBP.” She describes it as a “first time and a historic day as IBP has tackled something that is very sensitive, and we have also tackled an elephant in the room which is the people who belong to the LGBTQI community.”

As a member of the LGBTQI community, Atty. Oliva thanked Atty. Cayosa “for being true to his words to protect not only the IBP, but also the [LGBTQI] community.” Atty. Oliva also urged the Executive Vice President, Atty. Burt M. Estrada, to continue this partnership with R-Rights.

Atty. Estrada, who will assume the Presidency beginning July 1, 2021, assured that he commits “to find a way to fix a budget for Gender and Development activities similar to other institutions like LGUs.” This he said, in order “to have even more activities.” He also assured the continued support under his administration.

Atty. Eric Alajar, the National Director for Legal Aid expects for the IBP that it may “realize and implement the envisioned collaborative approach in promoting our common advocacy on gender sensitivity.” Also, he hopes that the incoming administration, it will carry out its mandate under the proposed MOA.

As noted by Atty, Cayosa in “We will never be ready until we work on it. IBP should move, to put itself behind this advocacy to help.” For his message to the members of the legal profession, “We welcome and respect them.”

The MOA covers support for policy reforms and initiatives, case referral system, as well as training and programs:

Free legal aid referral system

Under the MOA, to pursue developmental legal aid but “subject to the means and merit test, the IBP and its Chapters shall extend free legal aid services to persons of diverse SOGIESC referred by R-RIGHTS. R-RIGHTS shall provide free training and materials to the IBP, its Chapters, and the designated legal practitioners so that the legal service/s may be effectively and efficiently rendered.”

Grassroots initiatives through Local Government Units

Further, the MOA provides for the “IBP and its Chapters shall assist in the conduct of Pride Month Events of amenable Local Government Units through the League of Cities and League of Provinces. R-RIGHTS shall provide support through programs and materials related to Gender and Development, subject to availability of resources.”

In relation to the absence of an anti-discrimination law, IBP and R-Rights will work together to pursue “Round Table discussions with amenable Local Government Units through the League of Cities and League of Provinces, on provisions and passage of an Anti-Discrimination Ordinance.” R-RIGHTS are willing to provide their resources such as sample Ordinance and IRR provisions, talking points, and counterarguments.

Use of pseudonym in the proceedings

In relation to HIV law and the Safe Spaces Act, IBP agreed to protect the LGBTIQ+ community “to a draft of a policy or rules to protect the confidentiality of complainants for an option of use of a pseudonym in the proceedings to be promulgated by the Supreme Court. The IBP shall endorse the policy to the appropriate institutions such as the Supreme Court of the Philippines through a letter of support.”

Dress codes and grooming policies

To promote diversity and inclusion in public offices, courts and tribunals, IBP agreed “to craft and pursue policies and rules on dress codes and grooming policies to be promulgated by the institutions duly authorized such as the Civil Service Commission. R-RIGHTS shall provide domestic and international research and resources to the IBP regarding this initiative, and the IBP shall endorse such policies or rules to the appropriate institutions or offices through a letter of support.”

Passage of gender-progressive laws

Further, the MOA provides for IBP and R-Rights “to submit aligned position papers supportive of gender-progressive pieces of legislation in Congress when needed. R-RIGHTS can undertake to facilitate the inclusion of the IBP in committee hearings.”

To ensure the implementation of this MOA, IBP and R-Rights will designate their respective focal persons and for monitoring progress on the ground.

On the part of the IBP, the MOA is expected to be approved by the 24th Board of Governors during its last meeting this coming June 19, 2021.