To continue – even elevate – discussions on this, Outrage Magazine is publishing a different take on the Valkyrie issue, courtesy of Atty. Bruce V. Rivera who agreed to share his (in his own words) rants. “Cross-dressers and transgenders are human beings. As citizens, they are entitled to all the rights and obligations granted by law. The problem is how we define the meaning of discrimination,” he says.
Everyone close to me knows how I love my cross-dressing sisters. So I know my comment will raise eyebrows and elicit negative reactions. But this is the reality of the matter. Cross-dressers and transgenders are human beings. As citizens, they are entitled to all the rights and obligations granted by law. The problem is how we define the meaning of discrimination.
Is a democracy allowed to discriminate? The answer is YES. Provided there is a valid classification. Hence, private schools can choose to accept only male or female while some choose to accept both. We do not allow foreigners to own lands because it is only reserved for Filipinos. We only allow biological women to join Bb. Pilipinas in the same manner we do not allow them to join Queen of the Philippines. Those are forms of discrimination but they are allowed. Why? Because there is a valid classification.
The problem with our laws is that there are only two sexes, male and female, and it is determined by birth. Even with gender re-assignment, the classification has not changed. Is this sad? Of course. But from the point of view of law, you cannot discriminate something that is not legally recognized and defined. The same law that forces a transgender to write M to the question of sex even if the heart wants to write F.
If the controversy was about denying a cross-dresser the right to vote. Or denying a transgender the right to own property or denied the right to practice a profession, I would have taken the cudgels for the community. Clearly, it is discrimination when someone is denied a basic right as a citizen because of his or her perceived difference.
But this is denial of entry to an exclusive bar. Veejay will not be denied life or liberty if she is not allowed entry to Valkyrie because her right to party was denied. She can just go to another bar that welcomes her with open arms. A bruised ego does not mean discrimination. “No cross-dressing” is a rude policy, but is it prohibited? The answer is NO. Every business person knows this is merely a business decision.
Bars and night clubs are operated targeting a specific market. Some are open to everyone based on the concept of a free market economy. However, there are clubs that market itself through its exclusivity. It has a guest list. It decides who it allows in. It does not make money on the few nuggets of pesos by the common man but on the millions spent by the chosen clientele. That is business. These clubs cater to the taste of their target clientele and specified groups of people their clientele wants to party with. Sadly, most of them do not wish to party with cross-dressers. It is unfortunate that while most of us endeavor to advocate for LGBT equality, there are still so many of them who do not share our tolerance and acceptance. The harsh reality of business.
This same harsh business reality is the reason why clubs in Greenwich Village who cater to purely gay clientele turn away straight customers. Or a bar in Thailand that only allows transgenders and straight men to party while shunning straight acting homosexuals. Or a bar in Brazil that only caters to fat people. It is not discrimination. It is just business.
Just because there is a bar called Valkyrie does not give everyone the human right to be admitted inside.
ON JUNE 23, 2015, VEEJAY FLORESCA APPEARED ON ABS-CBN’S ‘AQUINO AND ABUNDA TONIGHT’
FOLLOWING THE APPEARANCE OF FLORESCA IN THE TV SHOW, ATTY. RIVERA POSTED HIS “LAST WORDS” ON THE ISSUE
I watched the Aquino and Abunda interview of Veejay and I realized that she was the Project Runway finalist (if my memory serves me right) whose talent is undeniable.
Let me lay-out some things at the onset. Was there damage? Yes, the feeling of being turned away is shameful and demeaning and I will not wish it on anyone. I had my share of being turned away in a breakfast buffet in a hotel in Manila because the hotel receptionist did not recognize me. She told me the slot was reserved for a school administrator and that I did not look old enough to fit the description. I intended to sue but the hotel was very apologetic. So I let it go. See, I was discriminated based on how I looked.
Should Veejay feel bad? Yes. She has earned her status as a priestess of fashion. And she may choose to vindicate or be the bigger person and let it go.
Should the LGBT react the way it has reacted? Honestly, I think there was an overreaction. The community wishes for equality and acceptance. Equality can be achieved when the law finally recognizes our existence and our rights be given. Acceptance is another thing. We do not just want tolerance, we need to be accepted. When you tolerate, you do not need to like the person. It is merely an acknowledgment of our existence. When we aim for acceptance, there is a positive act involved because when you accept, there must be a favorable feeling towards us.
What have we been doing so far? Sadly, and this is my personal opinion, not very much. It is because the LGBT suffers from a perception problem. People do not take us seriously and it is in situations like this that we are losing sympathy from the very people who we want to accept us. We fight bigotry with reason. We fight indifference with humanity. We fight, but we should choose our battles.
I am a huge fan of Miss Rocero for breaking boundaries plus the fact that she is Cebuano (According to her Wikipedia profile, Ms Rocero is actually from Manila, though she is now an American citizen – Ed). But not all situations involving beautiful transgenders treated badly should there be a reason to wage war. Why? Because instead of gaining friends, we are losing sympathy even from our own kind. Miss Floresca can fight her own wars and we should not put the stamp of LGBT war cry because it worsens how people perceive us.
Let me enumerate:
First, a California license stating you are a female will only be valid in the United States. If Miss Floresca was American, the Civil Code will force us to follow how her citizenship sees her (as a woman) because status is governed by the nationality of the person. But Veejay is still Filipino. And as Filipino, we will have to classify her as male since that was the sex assigned to her by birth. Sad but true. Miss Rocero, being American, can insist she is a woman, but Miss Floresca cannot.
Second, at mag-ta-Tagalog ako para maintindihan ng lahat. ‘Yung mga pinaglalaban natin, napaka-shallow. Karamihan ng Pilipino, nagugutom, salat sa buhay at pagod sa pagbabanat sa buto. Tapos maririnig nila na galit na galit tayo kasi may isang kakosa natin na hindi pinapasok sa mamahaling club. Naman! Maghanap tayo ng situation na yung isang beki ay tinanggal sa trabaho, hindi tinanggap sa trabaho kahit qualified, hindi binentahan ng gamot or di kaya binugbog dahil bakla. Then the common man can relate and sympathize. But when our battle cry is… boo hoo, hindi kami pinapasok sa bar, hindi kami tao kasi hindi kami pinayagang maging masaya at mag-party. Sa isang ordinaryong Pilipino na yung isang buwang sweldo ay katumbas ng gagatusin ng isang beki sa isang gabi ng pag-pa-party, ang sasabihin niya… ‘Tang-ina! Hindi lang kayo napapasok, hindi na tao agad. Eh kami nga walang makain.’
I am not saying we stop fighting for equality and acceptance. What I am trying to tell you and I am risking my life and limb for being too outspoken about this is:
Hindi tayo tira lang ng tira. Away lang ng away. Patulan lahat at discrimination agad. Kasi sa totoo lang, pati babae at lalake biktima din ng discrimination. Siguradong mas madaming babae at lalake ang hindi pinapasok sa club na yan kesa sa beki. Mas madaming straight ang hindi nakapasok sa mga tindahang napasukan natin dahil wala silang pera, hindi nakakain ng kinakain natin dahil salat sila sa buhay. Naging masyado tayong maselan. Nagiging paandar at pag-i-inarte na. Let us be relevant. Let our advocacy have essence. Hindi yung parade lang tayo ng parade, mag-sponsor ng inuman at naka-itim or puti or pink ang lahat ng a-attend at awayin sa social media ang lahat ng galit sa atin.
Because the only way to be accepted, is when people will see our similarities rather than our differences.
R.A 11166: Anong wala sa iyo na sana meron kami?
With the IRR of the new RA 11166 being drafted, Posit Bo recommends developing an implementing policy that will actually benefit the PLHIV community instead of just pretending to do so.
#HIVPOLICYBATASNA, but it does not end there.
Babala, asawa ni…: The views in this entry are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher, or any affiliated organizations. Samakatuwid, ikinakaila ng lahat ang author! Chos!
On January 9, 2019, the President signed the “Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy act (HIV POLICY).” Like all other laws passed by Congress and signed by the President, the HIV policy must have an Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).
Under Sec. 54 of R.A. 11166, it states that PNAC (the council from R.A. 8504 by holdover capacity) SHALL promulgate the necessary IRR within 90 days from effectivity of the law.
Under this provision, the law makes a directive to create an IRR within 90 days but not mandatorily within that period. Note that the manner of the legislators crafting the provision lacked a mandatory term like “SHOULD” before the phrase “WITHIN 90 DAYS.”
Ano daw? Kung di naintindihan, pabayaan na. Next!
I personally don’t see the need to rush in creating an IRR that’s half-baked due to time constraints. This is a crucial and integral part of the HIV policy.
The IRR of our laws must consists of detailed necessary guidelines not found in the principal law. In essence, therefore, an IRR must indicate requirements, qualifications, periods, and clarificatory provisions of ambiguously worded provisions of the law. If certain guidelines are not reflected on the principal law nor IRR, it becomes vulnerable to a question of law, which may only be judicially resolved. This is what an IRR seeks to prevent.
Department Orders (DO), Manual of Procedures (MOP), and other documents of the same nature do not have the same force and effect as the principal law nor IRR. Prudence would dictate that between now and the time of release of the IRR of the HIV policy, stakeholders must cautiously plan what and what not to include in the IRR. Otherwise, we’ll encounter a number of deadlocks not curable by mere issuance of DO or MOP, as legislation is within the jurisdiction of the legislative and questions of law is within the jurisdiction of the judiciary.
So, beshies, kalma, huwag madaliin. As my former professor would often say: “Basahin. Intindihin. Ulitin.” Eh ‘yun inulit ko nga subject ko sa kaniya.
I) ON THE DEFINITION OF TERMS:
#HIVPOLICYBATASNA but what more can be done?
Oo, madami akong issues sa buhay, kasi may kakulangan sa pakahulugan.
Sec. 3(d) of R.A. 11166 defines Civil Society Organization (CSO). Unfortunately, the definition is not clearly in consonance to the Corporation Code that is the governing law for CSOs, as non-stock non-profit corporations. CSOs under the Corporation Code are not merely considered as organizations but a corporation.
Sec. 19 of Corporation Code provides that: a corporation (CSO) acquires legal capacity to act as such only upon the issuance of certificate of incorporation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In the case of Cagayan Fishing Dev’t v. Sandiko (65 PHIL 233), the Court held that Cagayan Fishing Dev’t. Corporation was not a legal entity nor did it posses juridical capacity to act absent the issuance of certificate of incorporation by SEC.
Five minutes break. Tissue muna, beshie. . .Okay, ano daw? So eto na nga…
In the absence of a clear qualification of CSOs under R.A. 11166, the IRR must distinctly provide the criterion for CSOs applying for PNAC Membership under Sec. 6, par 13 – 21, of R.A. 11166 must comply in accordance with the Corporation Code; otherwise, non-compliant CSOs must be denied application for membership n PNAC absent juridical capacity to act.
Sa madaling sabi, mainam talaga na para magkaroon ng kahulugan, lagyan ng LABEL YAN! Bago mapakanta ng “best thing I never had.”
II) #HIVPOLICYBATASNA but PNAC should say ‘not even a whiff of corruption’:
ON REPRESENTATIVES OF CSO PNAC MEMBERS
“Hi! Do you remember me? I’m the senator who died, but I came back to life.” –Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago
Under Sec. 6 of R.A. 11166, CSO PNAC Members are entitled to have representatives in the Council, as sitting member. However, the law is silent as to the qualifications of the CSO representatives being a sitting member of PNAC, a government corporation created by special law.
I am strongly advocating that a minimum requirement for representatives of CSO PNAC as sitting members of a government corporation must come with qualifications that should be provided on the IRR. Absences of qualification will raise a valid question of law grounded on their legal capacity or competence to act for and on behalf of the CSO they duly represent. Unless, the legislation is intended to keep this open for more clientele in the legal profession. Panalo ang mga abogado!
A minimum requirement would set the tone that these representatives are not capable of being involved in any criminal offenses in relation to their office and that of PNAC, to wit:
- Malversation of Public Funds Art. 217 of the Revised Penal Code;
- Violation of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act;
- Violation of the provisions of HIV Law or any other law realted thereto.
If only the legislation of HIV policy was precisely worded, I would not question: “who are qualified representatives of the CSO PNAC members?” The hope to determine this matter depends upon the stakeholders and legal consultants drafting the IRR.
Absence of a minimum requirement that clearly establishes LEGAL CAPACITY COMPETENCE free from whiff of corruption must be meted out on the IRR; otherwise, it’s a missed opportunity to clear an ambiguity on the HIV policy.
I was once asked: “what could be the measure of integrity or character” as a prerequisite to becoming a representative of CSOs PNAC member, the law provides for the measure but it must be appropriately appreciated; otherwise, failure to appropriately apply it on HIV policy, PNAC becomes a sitting duck.
If I were to put a measure of integrity on the IRR, it could be stipulated in this manner:
“A representative of CSO PNAC members must not have been convicted, in the past # years for the following crimes or offenses:
Malversation of Public Funds with an attached penalty of Civil Interdiction as defined under Art. 34 of the Revised Penal Code in relation to Art. 38 of the New Civil Code;
Violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act;
Violation of the HIV Policy and related laws thereto.
And during their term of office as representative for CSO PNAC Member must not be charged of the crimes as above-mentioned, in addition thereto:
Estafa or Swindling under ART. 315 of the RPC; Bribery under Art. 210 of the RPC; Violation of BP 22; and Violation of Anti-Money Laundering Law.”
All of the abovementioned crimes are in relation to monetary transactions. Considering that PNAC as a government corporation under the new law has its own SEPARATE BUDGET under GAA.
Yes, mga besh, ang tamang attitude: “A whiff of corruption makes me sick.” Sa isip, puso, gawa, at di lang puro SALITA, di ba TATAY DIGS?
I would not want a sitting member previously convicted of any of those crimes become a member of PNAC as it would be a mockery of the legality pertaining to my OWN community. In the words of the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago: “We should have ‘moral’ excellence. Dapat ibinoboto natin, walang bahid sa kaniyang record.” #NotAWhiffOfCorruption
Mga mumsch, dun na tayo sa moral excellence, mahirap na, balikan niyo prefaratory ko. Baka mabuhay ang patay. Kayo rin?
III) #HIVPOLICYBATASNA but who are the members of PNAC?:
ON LIST OF PNAC MEMBERSHIP
Paramihan interpretasyon, ang maubusan, uwi na lang luhaan!
Under Sec. 6 of R.A. 11166, it provides that: “The following agencies and CSOs shall be represented in the PNAC xxx” or “Ang mga sumusunod na sangay at CSOs ay magkakaroon ng katawan sa PNAC”
HIV policy failed to clearly state under this provision it’s intent to specify with exclusivity that this is the list PNAC membership. I would have rather stated it as: “THE PNAC shall only be composed of the following agencies and CSOs as members.” Specific. Exclusive. Direct
(Note. The term ‘composed’ and ‘represented’ are two different terms, as used. Please see above statements of the law and suggestion.)
Assuming arguendo,that this provision provides the composition of PNAC membership regardless of how it was stated, it is still ambiguous as to exclusivity of enumeration. The law uses the term “shall” without any exclusionary term being added. In Auction In Malinta INC. v. Warren Embes Luyaben, GR NO. 173979, the Court held that: “It must be shown that the stipulation is EXCLUSIVE. In the absence of qualifying or restrictive words such as ‘EXCLUSIVELY xxx SHALL ONLY xxx the stipulation is deemed merely an agreement xxx not as a limit.”
AMP! Sobra na, indefinite break…Balik kung kailan niyo gusto….
While it is true that ‘shall’ connotes mandatory character of a statute; this, however, is not an absolute rule in statutory construction of laws. In Gachon & Guevarra v. Hon. Devera, etc., et al., G.R. No. 116695, the Court held that: “The import of the word ultimately depends upon the consideration of the entire provision, its nature, object, and consequences that would follow from construing it one way or another.”
Thus, the interpretation of the HIV policy is wanting of a clear stipulation as to PNAC membership under Sec. 6 but what it provides are those agencies who have definite representation in PNAC but not necessarily members of PNAC. (Note: The term ‘composed’ and ‘represented’ are two different terms)
Again, there’s today until the release of the IRR to cure the ambiguities in the principal law.
It’s not you, it’s me; kasi, umuwi akong sugatan, duguan, at yun na nga luhaan. Di naman naubusan, di lang nagka-unawaan.
IV) #HIVPOLICYBATASNA echoing human rights in the absence of CHR Representation in PNAC:
ON PNAC AND HUMAN RIGHTS PROVISION
Tara! Laro tayo! Taguan…taguan ng kinatawan! Hindi ako anti-CHR nor Presidential fan/follower pero beshties, napa hashtag talaga akong #NasaanKaCHR.
Under Sec. 2 par. 3 of R.A. 11166, the law proudly introduces human rights as an integral part of the HIV Policy, as it states: “The state shall respect, protect, and PROMOTE HUMAN RIGHTS as the cornerstones of an effective response to the country’s HIV and AIDS situation.”
In Art. 8 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, it provides the right to an effective remedy by competent ‘NATIONAL TRIBUNAL’ for acts violating fundamental rights granted by the Constitution or Law.
Eh anong pakialam niyo sa United Nations Avenue, Malate, Manila?
This generally accepted principle of international law is applicable in our country by virtue of the Doctrine of Incorporation under Sec. 2, Art. II of the 1987 Constitution.
AHHH Parte siya ng Pilipinas. Oh eh ano naman kung parte siya ng Pilipinas?
The importance of the provision fleshed out on the United Nations Declaration of human Rights is highlighted by the term “NATIONAL TRIBUNAL’, through R.A. 11166 a law reconstituting the PNAC could act not as a tribunal but rather the KEY ORGANIZATION to provide immediate and necessary legal action and aid concerning HUMAN RIGHTS in relation to HIV and AIDS through appropriate representation of legal consultants from the Commission on Human Rights with guidance of representatives of CSO PNAC Members as to advocacy aspect.
While it is also true that under Sec. 10 of R.A. 11166, it mentions protection of human rights through PNAC’s COLLABORATION with DOJ and CHR. Collaboration as a term for purposes of advancing human rights in implementation of HIV policy is not the most sustainable action in respecting, protecting, and PROMOTING HUMAN RIGHTS.
Ahh! Kailangan ng specific address kasi di madedeliver ang deliverables pag wala un specific number ng street?
A mere collaboration without a clear mandate imposed against DOJ and CHR in their participation through ‘representation’ in PNAC is ‘weaker than weak.’
I understand that DOJ was a member of PNAC under the old HIV Law of 1998 (R.A. 8504), it might have few occasions of missing the PNAC meetings; but, our government being as it is, remains – complacent.
Eliminating DOJ’s ‘representation’ in PNAC does not necessarily resolve the problem at hand but it further causes a problem. Collaboration is a discretionary function of DOJ AND CHR under the HIV policy, therefore, there may or maybe no collaboration.
What do we do now in the absence or failure of collaboration between DOJ, CHR, and PNAC? The HIV POLICY says. . . *birds chirping*
If they fail to comply to their mandate perhaps in the IRR, a mechanism to sanction negligence of agencies with representation in PNAC must be included; but this cannot be done with the status quo, if collaboration is retained without them being included in the representation in PNAC, as there’s no clear accountability for refusal or failure under the HIV policy. Collaboration denotes discretion, absent compelling term for it to qualify as mandatory in order to raise a legal cause of action that falls within the ambit of jurisdiction of the courts.
It is important to note DOJ’s collaboration with PNAC being discretionary in nature on the argument that they may be compelled to act upon such collaboration. Applying the doctrine of qualified political agency, DOJ as an executive organization is an agent of the Chief Executive. Therefore, they may not be compelled to perform discretionary function through judicial action. In the case of Pimentel v. Executive Secretary, G.R. NO. 158088, the Court held that: “The court has no jurisdiction to enjoin the President in the performance of his official or discretionary duties.”
While, CHR’s exclusion to a representation in PNAC exemplifies an echo of silence. Art. XIII, Sec. 18 (3) of the 1987 Constitution indicates the function of CHR to provide appropriate legal measures for the promotion of human rights. While it is true that CHR, on its own may act upon human rights violation in relation to HIV Policy, PNAC could have included in its functions a recommendatory power to CHR representation in PNAC (should they be included) Again, PNAC in accordance to UDHR could have establish in the principal law or possibly in the IRR to act as a KEY ORGANIZATION in assisting the PLHIV Community with regards to legal matter affecting their human rights in relation to HIV POLICY.
But there’s still hope until the IRR. Perhaps, if stakeholders and legal consultants would consider the inclusion of either or both DOJ and CHR as agencies that shall be represented in PNAC considering that the ‘representation’ under Sec. 6 of R.A. 11166 does not provide exclusivity as earlier discussed. So as to avoid, #NasaanKaCHR?
Nagsimula ang batasan ng laruan kung tawagin ay taguan ng kinatawan, #NASAANSILA? Sumagot si Gloc-9: “walang natira, nag-abroad sila”
V) #HIVPOLICIYBATASNA and its misinformation:
ON MISINFORMATION AS A PROHIBITED ACT
Ignorantia legis non excusat, pero yong batas mismo inignore ka, SEENZONE, BESHIE!
Under the Sec. 22 of R.A. 11166 entitled “MISINFORMATION ON HIV AND AIDS” the provision includes: misleading advertising and claims in any form of media xxx of the promotional marketing of drugs, xxx without approval from DOH and FDA xxx claiming to be a cure or fail-safe prophylactic for HIV infection shall be prohibited.
“BESHIE ANYARE. Misinformation on HIV and AIDS wer na u, dito na me.”
The law prohibits advertising of cure without DOH and FDA approval. In short “besht, bawal ka na magbenta ng pinakulong talbos ng kamote na gamot sa HIV without DOH and FDA approval.”
The law neither sanctions the misleading information on HIV transmission nor prohibits purveyors sharing information of HIV transmissions through the following: watermelon to human transmission, coke to human transmission, at ang iba pang makakamandag na transmissions.
Tuloy ang ligaya ng kamag-anakan natin na nagpapakalat ng mga makakamandag na information drive campaign sa Facebook na may itinusok na HIV+ na dugo sa pakwan, mag-ingat, nakakamatay.
Under Sec. 3 (n)(x) of R.A. 11166, the law made it known to the public by legislative notice on what is HIV and how it is transmitted.
The HIV policy is heading towards an HIV-educated and informed society but is it?
Under our Criminal Law, there is the long standing rule of IGNORANTIA LEGIS NON EXCUSAT or ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance. Furthermore, it recognizes Nullum crimen nulla poena sine lege or THERE IS NO CRIME WHEN THERE IS NO LAW THAT DEFINES OR PUNISHES IT.
In Dunlao Sr. v. CA, (G.R. No. 111342) the court held that: Crimes mala prohibita are acts that are made evil because there is a law prohibiting the same.
While it is true that ignorance of HIV and HIV transmission excuses no one from compliance, saying: “Hala kinain mo yong mansanas na may dugo ng HIV+ mahahawaan ka” will continue to horrify us in the PLHIV community. Though violation or mere ignorance of what’s in the HIV policy is a crime mala prohibita, ignorance or the misinformation of HIV AND HIV TRANSMISSION was not included in the HIV policy. Crimes mala prohibita under our criminal law need not be willful or with intent of wrong being done, mere violation of a prohibited act could be penalized as long as the law penalizes it.
HIV policy could have been the pioneer law in penalizing purveyors of FALSE OR MISINFORMATION; but it couldn’t because the law is more inclined in securing DOH AND FDA approval of cure or prophylactic.
HIV policy missed to specify a deterrent against the very “misinformation on HIV and AIDS” considering the multifarious provision on INFORMATION, EDUCATION, and COMMUNICATION. The misinformation on HIV and AIDS suddenly went missing in the prohibited acts.
As a member of the community, I’m disheartened to read misleading advertisement of drugs without DOH and FDA approval. Naamoy ko yong negosyo ng kapitbahay na inihaw na isaw without DOH approval. #BentaKaKulongKa
I also listed several issues on provisions of Confidentiality under Sec. 44 to 48 of R.A. 11166 and provisions on Discrimination under the Sec. 49 of R.A. 11166 but I’m deciding to keep it confidential as it is not an exception for me not to be discriminated by my own community, where discrimination of ideas is a norm.
Loopholes? Maybe or maybe not.
Too technical? BESHIES, batas ang pinag-uusapan natin hindi lang kemerlot sa kanto. Ganyan talaga yan.
Advocacy over legality? It can be reconciled only if there’s willingness; otherwise, yeah, just shake your heads and say: “huwag na” without hearing what is there to be said. If no reconciliation is met, just leave it to the lawyers who are paid by our government to do their job and let’s just wait for what we deserve.
I welcome the HIV and AIDS Policy Act but we could have made it better. Like all other laws, there’s an imperfection as this was drafted also by humans, just like us. But we can still do better. Not perfect, BUT BETTER. The choice is yours: “Willing ba kayo mga besh?”
I fervently hope that the IRR will be able to tighten the HIV policy and seal its loopholes. Our best opportunity to clearly provide an IRR of the HIV policy is not when the circumstances so demands, but TODAY!
We address the legalities; an airtight HIV policy and IRR is what everyone from the community desires.
As a member of the PLHIV community, I hope that we can build bridges in between gaps of ideologies to resolve a legally sound IRR that reflects both the wisdom of LEGALITY and ADVOCACY. Let us not be constrained by our personal advocacies as this are purely intended as a framework for our laws and the IRR.
Lastly, I appeal to the legal consultants sanctioned to create an IRR that genuinely reflects the sentiments of the community within the legal bounds set by existing laws. Create an IRR of the HIV policy with compassion for the PLHIV community and perhaps not just because you are paid to make the draft.
(Author’s note: I wrote this entry for purposes of self-satisfaction without any intent to belittle the efforts already made and that demanded taxing years from those in the advocacy and in the Congress. I recognized my apparent lack of authority for the time being but in God’s perfect time, I’m willing to share more than what I could for the PLHIV community as an individual but not as a part of any organization nor constrained by my personal convictions and advocacies. Mabuhay ang PLHIV Community! a luta continua vitória é certa!)
Worsening #ARVshortage in the Phl?
On Jan. 9, the Philippines gained a new HIV and AIDS law that is supposed to better the lives of Filipinos living with HIV. But many in the HIV community mark this day with distress, largely because of the worsening ARV shortage.
In September 2018, Xander (not his real name; anonymity requested), a Filipino living with HIV, claimed that he was told by the person working in the pharmacy of his hub to “consume already-expired medicines (the three-in-one tablet of Lamivudine/Tenofovir/Efavirenz)”, and that “it is “still good for three months after the expiration date.”
Since dealing with ARV-related issue is not new to him (it happened to him in the last quarter of 2013), he complained and was given newer meds. Noticeably, “those who didn’t complain – like I did – ended up using the expired meds,” he said.
Xander can only recall how he earlier lamented – again in 2013 – that the ARV shortage will happen again, particularly considering the continuing denial of the Department of Health (DOH) about this issue.
The 9th of January is supposed to be a happy day particularly for Filipinos living with HIV and their advocates. On that day, the newly-signed Republic Act 11166 or the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act was released after it was signed into law by Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte. By replacing the 20-year-old Republic Act 8504 or the Philippine National AIDS and Control Act of 1998, this new law is supposed to boost the government’s response to HIV and AIDS by making health services for HIV and AIDS more accessible to Filipinos.
But many in the HIV community mark this day with distress, largely because of the worsening ARV shortage, which is not helped by the denial of the issue by various heads of offices – including government officials, as well as those helming treatment hubs/facilities and even select non-government organizations (NGOs).
In an unsigned statement (as if so that no one can be “chased” to be held accountable for the same statement), the DOH seemed to belittle the issue by outright claiming that there’s an ‘alleged’ shortage of ARVs; even as it also stated that they take the issue of HIV infection in the country seriously. Part of this is to take “great steps to ensure that access for HIV treatments are available for those who are diagnosed with HIV.”
The DOH statement added:
“As of October 2018, we have enrolled 32,224 persons living with HIV for treatment with ARV such as Nevirapine, Lamivudine/Tenofovir. The DOH has been providing free ARV to Filipinos living with HIV through our HIV treatment hubs.
“Based on our records, there are 3,200 registered PLHIV who are on Nevirapine and 1,791 PLHIV on Lamivudine/Tenofovir, as of December last year.
That just about half of the total PLHIVs in the Philippines use ARVs is worth noting, even if it’s another issue altogether.
But the mention of these two meds/cocktails is important because the complaints reaching – among others – Outrage Magazine, Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center) other and HIV-related community-based organizations/non-government organizations particularly currently mention these.
In Quezon City, for instance, at least eight PLHIVs alleged that they have been given incomplete medications – i.e. they were supplied with either Lamivudine/Tenofovir or Lamivudine/Zidovudine, but they have not been receiving Nevirapine because this is not available. These people are, therefore, taking incomplete meds.
Pinoy Plus’s hotline, PRC, has received similar allegations of non-delivery of Nevirapine.
In Cavite (Imus, Bacoor and Dasmariñas), at least three clients surfaced to allege about the same issue. PLHIVs are now “borrowing” each others’ Nevirapine supply just so they don’t miss their required dosage because their hub does not have supplies from the DOH.
There are similar allegations in Cagayan de Oro City, Davao City and Zamboanga City.
And in Alabang, the pharmacy of a treatment hub even posted on January 8, 2019 an announcement that “due to the shortage and delay of the deliveries at DOH, only one bottle will be dispensed of the following medicines: Nevirapine (200mg tablet); Lamivudine (150mg)/Zidovudine (300mg tablet); and Lamivudine (300mg)/Tenofovir (300mg tablet).” The same hub is telling its clients to “wait for further announcement on stock availability.”
Note that the RITM-AIDS Research Group’s pharmacy is putting the blame on the DOH.
The same DOH statement stressed that “the latest data, as of January 4, confirms that Nevirapine has already been delivered to the 16 treatment hubs to meet the requirements for February-April 2019. For Lamivudine/Tenofovir, a month’s supply has also been delivered to Regions X, VI and I. The rest of the regions will expect deliveries within this week.”
Noticeably, the DOH statement responds to issues only this January, even if this concern has been circulating in the PLHIV community since 2018, and only peaked now.
There are fewer ARV refills now. If, in the past, the usual practice is for hubs to give PLHIVs three bottles of ARV to last them for three months, a growing number are now complaining about the supply being cut to one month in numerous hubs – e.g. there’s that post in RITM’s pharmacy. Some allege that they are even supplied ARVs just for a week or even just for three days.
Due to the ARV shortage that the DOH is not outright confronting, expired medicines are allegedly being given to PLHIVs – as in the case of Xander.
Also due to the ARV shortage, the medication of a number of PLHIVs are allegedly being changed not because it’s medically sound, but because their usual medicines are not readily available. In Mandaluyong City, there are PLHIVs who claimed to have been told to use Lamivudine/Tenofovir/Efavirenz because it’s the only available ARV. If they refuse to do so, then they will have to stop taking their usual medications until such time when the delivery of supplies are normalized again.
To allow the DOH to respond to these claims, Outrage Magazine repeatedly reached out to the government body. Upon calling the media relations unit (at +63 2 651-7800 loc. 1126), we were turned over to the office of Dr. Gerard Belimac (+63 2 651-7800 locs. 2355, 2352, 2354). Five attempts were made to speak with Belimac or any other authority in his office, but he has been unavailable at those five times; and even after leaving requests for a statement from him on the ARV shortage, as of press time, the publication has not heard back.
As this is a continuing story, coordination will continue to – eventually hopefully – extensively hear from the DOH on this issue.
The DOH statement also stated that it is “working closely with our suppliers to ensure that there are no gaps in our supply chain. In fact, we are waiting for deliveries of an additional 12,375 bottles of Nevirapine good for another three months and 7,024 bottles of Lamivudine/Tenofovir good for another two months.”
The DOH also claimed that it is continuing to explore “for more partners in providing excellent support for Filipinos living with HIV-AIDS and in ending the deadly disease.”
As if wanting to pacify the complaining PLHIVs, the DOH statement transferred to responsibility to “HIV doctors to explore possible options”, or visit Facebook page (PLHIV Response Center) or email email@example.com. Note the use of a gmail account for a body with millions in budget.
No investigations on where the errors in the supply chain is happening so that these can be fixed is forthcoming. No one being held accountable here.
THE NEED TO GO BEYOND LIP SERVICE
Incidentally, Article V, Sec. 33 of the newly signed HIV law states: “The DOH shall establish a program that will provide free and accessible ART and medication for opportunistic infections to all PLHIVs who are enrolled in the program… A manual of procedures for management of PLHIV shall be developed by the DOH.”
The IRR is not even there yet, but this mandate to provide life-saving meds is now already cast in doubt.
Xander – who only had a refill of his ARVs – said that many like him who posted about this issue online were told to stop doing so “because we are supposedly creating panic among PLHIVs.”
He now says that people who cover up this issue are “as worse as those paid to work on this issue. Because if you go to the HIV community, we’ve long lived with worrying that our meds may not be given us at any moment. If some people think complaining about this is wrong, then they shouldn’t be in HIV advocacy, but work as PR people of those failing to do their jobs.”
In the end, “this needs to be resolved fast. Enough with discussing semantics on what we’re having is a shortage or a stockout; the fact remains that there are PLHIVs not getting their supplies. Lives are at stake. So supply the ARVs; now.”
Work doesn’t stop for the rainbow warriors
The Rainbow Collective launched a daily journal called “I Want the World to Know”, which aims to educate LGBTQIA persons and the general public about issues facing the community, and what they can do to promote acceptance.
By Sandy Miguel
More pressure should fall on the Senate to expedite the passage of the SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity or Expression) Equality Bill, but even sans this (or perhaps exactly because this is not getting traction), new LGBTQIA-centered organizations are coming to the forefront to clamor for more visibility and acceptance for the community.
One of these new organizations, The Rainbow Collective (TRC), launched a daily journal called I Want the World to Know, which aims to educate LGBTQIA persons and the general public about issues facing the community, and what they can do to promote acceptance.
“There’s (still) this mindset that you’re a lesser person just because you are LGBT,” TRC founder Lady Allyson Dulnuan said. “It may be a long road to acceptance, but it is possible by properly educating people and correcting their misconceptions and biases about the community.”
Acceptance, obviously, continues to be an elusive concept in society for LGBTQIA individuals.
The Philippines was hailed as one the most “tolerant” in Asia-Pacific region towards the LGBTQIA community based on a 2013 Pew Research Center report that found over 70% of Filipinos believe that homosexuality “should be accepted by society,” the Huffington Post reported in 2015.
But this preceded by the brutal murder of transwoman Jennifer Laude in her Olongapo hometown by a US marine. Just as sadly, two more deaths believed to also be LGBTQIA-related hate crimes followed just weeks after Laude was killed.
These hate crimes bring attention to the reality that LGBTQIA discrimination is still an epidemic in the country.
Elsewhere in the Philippines, discrimination happens to LGBTQIA individuals on a day-to-day basis; from extreme bullying to hearing “light-hearted,” passive-aggressive jokes, LGBTQ persons experience some form of prejudice daily at their place of work, in public or even at home. Lesbians, for instance, can most likely cite an incidence when they were teased to get themselves a man to “correct” their gender identity. Many, if not all, of these incidences of gender biases go unreported.
Incidences also occur because of the lack of anti-discriminatory policies in various jurisdictions. In 2018, for instance, comedian Jervi Li, also known as Kaladkaren Davila, was barred from entering H&J Sports Bar in Makati. The club bouncer said they don’t let gay people in, and that it was a policy created by the management. The interaction was recorded in a video, which Li posted on her Facebook page.
TRC’s planner, I Want the World to Know, contains resources on sexual and gender differences, LGBTQIA adoption and family life, as well as facts on homophobia and how they would benefit from having the SOGIE Equality Bill passed. It also arms individuals with information on how to identify LGBT issues and how they can effectively cope up in the society. The planner similarly has works and art from a handful of artists and writers who support the LGBTQIA community.
But work doesn’t stop – not for TRC, nor should it for everyone.
TRC is now in front of the planning board for its next project, Project Halipan, which zeroes in on domestic abuse and rehabilitating abusers in an LGBTQIA relationships.
The Rainbow Collective’s LGBT Planner 2019 is still available at https://bit.ly/TRC2019LGBTPlanner for P699.00. Message TRC’s Facebook page to order. Proceeds from the planner’s sales will go to Project Halipan.
Hear ye, hear ye! Pageant ‘pundits’ against trans people
Your gay identity or your “I love my LGBT friends” proclamation mean absolutely nothing to the struggles of trans folks when you follow it with transphobic statements.
Way back when I came out to my mom, I remember assuring her that I would not be dating boyish, manly, butch girls. In my ignorant mind at that time, I regarded non-feminine lesbians as a “disgrace” to the lesbian identity. I did not want to be associated with that image of a woman.
WhenI started dating, I had my concerns about being in a relationship with a bisexual woman. My unfounded fears involved thoughts like, “What if she cheats on me with a guy? That would look pretty bad on me as a lesbian.”, “What if we break up and her next relationship would be with a guy? Would people think that she grew sick of me just because I’m not?”, “If she wants kids, then I might not be the most viable partner for her.” or “Would she ever miss dick or having sex with a guy in the long-run?”. I’ve never actually heard of a research or an actual experience that a bisexual woman would always choose a guy over a girl eventually. I also did not receive any warnings about the added emotional and future risks of dating a bisexual. But due to this ever-heteronormative society-and I’m sure a lot of lesbians bear the same feelings- I just felt like the chance that a bisexual would end up with a straight relationship is much higher since it has widespread acceptance, thus, less struggles. The thought of being one-upped by heteronormativity, again, can be an unappetizing thought.
Fortunately, after learning more about the human spectrum that is SOGIE, I’ve done away with those insecurities and misconceptions. In light of recent altercations among viewers about Ms. Spain’s participation in the Miss Universe pageant, it is obvious that a lot of people are also in need of much enlightenment.
But, alas, I am not about to educate people on SOGIE. I believe if they are truly open to understanding the complexity that is gender and sexuality, they would go find information on their own. But there is one thing that terribly needs to be pointed out. I’ve been seeing a lot of opinions thrown about regarding theUniverse pageantry’s welcoming of Ms. Spain; and I would just like to clarify that below opening remarks do not give credence to anti-trans statements:
- I am gay…
- I am part of the LGBTQ community…
- I love / respect the LGBT community…
- I have gay friends…
Your gay identity or your “I love my LGBT friends” proclamation mean absolutely nothing to the struggles of trans folks when you follow it with transphobic statements. Please, before identifying yourself as a member of the LGBTQ community or claiming that you respect said community, make sure that you’ve thoroughly educated yourself what that community stands for, as well as what each of those letters is actually fighting for.
Otherwise, you’re just a gay person concerned only about your own gay rights, as opposed to wholeheartedly being part of the LGBTQ community. As for those “I-respect-the-LGBT-but..”people, I hope one day you’ll get off your privileged high horse and see how the status quo stymies the human dignity and rights of the community you supposedly respect.
Moments when hashtag activism really worked
Every now and then, a new cause encourages users to send in a flurry of social media posts, all backed by a common tag used to grab the users’ attention to the issue. While some campaigns have backfired, some have really, really worked creating defining moments.
It’s been more than 10 years to the use of this so small and unprepossessing symbol – #. Little did its users know that it would contribute to changing the world. It’s emerged as the prelude to every important online conversation.
The phenomenon of using this symbol is popularly referred to as hashtag activism. Every now and then, a new cause encourages users to send in a flurry of social media posts, all backed by a common tag used to grab the users’ attention to the issue. While some campaigns have backfired, some have really, really worked creating defining moments. Let’s take a look at some of them:
When President Trump was alleged for asking his staff to dress like women, the internet was flooded with suggestions and opinions. Gendered clothing is available everywhere but unlike hashtags, their purpose is to only divide. Some women voiced their preference to dress their best for work while some pointed out how black is the new black. The campaign received extensive female support for obvious reasons.
This UK-based campaign aimed at taking action against the anti-migrant position of several British newspapers. It started somewhere around 2016 and has repeatedly gone viral several times. It has also made some great victories in the process. For instance, Lego ended its agreement with The Daily Mail and now does not offer any promotional giveaways with the newspaper.
The British respond to tragedy with both class and honesty. In fact, the Londoners like hashtag activism because it always keeps to the left. The #YouAintNoMuslimBruv campaign was the reaction to an incident that took place a few weeks before Christmas 2015. A man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia cut the throat of a passenger at a London tube station. The judge denounced the act to be motivated by Islamic extremism and sentenced him to life imprisonment at a high-security psychiatric institution.
However, before the papers went all gaga over Islamophobia, a young man gave the perfect reply to this religious criticism since the culprit was arrested by a Muslim policeman.
Gender equality has been talked about for generations. It affects everyone. The HeForShe campaign is just about that. The UN Women Campaign, supported by Emma Watson and Justin Trudeau, encouraged men and boys to support the women in their lives and actively involve themselves in the struggle that had previously been regarded as a ‘woman’s thing.’
Several countries participated in the campaign with their pledges and commitments to support the cause. Some of the leading countries worth mentioning are Rwanda, the UK, the US, Mexico, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Women’s March in 2017 was a powerful campaign as women across the world united to fight for their status-quo and optimistically change the future. It focused on demanding an equal footing in society. The uniting power of the hashtag proved that women are not alone and can create a euphoric moment that will change history.
Death by inaction and misaction
If the people supposed to serve us are failing to do so, even if they know they can do something if they really, really want to, then I can’t help but be sad… and angry… and speak out.
By Stephen Christian Quilacio
In March 2015 – just over three years ago – playwright, author and longtime gay rights and AIDS activist Larry Kramer gave a blistering speech. Dubbed “Cure!”, he likened HIV to a “genocide inflicted upon gay people.”
To wit, and I quote part of his speech:
“Thirty-four years. HIV/AIDS has been our plague for 34 years. We should have known more about this plague by now. 34 years is a very long time to let people die.
I think more and more about evil. I believe in evil. I believe evil is an act, intentional or not, of inflicting undeserved harm on others. Genocide is such an act. I believe genocide is being inflicted upon gay people.
Genocide is the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or ethnic group. Such as gay people. Such as people of color. To date, around the world, an estimated 78 million people have become infected, 39 million of whom have died. When we first became acquainted with HIV there were 41 cases.”
Then – to stress his point – he (aptly) added:
“I no longer have any doubt that… government is content, via sins of omission or commission, to allow the extermination of my homosexual population to continue unabated.”
I am bringing this up now, though this time to highlight what it’s like to be HIV-positive in the Philippines.
See… I am a Filipino living with HIV. I’ve been HIV-positive since 2013. And though hailing from Northern Mindanao, I have since moved to Metro Manila; and I am now based in Taguig City.
My life as a Filipino with HIV – from the start until now – continues to be extremely challenging. And in many instances, this is due to the inaction and misaction of service providers, including (if not particularly) the government.
Take for instance the continuous running out of supply of antiretroviral (ARV) meds in the country.
This has been an ongoing issue, first loudly raised in 2013 and then “denied” by the Department of Health (DOH) in 2014.
At that time, Dr. Rossana Ditangco, research chief at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine-AIDS Research Group (RITM-ARG), one of the treatment hubs in the country, said that the limited ARV supply was “because of the delay in the delivery of (ARVs) to the Department of Health (DOH).”
This was belied by Dr. Jose Gerard Belimac, head of DOH’s National AIDS/STI Prevention and Control Program, who claimed then that there is no delay in the procurement of ARVs, just as there is no “official pronouncement from the DOH to the treatment hubs to control (the distribution of ARVs) because of a delay in the procurement (of ARVs),” he said in an exclusive interview by Outrage Magazine. Belimac stressed then that “for now, all the ARVs that we promised to provide to the patients are available.”
The denial makes one angry though, because – while still in Cagayan de Oro City at that time – we who were accessing meds were not getting our steady ARV supply. We had to “borrow” meds from other PLHIVs just so none of us would skip our dosage; though ending missing meds all together when the supplies didn’t arrive.
It was as if we were being told we were lying (by claiming there’s a shortage) by the very body that is covering up its erroneous system/s.
And then just a few weeks ago, I was informed by my doctor (this time in Metro Manila) that my meds may have to be changed because there is no supply of Nevirapine (what I have been taking). Apparently, I ain’t the first (and perhaps not the last) whose meds may be changed NOT because it’s necessary but because… the DOH’s supply system is problematic.
Looking back, I also remember not even knowing of viral load (VL) for years while in Mindanao. The hub I used to go to only offered CD4 count (not VL); and – come to think of it – this wasn’t even regularly done because the CD4 machine may not have been working or there was no reagent or… other such reasons were given to us.
To date, many PLHIVs from outside Metro Manila (and even those here) do not know their VL or CD4 count.
And this is even if the amount we paid PhilHealth was the same as everybody else; and the services we were supposed to be getting (based in the OHAT package) was supposed to include this.
I am not sure if there is reconsideration of DOH accreditation being done… but non-offering of paid-for services is, for many of us, an “accepted norm.” We actually pay for services that we don’t use.
Last July, 30 people died from AIDS-related complications in the country. And since January 1984 (when the first case was documented in the Philippines) to July 2018, a total of 2,735 deaths were already reported in the country. Ninety percent (2,462) were male.
Since we already have 57,134 reported cases (as of July 2018), the number of deaths seem… small. But – of course – this is ONLY those that were reported; I am certain that many more were unreported.
But note that even now, approximately only half of the number of Filipinos with HIV have access to life-saving meds. And – as repeatedly stressed – access isn’t even regular because of problems with the supply.
There comes a point when we have to say enough’s enough.
I write this piece not because I want to, but because I need to.
Because people continue to suffer and even die, and your efforts continue to be wanting.
Part of Kramer’s closure for his lament reads:
“Allowing people to die is evil and genocidal. Yes, I believe in evil. 78 million people have become infected, 39 million have died…”
I may sound melodramatic, so call me “drama queen” if you want.
But if the people supposed to serve us are failing to do so, even if they know they can do something if they really, really want to, then I can’t help but be sad… and angry… and speak out.
Because at this point, I see where Kramer is coming from.
And to his point, let me add: I know what he’s talking about.