[Press Release] Lawmaker urged student-leaders to ‘step-up’ support for swift passage of STRAW bill

Human Rights Online Philippines

Lawmaker urged student-leaders to ‘step-up’ support for swift passage of STRAW bill

Iloilo City — Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez on Saturday addressed a nationwide alliance of student-leaders to ‘step-up’ their support for the ‘swift and immediate’ passage of the Students’ Rights and Welfare (STRAW) bill, saying ‘ the absence of a national policy on the issue has exposed the rights and welfare of the students to various forms of suppression and violations’.

Photo from Team Barry Photo from Team Barry

The lawmaker made this call during the 9th Congress of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP) held at the Central Philippine University (CPU) in Iloilo City where 200 student-leaders from across the country were assembled.

“As students and young leaders of your respective colleges and universities, everyone here understands the importance of HB 4435 in protecting the rights and welfare of the each student,” Gutierrez said.

HB 4435, which was jointly drafted…

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Filipino lawmakers plan to curb hate crimes targeting LGBT members


hate-crimes-fist-1759Philippines:  Two lawmakers in the Philippines say they plan to file a critical measure that could curb hate-motivated crimes and violence targeting LGBT members in the country.

Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez and Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao drew upon the recent brutal murder of Jennifer Laude allegedly by a US serviceman and which is popularly believed to be a manifested hate crime because the victim was a transgender woman.

“Akbayan is seriously studying the possibility of filing an anti-hate measure that will increase the protection of members of the LGBT community who remain vulnerable to various forms of violence and crimes due to their sexual preference. We have tinkered with this before and Jennifer’s killing has created a new urgency,” Gutierrez said.

“We need to exert a firm action to deter perpetrators from committing these crimes that stem from no particular reason other than their own prejudice based on a…

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Martial Law victims to get six months extension to file reparation claims

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The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed on second reading a Joint Resolution to extend by six months the period for human rights victims during Martial Law to file their claims for recognition and reparation.

Principally authored by Akbayan Reps. Barry Gutierrez and Walden Bello, Joint Resolution No. 16 seeks to move the deadline of filing from November 10, 2014 to to cope with the large number of persons seeking for reparation and recognition under Republic Act 10368.

The development was lauded by Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez who underscored the importance of the measure in providing redress to the victims of human rights violations during the Martial Law period and “making certain that they take their rightful place in our history.”

“The six-month extension was sought to allow the legitimate claimants, especially those living in far-flung areas of the country, full opportunity to file their claims with the Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB),” Gutierrez said.

The lawmakers said that as of October 2014, the Claims Board has received more than 29,000 claims under the law, while the expected number of claimants is at 55,000-90,000.

“With the November deadline fast approaching, it is evident that the set time frame needs to be expanded to ensure that all victims will be given their proper recognition and compensation, and no victim will be unduly cut-off from their rightful claims, ” Gutierrez explained.
“We are happy, therefore, that the leadership of the House lent its full support leading to the swift approval of the measure. This is a clear signal that the Congress is serious in its commitment to seeing justice served to the victims of Martial Law,” he added.

The joint resolution is expected to pass Congress before the current session adjourns on October 29, in time for the November 10 deadline, Gutierrez said.###

Lawmakers studying the filing of bill against hate crimes

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A pair of reform-oriented lawmakers has expressed plans to file a critical measure that could curb hate-motivated crimes and violence directed at the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez and Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao drew upon the recent brutal murder of Ms. Jennifer Laude by a US serviceman believed to be a manifested hate crime as grounds for a renewed effort to push for a nationwide protection of LGBT persons.

“Akbayan is seriously studying the possibility of filing an anti-hate measure that will increase the protection of members of the LGBT community who remain vulnerable to various forms of violence and crimes due to their sexual preference. We have tinkered with this before and Jennifer’s killing has created a new urgency,” Gutierrez said.

“We need to exert a firm action to deter perpetrators from committing these crimes that stem from no particular reason other than their own prejudice based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and expression (SOGIE),” he added.
Gutierrez said the bill under consultation aims to achieve three (3) important reforms in strengthening protection of the LGBT community:
1. The bill is being studied in relation to the constitutional freedoms in the 1987 Philippine Constitution, including freedom of expression. This is to ensure that it will not muzzle nor penalize the people’s freedom of expression but violent crimes which target, among others, people because of their SOGIE.

2. We are studying further revisions to the Revised Penal Code which will either (a) include as an aggravating circumstance to crimes against persons or property the circumstance of committing such crimes because of a bias against one’s SOGIE or (b) qualify a crime against person or property to a different crime of higher penalty whenever the perpetrator committed the crime because of a bias against one’s SOGIE (for example, instead of homicide the crime will be murder), with a presumption that whenever the victim is an LGBTI person then the crime is already qualified.

3. We are also studying the manner by which ‘hate crimes’ may be proven, given the existing definitions of crimes.
Gutierrez said that the opinion and views of the LGBT community will be duly and extensively sought in the crafting of the proposed measure to ensure its effectivity.

“We are currently in consultation with the LGBT community for the necessary actions that will put an end to these unwarranted hate-motivated acts and hopefully eliminate further violence and loss of lives among its members. Further, we hope to set in place the fitting penalties that will deter the perpetrators from committing these acts and allow the LGBT people to openly express their sexual orientation,” the lawmaker said.

Swift passage of Anti-Discrimination Bill

The lawmakers also urged Congress to swiftly and immediately pass the Anti-Discrimination Bill, saying this will usher in much-needed action to secure the rights and welfare of the LGBT community.

Filed on July 1, 2013, House Bill 110 seeks to prohibit all forms of discrimination and to provide penalties against discriminatory practices on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).

According to Section 3(c) of the bill: “Discrimination shall be understood to imply any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference which is based on any ground such as sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, whether actual or perceived, and which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment, an equal footing of all rights and freedoms.”

“This measure will ultimately bring forth a culture of acceptance of LGBTs in our society. It does not prescribe special rights. Instead, it cements into our legal system the basic rights found in the Constitution and in international agreements,” said Bag-ao, the principal author of the bill.

Bag-ao called on her fellow legislators to act against any form of discrimination against the LGBT community.

“It is our duty to create safer spaces for Filipino LGBTs. By passing legislation against discrimination and hate crimes, we can ensure that the rights, welfare, and dignity of our fellow citizens are upheld and protected. Now, more than ever, concrete action on the part of Congress is an imperative. Clearly, in the murder of Jennifer, our struggle goes beyond discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. Our fight extends to hate that is translated into violence,” Bag-ao said. ###

Closing Remarks by Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez at the Social Democracy Asia & GPF-PES-S&D Meeting


Rep. Barry Gutierrez delivering his closing remarks addressing the Asian and European parliamentarians at the Social Democracy (SOCDEM) Asia & GPF-PES-S&D Meeting held on September 30, 2014 at the Holiday Inn, Makati City. Read full text of speech below.

It has been a long and very productive day, and I know most of us are probably already feeling a bit of fatigue and looking forward to some quiet time to relax and recharge before tonight’s reception with the diplomatic community and members of the Philippine government, so I will strive to keep my concluding remarks brief.

We have had a very lively exchange of views on the pressing issues currently confronting Europe and Asia, and the potential role that the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) can play in taking on these issues. Of course, as is only to be expected from any respectable gathering of socialists and democrats, there has been a healthy divergence in the perspectives articulated, just as there has been an ample amount of common ground that has emerged. What is clear is that despite differences in emphasis and the appreciation of possible opportunities, we speak with one voice in recognizing the need to come together, develop a common agenda, and forge deeper and broader unities in confronting the many challenges we must face as progressives.
And the list of these challenges is indeed daunting. From the increasingly urgent concern of climate change to the fundamental issue of economic and social inequality, to growing threats to democratic rights and the need to further push the concerns of gender equality, the tremendous scope of the work that lies before us is terrifyingly clear.

But in the face of these pressing issues, I personally believe we can take heart from the fact that in the various countries we come from, among the various constituencies we represent, there is also an increasing level of awareness and concern that something must be done, and that these problems must be addressed. Amid the difficulties confronting us, there are also opportunities to deepen our ranks, and gain new constituents and allies, and, in fact, one of the challenges to us at this moment is how to maximize these opportunities.

And of course, the fact that we ourselves are now more acutely conscious of the need to face these challenges together, not just as individual parties or even governments but as a community of activists working across borders and regions, sharing common concerns and values, is likewise an invaluable aspect of this continuing engagement.

Today we have taken the first step in deciding how we will harness this partnership to confront the existing and new challenges in the face of emerging socio-economic and political divergences between Asia and Europe, with the hope of developing a common progressive agenda for the social- democrats at the Asia-Europe Summit in Milan towards the end of the year. I hope that this initial step will lead to a stronger, common stance in the near future.
As has been repeatedly stated during today’s discussions, one of the most urgent issues that we need to effectively address is climate change, which poses serious a threat to the food and shelter security of many communities around the world. This is a real and existing problem that requires serious concerted efforts towards its mitigation and adaptation.

The occurrences of highly-destructive typhoons In the Philippines like Yolanda (Haiyan) in November 2013 and Mario (Fung-Wong) this month which cost lives, created massive displacement, and resulted in widespread destruction of infrastructure and livelihood, stands as a reminder to each of us that this is an urgent issue of paramount importance. Responding to natural disasters like these is by no means limited to the Philippines only, or to Asia. Facing the deleterious impacts of climate change requires a shared commitment to increase the resilience of global communities, and to undertake appropriate policy initiatives that will ensure a long-term and sustainable paradigm in tackling climate change.

We look forward these objectives and commitments that will propel both Asia and Europe to step up their efforts and cooperation with the global community in mitigating climate change.
Recent years have likewise pointed to the shifting economic and political landscapes in the two regions. In Asia, an observable disconnect is apparent between the expanding Asian economies and the continuing problems of poverty, unemployment and rising inequality within them. Through our ongoing dialogues, we look forward to developing concrete policy objectives and programs that would ensure inclusive economic growth will become real and be felt by every citizen.

In the end, the success of these objectives comes down to us and our regional partnership. With the upcoming 2014 ASEM Summit in Milan, we look forward to coming up with the appropriate and effective set of policy actions and agreements to enable a stronger commitment between Europe and Asia in facing these common challenges. This would help guide our alliance in collectively pursuing the shared visions that we have been working on.

And going by the passion, enthusiasm, and commitment I’ve seen from all of you today, I am confident that we have taken a firm step forward in this direction.###