Philippine President Aquino Tries To Strike Out LGBT Protections from Health-Care Bill

Activists in the Philippines are protesting the removal of sexual orientation from a list of protections on President Aquino’s version of a controversial reproductive-health bill.

The Progressive Organization of Gays of the Philippines (ProGay) said early versions of House Bill 4244 outlaw discrimination in reproductive healthcare based on sex, age, religion, political affiliation and sexual orientation.

But in a draft combining Congressional revisions and the notes from President Benigno Aquino, “sexual orientation” was put in brackets and removed. (The full text of the bill can be read here.)

The change was attributed to Aquino.

HB 4244, which would also mandate sex education and public funding for contraceptives and family planning, has already garnered strong opposition from the country’s Catholic constituency. Aquino has been praised for promoting the bill—which has failed to pass numerous times since 1998, but scuttling gay-specific language could be a way to appease religious groups and conservatives.

The latest version of the measure—which is expected to come to a vote within weeks—has language about sexual orientation put back in. But LGBT groups are speaking out against what they see as discrimination from the executive branch: “We have suffered so much already after this president kept ignoring our pleas to fast-track the anti-discrimination bill, and now we know why,” said Clyde Pumihic, ProGay Metro Baguio secretary. “This administration is dedicated in blocking all efforts to legislate LGBT human rights.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that almost 9,000 nuns, priests and other demonstrators protested the bill over the weekend in Manila, despite heavy rains. One religious leader called the bill “preemptive abortion”: “The objective of this bill is to kill the Filipino race,” Mike Velarde said at the rally. “This culture of death is foreign to us. It is against the word of God.” Others handed out pamphlets denouncing the bill, as well as divorce and same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, a recent report from the United Nations indicates that cases of HIV in the Philippines have tripled in the past few years, and are now up to ten new infections a day.

Photo: Jeffrey Avellanosa