MANILA— Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Thursday said he doubts that Pope Francis' comment that same-sex couples should be covered by civil union laws would affect the stance of lawmakers in the Philippines.
Last year, the Senate blocked the passage of the Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity or Expression (SOGIE) bill, which will accord same-sex couples civil rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples in predominantly Catholic Philippines.
"I doubt it," Sotto told reporters in a text message when asked if senators would reconsider the passage of the SOGIE bill after the Pope's remark that same-sex couples "have a right to be in a family."
"Same-sex union is already being practiced here and there is nothing we can do about it," he said.
"It's just tolerated but not in the legal sense. We should leave it at that," said Sotto who has been vocal about his "conservative" stance in policy-making.
Aside from allowing the legal union of same-sex couples, the SOGIE bill also seeks to eliminate gender-related discrimination in the Philippines, where several religious organizations continue to condemn homosexuality.
The House of Representatives approved on final reading the SOGIE bill in 2018, but the measure failed to hurdle the Senate's legislative mill even after President Rodrigo Duterte said he would certify the measure as urgent.
Several senators - including Sotto - are instead pushing for a "universal" anti-discrimination bill.
The alternative proposal is expected to protect lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans and queers (LGBTQ), as well as other Filipinos from derogatory remarks, but would not accord same-sex couples legal rights like buying a property together or listing one another as immediate family members in cases of emergencies.