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Looking after my 14-year-old HIV positive son

Meet Aling Tilda, mother of a 14-year old who only recently tested HIV positive. Asked how her treatment of her son may change, she looked misty-eyed. “Anak ko ‘yan (He’s my child),” she said. “At andiyan na ‘yan (And that’s already there).”

THIS PHOTO DOES NOT REPRESENT THE SUBJECT OF THE ARTICLE, BUT IS USED HERE ONLY AS REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ‘DOTA BOYS’

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Bata pa nga. Pero andiyan na ‘yan (He’s still young. But that’s already there).”

That, in not so many words, summed up Aling Tilda’s* feelings about this new “pangyayari (development)” in her son Rod’s* life.

Andiyan na ‘yan,” she repeated wryly, as she clutched a black bag containing some documents.

STILL A CHILD

The treatment hub was abuzz that day.

News had it that, supposedly, a 16-year-old boy was in the area, getting his baseline tests. Other Filipinos living with HIV, who were at the hub at that time – for doctors’ consultation, or to have their CD4 count, or to get supplies of their antiretroviral medicines, or simply to support other people living with HIV (PLHIVs) – were curious. Many of them are in their 20s – the age group considered as the most affected by the spread of HIV in the country. And so seeing a PLHIV who is under 20 is (for the lack of better word) peculiar, even surprising at that.

Questions abound among the PLHIVs; most of them asked in whispers.
“Was he born with it?”
“Is he a ‘DOTA boy’?”**
“Do his parents know?”
Sino kasama niya (Who is he with)?”
“Is he sickly already?”
“Cutie ba (Is he cute)?”
Et cetera, et cetera…

All of the questions were ended with: “Where is he?”, or “I wanna see him!”

That teenager being talked about is Rod.

And no, he isn’t even 16 yet. Rod is 14 years old; and he is still in Grade 6.

Wearing a loose white T-shirt, baggy basketball shorts in white-and-black stripes, and plastic slippers, Rod was lanky – skinny, even. He wasn’t even five feet tall. And now and then, after looking at his reflection (on the glass windows of the hub), he would run his fingers through his hair, as if to make sure his hair is in place.

Since he’s a minor, Aling Tilda, Rod’s mother, was with him when he visited the hub. She was wearing a plain yellow T-shirt topping somewhat tight-fitting jeans that day. With her curly hair pulled in a ponytail, with some strands falling on her forehead, she looked harried. And she looked cautious, too, with her eyes checking people out, and then immediately avoiding the stares of the people who see her looking at them. She had a black shoulder bag with her, held closely against her body; it contained her son’s documents.

Yes, Aling Tilda said, she was aware of the chatter that came with the curiosity about her son. It was hard to ignore. When her son was getting a chest X-ray, for instance, and while she was sitting with the PLHIVs to wait for him, her son was the topic of conversation; people did not know she was the mother of the boy they were discussing.

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She could hear them talk about “‘yung batang lalaki (a boy).”

She didn’t know what to say; or if she should say anything at all. So she just sat there, looking at people; and then averting her eyes when she saw them look back at her.

IN THE BEGINNING…

Rod – and his whole family – only knew about his HIV status a few days ago.

Apparently, Rod told his father he had sex with gay men, admitting that the money he gets from them, he uses to pay for his luho (vices), including playing DOTA, to buying whatever tickles his fancy. As soon as his disclosure, his father took him to the barangay health center nearest their house***.

Ayun, sabi ng tao doon, may sakit nga raw (And there, the person working there said that he is sick),” Aling Tilda, Rod’s mother, said. “Noong isang linggo lang ‘yun; kasisimula pa lang ng taon (That was just last year; the year has just started).”

Aling Tilda is, at least for now, more confused than anything else.

She admitted not understanding her son’s condition. She could not even say “HIV”, constantly referring to what Rod has as just “sakit (sickness).”

Sabi naman nila, ‘di pa sigurado. Kasi wala pang… ‘yung isang test daw, para masigurado na meron talaga (But they said it isn’t sure yet. This is because they need to have another test to make sure that he’s really sick),” she said, referring to the result of the confirmatory test.

In the Philippines, there is a so-called and much-criticized “waiting period”. Those who get tested are (usually) given the rapid test first (after a pre-test counseling, as mandated by the Republic Act 8504 or AIDS Law). If their result is non-reactive, it is recommended that they return some three months after their suspected risk exposure for a follow-up test; but if their result is reactive, the blood sample taken from them is forwarded to the STD/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory (SACCL) of San Lazaro Hospital (in Metro Manila) for a more comprehensive test to be done to confirm the result. This step – the confirmatory test – is what ascertains if a person is “positive” or “negative”.

When asked why she already brought Rod to the hub, considering that his status is not even confirmed yet, Aling Tilda shrugged. “Binigyan kami ng referral ng doctor eh. Pumunta na raw kami rito (The doctor referred us here. We were told we should already come here).”

Her husband had to go to work, as a contractual employee; while Aling Tilda had nothing to do. And so she had to accompany Rod.

And then, heavily sighing: “Pero pinapabalik kami sa February 13 daw (But we were told to return to the barangay health center on the 13th of February),” Aling Tilda said.

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Turning to Rod: “Sa 13 ka pinapabalik, ‘di ba (You were told to return on the 13th, right)?”

Rod just nodded.

Then, with another heavy sigh, Aling Tilda said: “Sana lang sa 13 makita na wala pala siyang sakit. Negative ‘yung resulta ba (I hope that on the 13th, they see he isn’t sick. That the result of the test will be negative).”

CAUSES OF DESPAIR

A woman who worked at the hub approached Aling Tilda, telling her of the necessity for Rod to attend a session that will make him better understand his HIV status. Since he is a minor, Aling Tilda’s presence was also required.

May bayad ba ‘yan (Do we have to pay to attend that)?” she asked.

The hub worker shook her head. “Libre po (It’s free).” And then, handing Aling Tilda an attendance sheet, she ordered: “Isulat nyo pangalan nyo rito (Write your name here).”

Aling Tilda looked embarrassed. With a low voice, almost a whisper, she said: “‘Di ako marunong magsulat (I don’t know how to write)…”

The hub worker volunteered to do the writing for her. And then, as part of the attendance sheet, she asked: “Ano po mobile phone ninyo (What’s your mobile phone number)?”

Wala kaming mobile. Wala kaming numbers (We don’t have mobile phones. We don’t have contact numbers).”

The hub worker skipped portions of the attendance sheet. “Sige po, pirma na lang (Okay then, just sign your name on the document),” she said.

Aling Tilda almost looked panicky, eyes growing big as she was handed the pen. “Paanong pirma (How do I sign)?” she asked.

Kahit paano lang po (You can sign however you want to),” the hub worker said.

Aling Tilda scribbled something unintelligible. “Puwede na ‘yan (Will that do)?”

Then, as soon as the hub worker left, she continued narrating. “Sabi nila, puwede nilang bigyan ng test si Rod dito. Pero magbabayad daw kami ng P500. Wala kaming ganyan. Kaya maghihintay na lang kami (We were told that they can test Rod here. But we have to pay P500 for the test. We don’t have that. So we’ll just wait).”

But the antiretroviral medicines are “free”, someone beside her said to her.

Sabi sa amin magbabayad daw kami ng PhilHealth (But we were told to pay PhilHealth),” she said. She shook her head; and then gave a heavy sigh.

LOVE IS LOVE

They were standing in front of the consultation room after Rod was told to wait for a few hours before the results of his lab tests will be released when Rod finally said something to his mother. “Gutom na ako (I’m hungry),” he said, removing his mask as he started patting his mother’s front pockets.

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Aling Tilda frowned, tapping her son’s hand away. Then she opened her bag, took P50 from inside, and handed this to Rod. “Ayan (There you go),” she said. “Ewan ko kung saan ka bibili ng pagkain dito (But I don’t know where you can buy food in this place).”

Told of the cafeteria in the hub, Rod left after he was given direction.

Aling Tilda stayed. Then, after rubbing her eyes, she said: “Bunso ‘yan. Tatlo sila magkakapatid. Lalaki lahat (Rod is the youngest. There are three of them. All boys).”

She sighed. “‘Yung mga kuya, di tinest (The elder brothers, they were not tested).”

Asked how she feels about what happened to Rod, she was straightforward. “Andiyan na ‘yan (That’s already there).” Then, with a sigh, and as if catching herself, she added: “Pero sana nga wala (But we hope it is really nothing).”

Rod was back almost immediately, handing Aling Tilda loose change. “Mahal ang pagkain dito (Food is expensive here),” he said. “Gusto ko sana kumain, ang mahal naman (I wanted to eat, but the goods they sell are expensive).”

He then proceeded to open the plastic mini-cup of ube ice cream he had with him, immediately spooning some into his mouth.

Sasakit tiyan mo niyan (You’ll have upset stomach),” Aling Tilda reprimanded. “Dapat kumain ka muna (You should eat something substantial first).”

With one hand holding the plastic mini-cup of ube ice cream, Rod’s other hand reached into the front pocket of his short pants. “May biscuit naman ako (I have biscuits),” he said.

Aling Tilda reached out to rub Rod’s arm. He let her, still busy spooning ice cream into his mouth. He was enjoying every spoonful.

Magbabago ba ang turing ninyo kay Rod ngayon (Will your treatment of Rod change now)?” she was asked.

She looked at Rod, misty-eyed. “Anak ko ‘yan (He’s my child).” And then she said again, this time as if to herself: “At andiyan na ‘yan (And that’s already there).”

*NAMES CHANGED AS REQUESTED TO PROTECT THE INTERVIEWEES’ PRIVACY
**THIS REFERS TO THE DEFENSE OF THE ANCIENTS, A MULTIPLE-PLAYER COMPUTER GAME POPULAR AMONG YOUNGER PEOPLE. SUPPOSEDLY, MANY YOUNG BOYS ENGAGE IN SEXUAL ACTIVITY WITH GAY MEN WHO PAY THEM FOR THEIR SEXUAL SERVICES, WITH THE PAYMENT THEN USED TO PAY FOR COMPUTER RENTAL TO PLAY DOTA. A SUCH, THESE YOUNG BOYS ARE REFERRED TO AS “DOTA BOYS”.
***IN THE PHILIPPINES, UNDER REPUBLIC ACT 8504, MINORS ARE NOT ALLOWED TO UNDERGO HIV TESTS UNLESS THEY ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THEIR PARENTS/GUARDIANS, UNLESS A WRITTEN INFORMED CONSENT IS PROVIDED BY THE PARENTS/GUARDIANS, OR UNLESS A COURT ORDERS.

The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan is a graduate of Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. Though he grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City in Maguindanao), even attending Roman Catholic schools there, he "really, really came out in Sydney," he says, so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing and a developed world". Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, research (with pioneering studies under his belt)... this one's a multi-tasker, who is even conversant in Filipino Sign Language (FSL). Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism. Cross his path is the dare (read: It won't be boring).

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‘God loves LGBTQIA people; so do we.’

A Christian church wants members of the LGBTQIA community to know that “they are loved by God.” Val Paminiano, pastor of the Freedom in Christ Ministries, says that “we would like to apologize on behalf of the mainstream churches that condemn the LGBTQIA community. Sorry for hurting you; (and) even for using the Bible to hurt you.”

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God’s love is for all.

“(We want the members of the LGBTQIA community to know that) they are loved by God,” said Val Paminiano, pastor of the Freedom in Christ Ministries, which has been making its presence known particularly in LGBTQIA Pride events to highlight its Christian anti-anti-LGBTQIA position.

Approximately 80% of Filipinos are Roman Catholic, and the church’s teachings continue to dominate public life in the Philippines. As it stands, church’s teachings re LGBTQIA people still often revolve around the “hate the sin, love the sinner” statement, so that LGBTQIA people are tolerated so long as they do not express their being LGBTQIA.

This “hate the sin, love the sinner” stance seems to be reflected in dominant perspectives re LGBTQIA people in the Philippines.

In 2013, for instance, in a survey titled “The Global Divide on Homosexuality” conducted by the US-based Pew Research Center, 73% of adult Filipinos agreed with the statement that “homosexuality should be accepted by society”. The percentage of Filipinos who said society should not accept gays fell from 33% in 2002 to 26% that year.

But more recently, in June 2018, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that a big percentage of Filipinos still oppose civil unions. When 1,200 respondents across the country were asked whether or not they agree with the statement “there should be a law that will allow the civil union of two men or two women”, at least 61% of the respondents said they would oppose a bill that would legalize this in the country. Among them, 44% said they strongly disagree, while 17% said they somewhat disagree. Meanwhile, 22% said they would support it, while 16% said they were still “undecided”.

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For Paminiano, “we would like to apologize on behalf of the mainstream churches that condemn the LGBTQIA community. Sorry for hurting you; (and) even for using the Bible to hurt you.”

Churches continue to be lambasted for not changing with time – perhaps most obvious in the treatment of LGBT people of those with faith. But the number of denominations openly discussing – and even coming up with statements of support of – LGBTQIA issues is increasing.

Finding room for #queerinfaith

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All hail the beauty queen

A glimpse into the life of a trans woman beauty pageant enthusiast, Ms Mandy Madrigal of Transpinay of Antipolo Organization.

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This is part of #KaraniwangLGBT, which Outrage Magazine officially launched on July 26, 2015 to offer vignettes of LGBT people/living, particularly in the Philippines, to give so-called “everyday people” – in this case, the common LGBT people – that chance to share their stories.
As Outrage Magazine editor Michael David C. Tan says: “All our stories are valid – not just the stories of the ‘big shots’. And it’s high time we start telling all our stories.”

“I feel accepted.”

That, said Mandy Madrigal, is the main appeal of joining beauty pageants.

“I feel so loved when I join pageants. Especially when people clap for us, cheer for us. And when you win… it (just) feels different.”

FINDING ACCEPTANCE

Assigned male at birth, Mandy was in primary school when her father asked her if “I was a boy or a girl”. That question scared her, she admitted, because – as the only boy among six kids – she thought she did not really have “any choice”. “So I answered my father, ‘I am a boy’.”

But Mandy’s father asked her the same question again; and this time, “I said, yes, I am gay.”

No, Mandy is NOT gay; she is a transpinay, and a straight one at that. But the misconceptions about the binary remains – i.e. in this case, she is associated with being gay mainly because she did not identify with the sex assigned her at birth.

In a way, Mandy said she’s lucky because “I believe he (my father) accepted (me) with his whole heart.”

The rest of her family did, too.

Though – speaking realistically – Mandy said this may be abetted by her “contributions” to the family. “Hindi naman aka basta naging bakla lang (I’m not a ’typical’ gay person),” she said, “na naglalandi lang o sumasali lang ng pageant (who just flirts, or just joins beauty pageants). Instead, Mandy provides financial support to her family by – among others – selling RTW clothes and beauty products. In fact, some of her winnings also go to the family’s coffers. By helping provide them with what they need, “it’s easy for them to accept me as a transgender woman.”

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Growing up, Mandy realized that while “makakapagsinungaling ka sa ibang tao, pero sarili mo, hindi mo maloloko. Kaya mas magandang tanggapin mo ang sarili mo para matanggap ka ng ibang tao (you may be able to lie to others about who you really are, but you can’t lie to yourself. So it’s better to accept your true self so that others will be able to accept you too).”

Mandy was “introduced” to beauty pageants when she was 13 or 14. At that time, a friend asked her to join a pageant; and “I won first runner up.” She never looked backed since, even – at one time – earning as much as P20,000 after winning a title. Like many regular beauconeras (beauty pageant participants), she also heads to distant provinces to compete, largely because – according to her – prizes in provincial competitions tend to be higher. The prize money earned helps one buy more paraphernalia for the next pageants, and – in Mandy’s case – also helps support her family.

Generally speaking, Mandy Madrigal said that “ang tunay na queen ay may malaking puso (a real queen has a big heart).”

FORMING A FAMILY

Beauty pageants are competitions, yes; but for Mandy, pageants also allow the candidates to form bonds as they get close to each other. Pageants, she said, can be a way “na maging close kami, magkaroon ng magagandang bonding… at magkakilala kami (for us to be close, to bond and get to know the others better).”

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Pageants can be costly, Mandy admitted – for instance, “you have to invest,” she said, adding that a candidate needs to be able to provide for herself (instead of just always renting) costumes, swimsuits, casual wear, gowns, and so on.

In a way, therefore, having people who believe in you helps. In Mandy’s case, for instance, a lot of people helped (by providing necessities she needs) because “naniniwala sila na I am a queen inside and out,” she smiled.

But this support can also rack the nerves, particularly when people expect one to win (particularly because of the support given).

One will not always win, of course; and this doesn’t always give one good feelings. In 2017, for instance, Mandy joined Queen of Antipolo, and – after failing to win a crown – she said many people told her she should have won the title, or at least placed among the runners-up. “naguluhan ang utak ko (That confused me),” she said. “‘Bakit ako ang gusto ninyong manalo?’ But that’s when I realized na marami ako na-i-inspire na tao dahil marami nagtitiwala sa akin (I ask, ‘Why do you want me to win?’ But that’s when I realized that I inspire a lot of people, which is why they count on me).”

This gives her confidence; enough to deal with the nervousness that will also allow her to just enjoy any pageant she joins.

A TIME TO SHINE

Mandy believes pageants can help LGBTQI people by providing them a platform to showcase to non-LGBTQI people why “hindi tayo dapat husgahan (we should not be judged).”

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Generally speaking, Mandy said that “ang tunay na queen ay may malaking puso (a real queen has a big heart).”

And she knows that not every pageant is good for every contestant. There will be pageants where you will be crowned the queen, she said, just as there will be pageants where you will lose. But over and above the winning and losing, note “what’s most important: that there’s a lot of people who supported you in a (certain) pageant.”

At the end of the day, “sa lahat ng patimpalak, pagkatandaan natin na merong nananalo at may natatalo. Depende na lang yan sa araw mo. Kung ikaw ay nakatadhanang manalo ay mananalo ka; kung nakatadhanang matalo ay matatalo ka talaga. Yun lang yun. Isipin mo na lang na meron pang araw na darating na mas maganda para sa iyo (in all competitions, remember that there will always be a winner and a loser. It all depends on your luck for the day. If you are fated to win, you will win; if you are fated to lose, you will lose. That’s that. But still remember – even when you lose – that there will always come a day that will be great for you).”

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Iloilo City passes anti-discrimination ordinance on final reading

The city of Iloilo has joined the ranks of local government units (LGUs) with LGBTQI anti-discrimination ordinances (ADOs), with the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) unanimously approving its ADO mandating non-discrimination of members of minority sectors including the LGBTQIA community.

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IMAGE DETAIL FROM jahcordova FROM PIXABAY.COM

Pride comes to the “City of Love”.

The city of Iloilo has joined the ranks of local government units (LGUs) with LGBTQI anti-discrimination ordinances (ADOs), with the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) unanimously approving its ADO mandating non-discrimination of members of minority sectors including the LGBTQI community.

The ADO was sponsored by Councilor Liezl Joy Zulueta-Salazar, chair of the SP Committee on Women and Family Relations. Councilor Love Baronda helped with the content/provisions of the ordinance.

“Everyone deserves equal protection under the law. This local legislation reinforces the Constitutional rights and the inalienable human rights of everyone to be treated equally,” Zulueta-Salazar said to Outrage Magazine. “It has always been a question of equality versus equity. Your government is a duty-bearer to protect everyone under the law. Moreso those who have time and again, been victims of injustice borne out from bigotry and indifference. That has to change now. Discrimination has no place in the ‘City of Love’.”

The ADO defines acts of discrimination to include: refusal of employment, refusal of admission in schools, refusal of entry in places open to general public, deprivation of abode or quarters, deprivation of the provision of goods and services, subjecting one to ridicule or insult, and doing acts that demeans the dignity and self-respect or a person because of sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, color, descent, ethnic origin, and religious beliefs.

Penalties range from P1,000 for the first offense, P2,000 for the second offense and imprisonment of not more than 10 days at the discretion of the court, and P3,000 and 15 days imprisonment on the third offense.

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The ADO also mandates the creation of the anti-discrimination mediation and conciliation board headed by the mayor. This board will initiate the filing of cases against violators.

“Discrimination… violates basic human rights thus making it our duty as public servants to protect our citizens from unwarranted and unfair treatment coming from their fellow citizens, or worse from their own government. We respect and give emphasis to the right of every person because what matters is for us to be humane and to do everything in love,” Baronda said to Outrage Magazine.

Zulueta-Salazar added that “having worked with the marginalized sectors of our society through non-government organizations like the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines Iloilo Chapter and the different barangay local governments in Iloilo City, we have seen how the struggles of the LGBTQI, of the urban poor, of the religious minorities including the Indigenous Peoples displaced in the city. This ordinance is for them, not for special or preferential treatment from their government, but to give them what they truly deserve: a more just and equitable treatment by providing an enabling environment for them to be equally productive members of the society.”

For Zulueta-Salazar, the salient points in the Iloilo ADP may be the same as the other ADOs across the country, “but the one we have here in Iloilo City is a product of hard fought struggle for equality not just for one sector of the society, but generally as a statement that the ‘City of Love’ does not discriminate based on gender, age, race or religion. That in the ‘City of Love’, truly it can be said now that love wins.”

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For Iloilo City-based Rev. Alfred Candid Jaropillo, who heads the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), the ADO “is a step for the ‘City of Love’ in creating a community where the rights of all its constituents are respected and protected. As a clergy of the UCCP, I commend our government officials for passing the said ordinance (to show that) Iloilo is indeed a safe city for our sisters and brothers coming from the LGBTQI community.”

The Iloilo City Legal Office has 60 days from approval to promulgate the implementing rules and regulations (IRR), while the Public Information Office shall conduct an information drive 30 days from approval. The ordinance takes effect 10 days after its publication in a local newspaper.

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Mandaluyong City passes LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance

With the continuing absence of a national law that will protect the human rights of LGBTQI Filipinos, the city of Mandaluyng passed Ordinance 698, S-2018, which seeks to “uphold the rights of all Filipinos especially those discriminated against based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).”

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IMAGE DETAIL FROM JUDGE FLORENTINO FLORO FROM WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

With the continuing absence of a national law that will protect the human rights of LGBTQI Filipinos (largely – at least for this year – because of a weak political support from the Philippine Senate via the non-leadership on this issue by Senate Pres. Vicente Sotto III and Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri), localized anti-discrimination efforts are again in focus. This time around, the city of Mandaluyng passed Ordinance 698, S-2018, which seeks to “uphold the rights of all Filipinos especially those discriminated against based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).”

With this, it is now “the policy of the Mandaluyong City government to afford equal protection to LGBTQI people as guaranteed by our Constitution and to craft legal legislative measures in support of this aim.”

According to Dindi Tan, secretary general of LGBT Pilipinas, which helped push for the passage of this anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO), said that “the tactic now is to shift from a national lobby to local lobby, which is more pragmatic and feasible given the prevailing political environment in Congress.”

The Mandaluyong City ADO is specific to he LGBTQI community. Other ADOs in other localities lump the LGBTQI community with other minority sectors, including persons with disability (PWDs), seniors, cultural minorities, et cetera. But this city ordinance is specific to LGBTQI people, focusing on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

“We continue to relentlessly lobby for the passage of local ADOs and similar policies such as this one from the Tiger City of Mandaluyong pending the enactment of a national law made for (this) purpose,” Tan said. “We can’t afford to wait forever for the Anti-Discrimination Bill (ADB) to pass in the Senate and the bicam while our LGBTQI sisters and brothers on the ground continue to be the targets of gender-based violence and discrimination.”

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Mandaluyong City’s ADO specifically prohibits such discriminatory acts as: denying or limiting employment-related access; denying access to public programs or services; refusing admission, expelling or dismissing a person from educational institutions due to their SOGIE; subjecting a person to verbal or written abuse; unjust detention/involuntary confinement; denying access to facilities; and illegalizing formation of groups that incite SOGIE-related discrimination.

For the city to attain its goals, activities lined-up include: incorporating LGBTQI activities in Women’t Month celebrations; hosting of seminars in private and public spaces; and month-long Pride celebration in November, culminating on World AIDS Day on December 1.

The ADO also “strongly” encourages the Mandaluyong City Police District “to handle the specific concerns relating to SOGIE through existing Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) desk in all police stations in Mandaluying City.”

A Mandaluyong City Pride Council will also be established to oversee the implementation of the ordinance.

Any person held liable under the ADO may be penalized with imprisonment for 60 days to one year and/or penalized with P1,000 to P5,000, depending on the discretion of the court.

Pushed by Sangguniang Panglungsod councilor China S. Celeste, Mandaluyong City Mayor Carmencita A. Abalos signed the ADO on May 17.

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Polytechnic University of the Philippines stresses inclusion in 4th LGBT Pride celebration

The LGBTQIA community of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in Sta. Mesa in the City of Manila stressed the importance of “real diversity” as it celebrated its 4th Pride.

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“We” in diversity.

The LGBTQIA community of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in Sta. Mesa in the City of Manila stressed the importance of “real diversity” as it celebrated its 4th Pride.

Themed “Putting we in diversity”, the gathering that was helmed by Kasarianlan, the only LGBTQIA organization in PUP, this year’s gathering “eyed to emphasize that we can’t truly claim pride if this is not inclusive of all of us,” said Jan Melchor Rosellon, the student organization’s current inang reyna/head. “Our theme for this year’s PUP Pride was ‘Putting we in diversity’ because albeit our differences, we want to find our commonalities in being part of the LGBTQIA community. We acknowledge our individuality though look at this through (the lens of) diversity and inclusion.”

The hosting of Pride in PUP has actually been inconsistent, with the first one held in the 1990s, and only followed by the second one in 2015. It was only in the last two years when Pride was held consistently.

Rosellon said that despite being a progressive and political university, “PUP is not yet accepting of the LGBTQIA community, but rather (just) tolerant of it.” He alleged that “there are still cases of discrimination, public humiliation and harassment (done against) members of the LGBTQIA community by the students, and even by professors and staff.”

So for Rosellon, PUP Pride “provides an avenue for the LGBTQIA community to freely express and be themselves. We will still continue the pursuit for equality; and hopefully through this event, unjust laws and bigotry would soon be thrown in the void.”

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Kasarianlan eyes to regularize hosting PUP’s Pride, since – as Rosellon said – “events such as this promotes freedom and acceptance which we think are imperative. Pride acknowledges our visibility… that we are a legitimate community and we also deserve what others are given: their human rights.”

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LGBTQI Filipinos lament uphill battle for passage of ADB in Senate

The Anti-discrimination Bill (ADB) that will protect the human rights of LGBTQI Filipinos may not see the light of day, considering the current pace of its (non)development in the Senate, where it continues to languish.

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The Anti-discrimination Bill (ADB) that will protect the human rights of LGBTQI Filipinos may not see the light of day. This is considering the current pace of its (non)development in the Senate, where it continues to languish.

(Re)filed in the 17th Congress on December 7, 2016 as Senate Bill No. 1271 by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, the legislative status of the ADB is still listed as “Pending Second Reading, Special Order (12/14/2016)” in the official website of the Philippine Senate. As per the office of Sen. Hontiveros, SB 1271 is still only up for interpellation in the Senate.

Meanwhile, its counterpart in the Lower House (the House Bill No. 4982, otherwise known as the SOGIE Equality Bill) was already passed on September 20, 2017. This was the first time it went this far in 11 years.

SOGIE Equality Bill passes House of Representatives

HB 4982 – sponsored by Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman, Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, Akbayan Party-List Rep. Tom Villarin, AAMBIS-OWA Party-List Rep. Sharon Garin, Negros Ocicidental Rep. Mercedes Alvarez, An Waray Party-List Rep. Victoria Noel, Pangasinan Rep. Toff de Venecia, Bataan Rep. Henedina Abad, among others – was passed in the House of Representatives after only over a year. In total, the bill got the nod of 197 congresspeople, with none opposing it.

DILLY-DALLYING TACTICS?

The very first ADB was filed in the 11th Congress by Akbayan partylist Representative Etta Rosales. That version of the bill was approved on third and final reading in the 12th Congress, but failed to gain traction in the Senate. It was again only in 2006, during the 13th Congress, when the ADB reached second reading.

Sans progress in the Senate, SB 1271 now seems bound to follow the path taken by Rosales’ bill almost 20 years ago.

In a statement released to Outrage Magazine, Hontiveros said: “We must imagine a future in which hate has no place. The SOGIE Equality Bill has been filed and re-filed in the Philippines Congress for the past 19 years. Now is the time to enact this important piece of legislation.”

Hontiveros added: “I welcome the House of Representatives’ final nod to its version of the bill and likewise urge my colleagues in the Senate for us to catch up. It is our commitment to human rights, equality and fairness to all.”

WRONG NOTIONS OF ANTI-DISCRIMINATION

Too many people ERRONEOUSLY associate the ADB with legislating marriage equality in the Philippines. In fact, the ADB only eyes to prevent discrimination from happening to ALL PEOPLE irrespective of their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression – here, including heterosexual people, who also have SOGIE and should also not experience discrimination because of their being straight.

In the case of HB 4982, cited as discriminatory are:

  • Denial of access to public services
  • Including SOGIE as a criteria for hiring or dismissal of workers
  • Refusing admission or expelling students in schools based on SOGIE
  • Imposing disciplinary actions that are harsher than customary due to the student’s SOGIE
  • Refusing or revoking accreditation of organizations based on the SOGIE of members
  • Denying access to health services
  • Denying the application for professional licenses and similar documents
  • Denying access to establishments, facilities, and services open to the general public
  • Forcing a person to undertake any medical or psychological examination to determine or alter one’s SOGIE
  • Harassment committed by persons involved in law enforcement
  • Publishing information intended to “out” or reveal the SOGIE of a person without consent
  • Engaging in public speech which intends to shame or ridicule LGBTQ+ persons
  • Subjecting persons to harassment motivated by the offenders bias against the offended party’s
  • SOGIE, which may come in the form of any medium, including telecommunications and social media
  • Subjecting any person to gender profiling
  • Preventing a child under parental authority from expressing one’s SOGIE by inflicting or threatening to inflict bodily or physical harm or by causing mental or emotional suffering
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Any person who commits any discriminatory practice enumerated in the bill may be penalized by a fine of not less than P100,000 but not more than P500,000; or jailed for no less than one year but not more than six years or both, at the discretion of the court. The court may also impose upon a person found to have committed any of the prohibited acts the rendition of community service in terms of attendance in human rights education and familiarization with and exposure to the plight of the victims.

REALISTIC TAKE?

But pessimism is already invading the ranks.

According to Bubsie Faustino L Sabarez III, national chairman of LGBT Pilipinas, “expected ko na po na malabong makapasa sa Senate ang ADB (I already expected for the ADB not to pass in the Senate),” he said.

For Sabarez, a big part of this is Hontiveros herself, the sponsor of the bill, who is among the main detractors of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte since she belongs to the opposition party. The ADB – in this sense – is now something that is “from (the realm of the) political to politicized”, thereby unfortunately seemingly leaving LGBTQI Filipinos as just political fodder.

For Aaron Bonette of Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy (Bahaghari Center), politicians are largely to blame because “pinapairal nila ang personal beliefs and interests nila instead na isulong ang interes at karapatan ng mga taumbayan – ang LGBTQI community, in this case (They prioritize advancing their personal beliefs and interests instead of advancing the interests and rights of the people – the LGBTQI community in this particular case).”

For Bonette, this is sad because “this is a manifestation that legislation is often only made to benefit those who make them.”

FULL OF EXASPERATION?

Naomi Fontanos, who heads Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas, said that, “politically, we have the numbers as there are more supportive senators than those opposing it.” And so for her, “it seems to me that the delay is hypocritical (particularly) if you look at the senators who are causing the delay. Sen. Vicente Sotto III is from the showbiz industry peopled by lots of LGBTIQ folks. Sen. Manny Pacquiao keeps saying he has LGBTIQ people in staff. And Sen. Joel Villanueva even released a message for Pride month. So why then are they delaying passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill in the Senate, which, when passed into law, will provide badly needed protection to LGBTIQ Filipinos from discrimination?”

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Fontanos added that “in the case of Sen. Villanueva, it is much worse since he is listed as a co-author of the bill.”

From Mindanao, Ash Gevera of the United Lesbians of Davao said that “in all honesty, this is very frustrating.” For Gevera, “I honestly think it is not fair that the Senate could allocate time entertaining (Sen. Antonio) Trillanes’ triviality and not give time to actually pass this bill which is far way more important that Trillanes’ PowerPoint presentations. I also do not also appreciate how Sen. Manny Pacquiao is able to preach about having only two kinds of people in the Philippines who should have rights (i.e. babae at lalaki).”

The dilly-dallying, said Gevera, is unnecessary. “They should already just pass the ADB,” she said. “We LGBTQI people (exist). That’s a fact. We should be dealt with rightfully. We also deserve to have our rights.”

“The passing of the SOGIE Bill is not a discriminatory bill to non-LGBT believers, but rather, it is a move towards advancing and strengthening the protection of the underprivileged and most commonly abused members of the society elsewhere. It is significantly similar as the bills we pass in connection to protecting the rights of the Lumads, and even those who do not have any religion,” said Alvin Toni Gee Fernandez of Mujer-LGBT Organization in Zamboanga City. “It is highly imperative that we take into consideration the existence of human rights violations and abuses towards the member of the LGBTQI+ community, which leads to one basic connotation; the existing human rights law is not enough to protect those belonging to the community herein mentioned – different from the argument raised by the protesters. To add further, Section 11, Article 2 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution on State Policies provide that The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.”

Fernandez added that “laws and religion, especially in our country, must relatively and separately stand as it is enshrined in our constitution that the state shall have no religion, and as such, must not be dictated by any religious organization.”

PROACTIVE STANCE

Fontanos believes LGBTQI Filipinos need to be more proactive in pushing for the passage of the ADB.

For instance for her, “it is time for the LGBTIQ people who work with these senators to wake up and challenge and call out Sen. Sotto, Sen. Pacquiao and Sen. Villanueva on their hypocrisy,” she said, adding that “I would especially like to appeal to people in the showbiz industry. One of you is preventing the LGBTIQ community from achieving equality and perpetuating the injustices we face in our daily lives by blocking the SOGIE Equality Bill in the Senate. Are you/they aware of this?”

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Fontanos added that “Sen. Sotto is okay to host Super Sireyna but will look the other way when those transwomen are denied work, education and basic dignity.”

Fontanos said that, theoretically, “the LGBTIQ community should be boycotting Super Sireyna in protest. But of course, that won’t happen because many LGBTIQ folk are all too willing to cooperate in their oppression, which is unfortunate.”

Also from Mindanao, Jim Casamayor Ofonda of Diosa ng Kutabato said that “should the ADB not progress in the Senate, we’d be back to square one (in the next Congress).” And here, “we can blame these senators who claim to be for us ONLY when it serves their purpose; and then attack us when they no longer need us.”

But Ofonda said that “we also shoulder a large part of the blame – for trusting ‘allies’ who are really only there just to promote their personal interests; for putting people in positions of power, only for them to attack us when we’re no longer useful to them; for not calling these people out for putting their self-interests ahead of what’s right.”

Exactly because he is already disheartened by the non-action on the ADB in the Senate, Sabarez said that – in the case of LGBT Pilipinas – the approach is now not to focus on the national level. Instead, “it is to go to local government units (LGUs) to persuade them to adopt anti-discrimination ordinances (ADOs).” Thus far, they have been finding success in promoting the human rights of LGBTQI people in such localities as the City of San Juan. “Ang atake natin ay sa ibaba habang wala pang malinaw na batas sa national level (We’re starting at the grassroots while there’s no law yet on the national level),” he said.

In a statement provided to Outrage Magazine, DAKILA stated that “we urge everyone to continue pushing for equality in the society by upholding our basic human rights. We demand that the SOGIE Equality Bill (Anti-Discrimination Bill) be passed at the senate level. We demand that the ADB be signed as law. We demand the equal protection of everyone’s rights, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression.”

Bahaghari Center’s Bonette said that “we can only overcome the challenge (of ensuring that ADB is passed) through collective action. Pressure the legislators; don’t vote for those who hate us; stop supporting the haters; and hold those who deny us our rights accountable.”

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