The year 2017 marked numerous LGBTQI-related developments in these parts of the world.
On a more positive note, this was perhaps, and arguably, first stressed on May 24, when Taiwan’s highest court, the Judicial Yuan, ruled that limiting marriage to between only a man and a woman was unconstitutional, thereby voting in support of marriage equality. With this, Taiwan makes history as the first Asian country to vote in favor of marriage equality.
Then in November, Australians voted in favor of allowing same-sex couples to get married, with nearly 62% of respondents to a postal survey voting “Yes”, according to results released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This led to the marriage equality law passing Australia’s parliament on December 7.
But there (obviously) remain numerous anti-LGBTQI developments. In Indonesia, for instance, Arus Pelangi and Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported about the establishment of an anti-LGBT taskforce since LGBT people are seen to be suffering from a “disease of body and soul”; just as raids on LGBT people are becoming common.
Then in May, the government of a supposedly “progressive” Singapore started barring foreigners from joining the annual Pink Dot LGBT rights rally (now, only allow Singaporean citizens and permanent residents to attend).
That despite the progress made, much remains to be done goes without saying. And the Philippines may best highlight this.
Here are some of the LGBTQI-related occurrences marking 2017 in the Philippines.
- 4TH LGBT NATIONAL CONFERENCE
Gathering members – and leaders – of the local LGBTQI community continues to be challenging in the Philippines, with (to date) only four national conferences held here. Every conference is, in fact, serving as just a catching up, considering the number of years between the conferences (the first one happened in 1997, followed by the second in 2011, and the third in 2013).
Themed “Pasigarbo sa Pagkatawo (Behold our Identity)”, the 4th national conference was the first time it was held outside of Luzon (and Metro Manila); and – picking up where the 3rd national conference left off – was the first time to include voices of so-called minorities in the already minority LGBT community, e.g. senior LGBTQI people, differently-abled, LGBTQI people who belong to indigenous communities, and perspectives from people of faith/non-faith, among others.
The plan is to make the national gathering more regular; with participants eventually taught how-to’s in their pro-LGBTQI works.
For the first time in 11 years, the anti-discrimination bill (ADB; this time via House Bill No. 4982, otherwise known as the SOGIE Equality Bill) passed the third and final reading in the House of Representatives.
HB 4982 cites as discriminatory:
- 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
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.
The bill was championed 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.
This isn’t going to become law soon, with the landmark bill still awaiting a counterpart version in the Senate.
Still in the Lower House, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez filed House Bill (HB) No. 6595, titled the Civil Partnership Act, which seeks to allow consenting adults “of either the same or opposite sex” to form “civil partnership couples” that enjoy “all benefits and protections … granted to spouses in a marriage.”
“Ultimately, at the core of a civil partnership are two fully consenting adults who, like many Filipinos, merely wish to love, care and support each other as they build a life together during their fleeting time here on earth. It is about time that the Philippine government grant couple, whether they are of opposite or of the same sex, adequate legal instruments to recognize their partnerships, respecting their dignity and recognizing their equality before the law,” the explanatory note of the bill states.
HB 6595 similarly seeks to give same-sex couples the rights to marital relations, rights to a child and intestate succession or inheritance, tax benefits and labor privileges (e.g. Social Security System, Government Service Insurance System, Philippine Health Insurance Corp. and other state agencies). Civil partnership couples would also be bound by the marital communication privilege, which prohibits them from testifying against the other.
Under this bill, no one can enter into a civil partnership unless he/she is at least 18 years old and “free from any previous bond of marriage or civil partnership.” Couples should have shared a “common domicile” for at least two uninterrupted years during the time of application for a license, and their relationship should be “publicly known.”
The bill also lists down “unlawful or discriminatory employment practices”, including refusal to hire on the basis of civil partnership status and imposes a penalty of P100,000 to P500,000.
For dissolution of civil partnerships that do not work, the grounds for legal separation, annulment and declaration of nullity of marriages will be applicable.
HB 6595 is co-sponsored by Reps. Geraldine Roman, the country’s first transgender lawmaker; Raneo Abu; Frederick Abueg; Len Alonte-Naguiat; Sandra Eriguel; Gwendolyn Garcia; Sharon Garin; Victoria Isabel Noel; and Eric Singson.
- NUMBER OF PRIDE CELEBRATIONS IS GROWING
If the numbers of people joining Pride gatherings are “markers” of how far the LGBTQI community is going, then we’re headed in the right direction. Yes, Metro Manila already has a commercialized Pride (this year held – for the first time – in Marikina City), aside from Pride in Quezon City, Baguio City, et cetera. But this year, the rainbow flag also rose in Cebu City for the first Visayas-wide Pride March; city of Zamboanga which held its first Pride March; and the city of San Juan, among others.
- NUMBER OF ADO IS GROWING
In the absence of a national law prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQI people in the Philippines (this year, no thanks to the slow movement in the Senate), the number of anti-discrimination ordinances (ADOs) is growing. They are not all “equal” – e.g. some only protect LGBTQI people in employment-related discrimination, while others are more comprehensive, offering protection in all forms of discrimination based on SOGIE. But that localized efforts are thriving still matter.
In September, Ilocos Sur joined the growing number of local government units (LGUs) in the Philippines with an anti-discrimination ordinance, with the province’s “gender-fair ordinance” approved on final reading by the Provincial Board. Principally sponsored by Atty. Pablito Sanidad, Ilocos Sur’s ADO mimics Quezon City’s version of ADO, which focuses on the sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, compared to other ADO versions that lump the LGBT community with other minority sectors (e.g. indigenous peoples, people living with HIV, persons with disability, seniors) as this approach is deemed more palatable to those who may oppose passing an ADO.
In October, the City of San Juan in Metro Manila became the newest addition to LGUs in the Philippines with an ordinance that declares it unlawful to discriminate against LGBT people. City Ordinance No. 55 was the brainchild of Vice Mayor Janella Ejercito Estrada and was sponsored by Councilor Mary Joy Ibuna-Leoy; it was approved on third and final reading after it was co-authored by all the city councilors and was passed unanimously. It now awaits the signature of the city’s mayor, Guia Gomez.
To date, LGUs with ADOs now include:
- Angeles City, Pampanga
- Antipolo City
- Bacolod City
- Baguio City
- Batangas City
- Butuan City
- Candon City, Ilocos Sur
- Cebu City
- Dagupan City
- Davao City
- General Santos City
- Mandaue City
- Quezon City (in 2003 and in 2014)
- Puerto Princesa City
- Vigan City
- Municipality of San Julian, Eastern Samar
- Barangay Bagbag, Quezon City
- Barangay Greater Lagro, Quezon City
- Barangay Pansol, Quezon City
- Province of Agusan del Norte
- Province of Batangas
- Province of Cavite
- Province of Iloilo
- Province of Dinagat Islands
There are also pro-LGBTQI policies (not ADOs). In July, for example, Laoag City’s Office of the City Administrator released a memorandum directing all of the city’s heads of offices and employees not to use derogatory words to address, call and describe LGBT co-employees. The memorandum, released by Laoag City Administrator John Michael Fariñas, is said to be in line with the city government’s support to the LGBT community and the push for the enactment of the anti-discrimination bill into law. It specifically directs all heads and employees to practice and put to heart a simple way of showing respect by not using the terms “bakla“, “tomboy” or “transgender” to address and/or describe persons of the LGBT community to “practice and maintain respectful attitude or behavior towards everyone regardless of gender.” The memorandum also stated that if a person prefers to use a specific pronoun (i.e. “he” or “she”), then the person should be called and treated accordingly. Employees who are found violating the directive will be charged administratively for conduct unbecoming, disrespect, and insubordination.
- NUMBER OF LGBTQI COMMUNITY MEMBERS WITH HIV IS GROWING
Members of the LGBTQI community – particularly gay and bi men – continue to be greatly affected by HIV in the Philippines.
In September 2017 (when the latest data was released by the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines or HARP), there were 936 new HIV cases. Most (97%) were male.
Yes, the Filipinos getting infected with HIV are getting younger. In September 2017, 286 (31%) cases were among youth aged 15-24 years. But 96% of the cases were male. Ninety-nine percent (283) were infected through sexual contact (31 male-female sex, 182 male-male sex, 70 sex with both males and females), two were infected through sharing of injected needles, and there was one who have no data on mode of transmission.
It is worth noting that from 1984 to 2009, the predominant mode of HIV transmission in the Philippines was male-female sex. But beginning 2010, the trend spiked to male-male sex as the predominant mode of transmission and has continually increased since then. In the past five years, from January 2012 to September 2017, 82% (32,424) of new infections through sexual contact were among men who have sex with men.
Now, as the cliché goes, what 2018 will bring to the LGBTQI community remains to be seen.
Inter-Agency Committee on Diversity and Inclusion created via executive order
An executive order intends to create an inter-agency committee on diversity and inclusion, as well as establish the Diversity and Inclusion Program (DIP) that will consolidate efforts and implement laws “towards the identification and adoption of best practices in the promotion of diversity and inclusion.”
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is flexing his supposed anti-discrimination cred with the signing of Executive Order (EO) 100, which focuses on minority sectors, including members of the LGBTQIA community, Indigenous Peoples, youth and persons with disability (PWDs).
The EO – titled “Institutionalizing the diversity and inclusion program, creating an inter-agency committee on diversity and inclusion (IACDI), and for other purposes – intends to create the aforementioned IACDI, as well as establish the Diversity and Inclusion Program (DIP) that will consolidate efforts and implement laws “towards the identification and adoption of best practices in the promotion of diversity and inclusion.”
The order was signed on December 17, prior to Duterte meeting with a politicized organization composed of LGBTQIA Filipinos that eye to win seat in Congress in the next elections via the country’s partylist system; but was only released to the media on December 19.
The to-be-established IACDI will be composed of: Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Budget Management (DBM), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Health (DOH), Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA), and National Youth Commission (NYC).
Worth noting: No LGBTQIA representation is specifically mentioned/included in the committee.
The committee is expected to work with “relevant stakeholders, advocacy groups and NGOs” to develop a DIP; dictate the direction of the DIP; “encourage” local government units to issue ordinances promoting diversity and inclusion; and recommend possible legislation to address gaps in existing laws.
Meanwhile, the to-be-established DIP is supposed to “consolidate efforts and implement existing laws, rules and issuances against the discrimination of persons on the basis of age, disability, national or ethnic origin, language, religious affiliation or belief, political affiliation or belief, health status, physical features, or sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, towards the identification and adoption of best practices in the promotion of diversity and inclusion.”
For trans activist Naomi Fontanos, who helms GANDA Filipinas, there are provisions in the EO that are problematic.
“(It) looks good on paper but has problematic provisions,” Fontanos said.
For example, “the composition of the IACDI excludes key government agencies like the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and Civil Service Commission (CSC). Instead they have consultative status. This is surprising since based on RA No. 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women (MCW), the CHR is the Gender and Development (GAD) Ombud.”
Fontanos noted that with “funding for the implementation of EO No. 100, s. 2019 will either be from sources identified by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) or through Gender and Development (GAD) funds, why then does the GAD Ombud only have consultative status?”
Also excluded from the IACDI is the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, “which is unfortunate since the EO seeks to prohibit discrimination based on religious affiliation or belief,” Fontanos said.
Fontanos similarly questioned the chairmanship of the IACDI by the DILG.
“The DILG’s main function is to ensure peace and order, public safety, and building the capacity of local governments for basic services delivery. Implementing a nationwide DIP better fits the mandate of the DSWD, which is to empower disadvantaged sectors in our country. The DSWD is only the committee’s Vice Chair.”
For Fontanos, “also most telling is that the committee is tasked to consult relevant stakeholders and NGOs to develop the DIP. Given that EO No. 100, s. 2019 was signed during the oath-taking of officers of LGBT Pilipinas Party-List at Malacañang Palace, will they be the default ‘stakeholder’ to be consulted on LGBT issues? If they are running for a congressional seat in 2022, won’t that give them undue advantage given that they will be working with LGUs through the chairmanship of the DILG?”
Following the release of the EO, future steps to be taken have yet to be announced.
Province of Capiz holds first Pride parade
The city of Roxas in the Province of Capiz held its first LGBTQIA Pride parade, a “historic event that was organized for and by the LGBTQIA people of Capiz.”
Pride in Capiz.
The city of Roxas in the Province of Capiz held its first LGBTQIA Pride parade, a “historic event that was organized for and by the LGBTQIA people of Capiz,” said Charmel Delfin Ignacio Catalan, who helmed the organizing of the event via Queens of all Queens and LGBT Community Capiz.
The local LGBTQIA community is not exactly completely “invisible”, admitted Catalan, having participated in the city’s/province’s past gatherings – e.g. last August 12, 2019, when a contingent joined the parade for the International Youth Day. But this Pride is “important – particularly as it is being held as the world observes World AIDS Day – because it highlights what’s solely relevant to our community.”
As is common with non-commercialized Pride events, “the main problem (we encountered) was financial,” Catalan said. This is because “we only relied on donations of generous individuals (to be able to hold this event).” But since “it had the backing of the community… we were able to push through.”
With Catalan in organizing the Pride parade were Atty. Felizardo Demayuga Jr. and Sandro Borce.
For Catalan: “I believe we still need Pride in this day and age to celebrate the unique individuality of the members of the LGBTQIA Community, and – of course – to continue the advocacy of equal rights and mutual respect and the causes that we are fighting for.”
Roxas City, in particular, still records LGBTQIA-related hate crimes. In a 2015 interview with Outrage Magazine, Catalan recalled the bashing of a trans woman na napag-tripan (because some people just felt like it); sex work-related ill-treatment; and even killings.
This is why Catalan said she hopes for (particularly local) LGBTQIA people to attend the gathering as a show of strength that “we’re in this together.”
Catalan, nonetheless, recognizes that many non-LGBTQIA people still detest/discriminate LGBTQIA people. And so to them she said: “To all our bashers/haters, please take note that we have no ill feelings towards you; we love you and you are always in our prayers. Please take note that sticks and stones may break our bones but you won’t see us fall.”
‘We need inclusive responses to HIV’ – Bahaghari Center
For Ms Disney Aguila, board member of Bahaghari Center, “it needs to be emphasized that HIV can only truly be dealt with if everyone is on board.”
In early 2019, Jay (not his real name), a Deaf gay man who lives outside Metro Manila, was encouraged by his friends who knew community-based HIV screening (CBS) to get himself tested. It was, he recalled, “the first time someone offered me this service; so I caved in.”
Jay was reactive; and “my world crumbled,” he said.
Though his friends tried to comfort him, telling him that knowing his status is good, “since at least now I can take steps to get treatment and live a normal, healthy life,” Jay wasn’t assuaged. His friends had to eventually go back to Metro Manila, and he worried that he would be left on his own to “find ways to access treatment.” And the same issue that did not make testing accessible for him – i.e. him being Deaf – is now the same issue he believed would hinder him from getting treatment, care and support (TCS).
Jay’s case, said Ms Disney Aguila, board member of the Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy Inc. (Bahaghari Center), highlights how “numerous sectors continue to be ignored in HIV-related responses.”
Aguila, the concurrent head of the Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, the pioneering organization for Deaf LGBTQIA Filipinos, added that “it needs to be emphasized – particularly today as #WAD2019 – that HIV can only truly be dealt with if everyone is on board.”
WORSENING HIV SITUATION
As reported by the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) of the Department of Health (DOH), the Philippines has 35 new HIV cases every day. The figure has been consistently growing – from only one case every day in 2008, seven cases per day in 2011, 16 cases per day in 2014, and 32 cases per day in 2018.
In July, when HARP released its (delayed) latest figures, there were 1,111 newly confirmed HIV-positive individuals; this was 29% higher compared with the diagnosed cases (859) in the same period last year.
Perhaps what is worth noting, said Aguila, is the “absence in current responses of minority sectors” – e.g. when even data does not segregate people from minority sectors, thus the forced invisibility that used to also affect transgender people who were once lumped under the MSM (men who have sex with men) umbrella term.
For Aguila, this is “detrimental to the overall response re HIV because specific needs are not answered.”
DEAF IN FOCUS
In 2012, Bahaghari Center conducted “Talk to the Hand”, the first-of-its-kind study that looked at the knowledge, attitudes and related practices (KAP) of Deaf LGBT Filipinos on HIV and AIDS. The study had numerous disturbing findings.
To start, majority of the respondents (33 or 54.1%) were within the 19-24 age range at the time of the study, followed by those who are over 25 (21 or 34.3%). Most of them (53 of 61 Deaf respondents) had sex before they reached 18. Many (36.1%) of them also had numerous sexual partners, with some respondents having as many as 20 sex partners in a month.
Only 21 (34.4%) use condoms, and – worryingly – even among those who used condoms, 12 (19.7%) had condom breakage during sex because of improper use.
Perhaps the unsafe sexual practice should not be surprising, considering that not even half (29, 47.5%) of the respondents heard of HIV and AIDS, with even less that number (23, 37.7%) knowing someone who died of HIV or AIDS-related complications. And with not even half of the total respondents (29) familiar with HIV and AIDS, not surprisingly, only 19 (31.1%) considered HIV and AIDS as serious, with more of them considering HIV and AIDS as not serious (20, 32.8%) or maybe serious (22, 36.1%).
The study also noted that the level of general knowledge about HIV and AIDS is low, with 40 (65.6%) of them falling in this category. Only about 1/5 of them (12, 19.7%) had high level of knowledge about HIV and AIDS. Even fewer (9, 14.8%) may be classified as having moderate knowledge level.
For the Deaf community, at least, accessing testing and – if one tested HIV positive – the TCS is challenging because “we’d need Filipino Sign Language (FSL) interpreters who can help make sure we’re getting the right information/treatment/et cetera, Aguila said. And in the Philippines, the numbers of service providers who know FSL remain very limited.
Already there are Deaf Filipinos trained to conduct CBS particularly for other Deaf Filipinos – here in “Stop HIV Together“, a photo campaign stressing the need for inclusion.
INCLUDING OTHER MINORITIES
Aguila stressed that forced invisibility, obviously, does not only affect the minority Deaf community as far as HIV-related responses are concerned – e.g. “other persons with disability continue not to have HIV-related interventions,” she said.
For Aguila: “To truly stop HIV and AIDS, we need to be inclusive.”
Back in the city south of Metro Manila, Jay was forwarded to a counselor who knows FSL so that he can be supported in accessing TCS. Even that was “problematic,” said Jay, because “I was ‘forced’ to come out to someone I didn’t necessarily want to disclose my status only because I had no choice.”
For him, this highlights “how we just have to make do with what’s there; and there really isn’t much that’s there to begin with.”
He feels “lighter” now, however, having started his antiretroviral treatment (ART). But he knows he’s one of the “lucky people with contacts”; and that “not every one has access to the same support I had… and that’s something we need to deal with.”
‘Ang laban ng LGBT ay laban ng mamamayan’
As Baguio City holds its 13th #Pride March, there is emphasis on the de-commercialization of Pride to ficus on issues affecting all minority sectors including the #LGBT community. As stressed by Nico Ponce of Bahaghari-UP Baguio, hopefully other sectors join the fight for human rights for all because “ang laban ng LGBT ay laban ng buong mamamayan.”
The struggle of the LGBTQIA community is the struggle of the people/nation.
So said Nico Ponce, chairperson of the UP-Baguio University Student Council and of Bahaghari-UP Baguio, which helmed Amianan Pride Council (APC), the organizer of the 13th Pride March in Baguio City.
This is why, Ponce added, at least particularly for Pride in Baguio City, there was an intent to veer away from commercializing Pride, to instead focus on the issues of all LGBTQIA people no matter the sector they belong to. There was also an emphasis on intersectionality – i.e. that other minority sectors have a stake in the fight for equal treatment of LGBTQIA people, also a minority sector.
“We are against the commercialization of Pride,” Ponce said, “since naniniwala tayo na ang historic roots of Pride ay… sang protest (we believe in the historic roots of Pride as a protest).” And so, to maintain the militant nature of Pride, we “make calls that… are comprehensive; and that affect not just LGBTQIA people but all Filipinos.”
The position, of course, is relevant considering the seeming (if not eventual) move towards commercialization of Pride events – e.g. cash-dependent Metro Manila’s Pride parade was able to gather over 50,000 participants in this year’s party/gathering; though the same number won’t surface to push for the anti-discrimination bill (ADB) that has been pending in Congress for 19 years now.
“There is still no equity,” said transgender activist Ms Santy Layno, which makes hosting Pride still relevant.
“We still march,” added Rev. Pastor Myke Sotero of MCC-MB, “because even if people say that LGBTQIA people are already tolerated in the Philippines, we continue to suffer discrimination… with our transgender siblings still killed/murdered. We still need to march for Pride… as a form of protest.”
‘We (still) need Pride because of the apparent need of the LGBTQIA community (for acceptance) in all sectors of society,” Ponce added.
Baguio City already has an anti-discrimination ordinance, passed in April 2017, that wants to ensure that “every person… be given equal access to opportunities in all fields of human endeavor and to equitable sharing of social and economic benefits for them to freely exercise the rights to which they are rightfully entitled, free from any prejudice and discrimination.”
But the city also has anti-LGBTQIA history. For instance, in 2011, eight pairs of LGBTQIA people had commitment ceremony there, under MCC-MB. Oppositions were raised by the Catholic Church and a group of pastors from Baguio and Benguet. Bishop Carlito Cenzon of the Baguio-Benguet Vicariate of the Roman Catholic Church, for one, stated that “these unions are an anomaly.”
In the end, said Sotero, Pride is a way to inform society “that we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, so society should accept LGBTQIA people.”
“To people who ridicule/mock us, we’re open to discussions,” said Ponce. “Hindi sila kaaway… kaya sana makiisa kayo dahil ang laban ng LGBTQIA ay laban ng buong mamamayan (We are not enemies… so we hope you join the struggle because the fight for equality of LGBTQIA people is similar to the fight for social justice of the entire nation).” – WITH ALBERT TAN MAGALLANES, JR.
Baguio marks 13th LGBTQIA Pride
The “City of Pines” marked its 13th LGBTQIA Pride March, themed “Diverse but equal” to stress that “despite diversity, everyone remains inherently equally human.” According to Rev. Pastor Myke Sotero of MCC-MB, Pride is a way to inform society “that we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, so society should accept LGBTQIA people.”
Equally diverse; equally human.
The “City of Pines” marked its 13th LGBTQIA Pride March, themed “Diverse but equal” to stress that “despite diversity, everyone remains inherently equally human.”
According to Rev. Pastor Myke Sotero, who helms Metropolitan Community Church-Metro Baguio (MCC-MB), which is part of the Amianan Pride Council (APC), the organizer of the annual event, even now that LGBTQIA issues (continue to) gain traction in mainstream awareness, holding a Pride event remains relevant because “kahit na sinasabi nating tolerated na ang mga LGBTQIA dito sa Pilipinas (even if it is said that LGBTQIA people are already tolerated in the Philippines), we continue to suffer discrimination.”
Sotero noted that, in fact, “patuloy pa din ang pagpatay sa mga kapatid natin na transgender (our transgender siblings are still being murdered/killed).”
Only in September, for instance, the lifeless body of Jessa Remiendo was found on the shore of Patar in Bolinao, Pangasinan – only approximately 94 kilometers away from Baguio City (just over two hours of road trip).
A few weeks before the gruesome murder, LGBTQIA people have been highlighting the need to pass an anti-discrimination law in the Philippines, particularly since the bill that eyes to protect the human rights of sexual minorities have been pending in Congress for 19 years now.
“Kailangan pa ring ipagpatuloy ang pagmamartsa sa Pride bilang sang protesta (Marching for Pride is still needed as a form of protest),” Sotero said.
Sotero added that Pride is also a way to inform society “na andito kami, hindi kami aalis, at dapat i-accept ang mga LGBTQIA people (we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, so society should accept LGBTQIA people).”
Baguio City actually already has an anti-discrimination ordinance, passed in April 2017, and notes that “discrimination is a crucial and serious issue” and it wants to ensure that “every person… be given equal access to opportunities in all fields of human endeavor and to equitable sharing of social and economic benefits for them to freely exercise the rights to which they are rightfully entitled, free from any prejudice and discrimination.”
But the city also has anti-LGBTQIA history – e.g. in 2011, when eight pairs of LGBTQIA people had commitment ceremony there, under MCC-MB, there were oppositions from the Catholic Church and a group of pastors from Baguio and Benguet.
In reaction, Bishop Carlito Cenzon of the Baguio-Benguet Vicariate of the Roman Catholic Church stated at that time that “these unions are an anomaly.” Meanwhile, the Guiding Light Christian Church maintained that “marriage should be between a man and woman only”.
And so for Det Neri, chairperson of Bahaghari-Metro Manila, a multisectoral militant and nationalist LGBTQIA organization based in Metro Manila (and whose arm in UP Baguio healed this year’s gathering), even now, LGBTQIA people are still mocked and “ginagawang katatawanan (made fun of).” And so celebrating Pride is “mahalaga para hindi tayo nawawala sa kasaysayan, hindi tayo mawawala doon sa hinaharap (we aren’t erased in our history, and we aren’t neglected as we head into the future).”
Neri added that Pride’s essence remains militant, and should remain as such. – WITH ALBERT TAN MAGALLANES, JR.
Dumaguete City passes SOGIE equality ordinance
In a victory for members of the LGBTQIA community in the City of Dumaguete, an ordinance was passed in the City Council to ensure non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).
In a victory for members of the LGBTQIA community in the City of Dumaguete, an ordinance was passed in the City Council to ensure non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).
Dumaguete is a 3rd class city in the province of Negros Oriental. According to the 2015 census, it has a population of 131,377 people.
It is the capital and most populous city of the province of Negros Oriental, it has a population of 131,377 people, according to the 2015 census.
Authored by Councilor Rosel Margarette Q. Erames with co-authors Councilors Lei Marie Danielle Tolentino, Bernice Ann Elmaco, Edgar Lentorio Jr., Lilani Ramon and Nelson Patrimonio, the anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO) penalizes actual or perceived SOGIE-based discrimination in the workplace, school and other similar acts that undermines and harms the rights of the LGBTQIA people.
Under the ordinance among the prohibited acts include:
- Actual or perceived SOGIE-related discrimination from employment, training, promotion, remuneration;
- Delaying, refusing or failing to accept a person’s application for admission as a student;
- Expelling or any penalty on the basis of SOGIE;
- Harassment and intimidation committed by teachers, administrators and fellow students;
- Refusing to provide goods or service, or imposing onerous terms and conditions as a prerequisite for such;
- Denying access to health services and facilities;
- Refusing or failing to allow LGBTQIA to avail of services or accommodations;
- Denying application for licenses, clearances, certifications or other documents;
- Vilifying, mocking, slandering or ridiculing LGBTQIA people through words, action and in writing; and
- Executing any activity in public which incites hatred towards or serious contempt for or severe ridicule of LGBTQ and other analogous acts.
The bill didn’t have smooth sailing before it passed. For instance, the Diocesan Commission on the Laity (whose members consist of 42 Parish Pastoral Councils from the different parishes of the Diocese of Dumaguete, covering the provinces of Negros Oriental and Siquijor, with the exception of the municipalities of La Libertad and Vallehermoso, and the cities of Guihulngan and Canlaon), as well as the Diocesan Organization of Renewal Movements & Communities (composed of 14 organizations) expressed their opposition of the ADO.
When the passage of the ADO also made the news, a handful of locals expressed their disapproval, stating – among others – that LGBTQIA people do not face discrimination in Dumaguete (thereby contradicting their own statement), prioritizing other issues of the city, and that protecting the human rights of LGBTQIA people is against the will of God.
But now with the ADO, first time violators will be made to attend a gender sensitivity training. Second time offenders may be jailed for not less than 60 days but not more than one year, or be fined with not less than P2,000 but not more than P 5, 000 (or both at the discretion of the court).
With the ADO, SOGIE-related concerns will be incorporated in the functions of existing Barangay Violence Against Women and Children (VAW) Desk, which will document and report cases of discrimination against LGBTQIA persons.
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