While global acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ has gained headways since the 1980s, legal protection against abuse and discrimination still eludes the Philippines’ queer community.
As of 2022, the predominantly Catholic country hasn’t enacted into law the SOGIE Equality Bill, which seeks to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.
The earliest version of the bill was filed in 2000 as the Employment Non-Discrimination Bill. Seventeen years and many variations since, the bill finally passed the House of Representatives, only to be stuck again in the Senate. By May 2019, the SOGIE Equality Bill officially became the longest-running bill to be under the Senate interpellation in Philippine history. The bill was archived once again by the end of the 17th Congress and refiled in the next one.
The bill faces stiff opposition from religious groups and conservative politicians on the ground while disinformation about it festers online. With social media platforms struggling to contain disinformation, LGBTQIA+ activists are challenged to find creative ways to push back and reclaim the narrative from the mud of lies laced with hate online.
Meanwhile, as the bill languishes in Congress, millions of queer Filipinos continue to be vulnerable to abuse, violence, and discrimination. This adds to the many forms of inequality faced by the LGBTQIA+ community, including the lack of same-sex marriage and near zero presence in legislation and development policies.
Reporting for Rappler, journalist Don Kevin Hapal aims to apply data forensics to investigate disinformation around the SOGIE Equality Bill, both in the real world and online. Leveraging natural language processing and network analysis, the investigation will build an understanding of online disinformation narratives and examine the influence operations at play. The investigation will explore how the virtual discourse, media coverage, and disinformation networks shape real-world events and influence the bill’s fate.