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Op-Ed

Debunking arguments against same-sex marriage

With many Filipinos still not supportive of extending the right to marry to LGBT people, Peter Jones Dela Cruz looks at the “reasons” many anti-marriage equality people raise and deconstruct them one by one.

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Majority of Filipinos don’t like two men or two women to get married for reasons we already know. The critics of marriage equality have come up with both religious and non-religious reasons for their objections. It’s important that we look at these reasons because they become important in discussions and debates that will affect the lives of same-gender couples.

Same-sex marriage is unnatural.

This is one of the most common arguments against same-sex marriage. It’s also one of the easiest to destroy. Supposing we say it is unnatural, so what? Is something necessarily or inherently wrong because it is unnatural? The inherent goodness of something is independent of whether it is natural or not. Typhoons, earthquakes, cancer, and gamma ray bursts are natural. Smartphones, batteries, air-conditioning systems, and computers are not.

Also, marriage is in itself unnatural. It’s a social, cultural, and legal construct. Animals don’t get married. They just mate. Heterosexual marriages are not necessarily natural. “Natural” is the wrong word. They are just common.

Nevertheless, this naturalistic fallacy just doesn’t die.

Marriage is for procreation.

If it were, why does the state allow sterile couples and seniors to get married, knowing they won’t be able to reproduce? This inconsistency destroys the argument, though. Clever marriage equality critics may then say: But sterile and senior couples are the exception to the procreation rule. Why, then, can we not extend this exception to same-sex couples?

Besides, there are many ways for same-sex couples to have children, such as in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, and surrogacy. Many straight couples actually use these techniques, too.

It’s against God’s will.

It’s against our religion. It’s against our faith. It’s against our convictions. It’s against our concept of morality. These appeals to religion and bias do not hold water in a democratic country that upholds the doctrine of separation of Church and State. Marriage equality advocates are not asking the churches to wed same-sex Filipino couples. We are asking the State. Whether this form of marriage is against God’s will is debatable even within the domain of Christian belief and should not be taken as a statement of fact that should dictate legislation.

Section 6 of Article II of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines states that the separation of Church and State is inviolable. Section 5 of Article III, on the other hand, states that no religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.

It’s also hypocrisy when we allow religion to interfere with something as private as marriage, considering there are many things religious texts admonish against but we do anyway. We do not make eating shellfish (Lev. 11:9-12) or wearing mixed fabric (Lev. 19:19) or eating pork (Lev. 11:7-8) illegal because God said these things are abominable just as sleeping with someone of your gender is.

You’re redefining marriage.

This is another argument that can be easily destroyed with this question: So what? Let’s redefine marriage to afford gay and lesbian couples the right to get married. Marriage was not always between one adult man and one adult woman throughout history and across cultures around the world. Marriage is an arbitrary concept. Christians do not have the monopoly over its definition. It’s not their concept alone to begin with. Marriage certainly did not originate as a Christian ceremony. And even if it did, it doesn’t mean it is for Christians or religious people to define and claim as solely theirs.

It threatens the sanctity of marriage.

This is another appeal to religion. Marriage is holy. Marriage is sacred. It is a union done under God’s grace, and because it’s done in the presence of God, it should only include a man and a woman because the Bible forbids homosexual partnerships.

So this is very much like the third argument that has been debunked.

First, we are not asking religious institutions. We are asking the State.

Second, that marriage is sacred is a matter of religious bias and is not a statement of fact. Again, we are a secular and democratic state, and such state does not adhere to religious dogma, especially when making and amending laws (Article III, Section 5).

Third, I personally do not think it threatens the sanctity of marriage or the sanctity of heterosexual marriages for that matter. I don’t see how the marriage of two men or two women will affect the marriages of all heterosexual couples in the country. I don’t see how such marriages will suddenly make the other marriages unholy or unsacred. It doesn’t make any sense, especially considering same-sex marriages will not be shoved down the throats of churches or their followers. Again, we are asking the State, not the churches.

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This will lead to people marrying kids, dogs, etc.

This slippery slope fallacy just does not die, too. All right, nowhere in marriage equality campaigns can you see advocacy for pedophilia, incest, bestiality, and polygamy. In addition, supposing same-sex marriage does encourage supporters of polygamy or pedophilia/ephebophilia or incest to lobby their own advocacy, then let them. They are free to do that. But their advocacy is not the marriage equality advocacy. Also, it does not mean we can stop same-sex marriage discussions dead in their tracks because we have this assumed slippery slope. My point is, same-sex marriage should be discussed in its own right. The other issues brought up are nowhere near related to same-sex marriage and are therefore irrelevant in the discussion and serve only as a distraction.

The logic behind this slippery slope goes like this: Straight unions are presumed to be superior to gay or lesbian unions, and we cannot move the limits of legal recognition of unions for the inferior minority because it may lead to moving the limits further down the scale. This slippery slope is composed of an asserted truth and an appeal to uncertain consequences.

Several decades ago, people did regard Black people and women inferior. But when African-Americans gained civil rights, were civil rights extended to monkeys? No! People understood that White and Black Americans are equal, and so the recognition of their civil rights was not a matter of moving the limits of such legal recognition to include an “inferior” race, because there was no inferior race. There was no moving down the ladder from White Americans to African-Americans down to monkeys and then dogs. When women gained voting rights, suffrage rights were not extended to cats.

More importantly, kids cannot give consent because they do not have well-developed cognitive faculties yet. Neither can dogs or monkeys give consent, let alone sign on a marriage certificate.

The genitals don’t fit.

First of all, genitals don’t get married. People do. Second, this argument assumes that marriage is done for purposes of sex only. Marriage is not defined as the union of genitals. It’s not all about sex. It’s also about commitment, togetherness, non-sexual intimacy, mutual respect, and so on.

Men are for women.

This is related to the argument above, minus the genital component. This argument assumes that because a man and a woman are needed for reproduction, thus follows that marriage should be only between a man and a woman. But we already have discussed that marriage is not solely for procreation. Besides, marriage is not necessary for procreation.

Another version of this argument asserts that men and women have complementary biological and psychological qualities that make them fitting for each other in a partnership and that same-sex couples do not possess this kind of complementary qualities. But partnerships do not require these complementary qualities between two people sharing mutual affection, because the only significant factors here are their mutual affection and their commitment. Asserting these supposed complementary differences only explain why heterosexual marriages are good and does not really say anything about same-sex partnerships, effectively rendering the assertion irrelevant in discussions about the latter. We know that despite such assumed complementary roles and qualities, heterosexual couples still break up and file for annulment. In other countries, they file for divorce. And we know many gay and lesbian couples who say strong despite the lack of such an assumed complementary biological and psychological components.

Same-sex partnerships and marriages may become a norm.

Let us look at the countries where gay couples can get married. Why haven’t gay unions become a norm in these places? Because gay marriage doesn’t change the percentage of gay people in the population. While legal recognition of such unions allow gay and lesbian people to get married, it doesn’t at all increase the number of gay and lesbian couples to a point wherein most marriages become same-gender marriages. In short, that argument is ridiculous.

Humans will go extinct.

This is like an extension of the previous argument. That humans will go extinct because of same-sex marriage assumes that too many people will get gay-married to a point wherein the population will decline. It’s absurd. At best, we can consider this argument a ridiculous digression or an exaggerated sarcasm. It doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t follow that when you legalize this type of marriage, everyone, including straight people, will start marrying members of the same sex or stop reproducing. Are people in Belgium or The Netherlands at the brink of extinction?

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United Nations’ population projections show that there will be more than 11 billion people in the world in 2100. There is so much procreation going on despite the presence of same-sex unions in many countries.

Marriage is for the protection of children.

This is another asserted truth. Notice how its true message becomes preposterous — same-sex marriage is wrong because marriage is for the protection of children. See how it becomes a dishonest non sequitur? In other words, just because you think marriage is for the protection of children doesn’t mean two men or two women can’t get married.

Marriage is not parenting. Its primary purpose is to legally bind couples and afford them privileges and rights under such state-sanctioned unions. Marriage is not for procreation, let alone for the protection of children. People get married because they want to spend the rest of their lives with the people they love. Having kids is an option, not a requirement.

The other problem with this argument is it assumes gay and lesbian couples cannot protect children or uphold their welfare. Many studies have shown that there is no significant difference in the quality of lives or the psychological development between children raised by straight parents and those raised by gay parents. The parents’ ability to raise children and secure their welfare has nothing to do with their sexual orientation.

A variation of this argument goes like this: Children of gay parents will only get bullied. Although this is more like an argument against joint adoption by a same-sex couple, it feigns as a compelling argument against gay marriage.

Bullying is wrong. No one wants their kids to be bullied. The problem is not same-sex couples raising children, but the bigotry within the society. We should be addressing this problem through educating people that same-sex unions are not inferior to opposite-sex unions. Stopping gay marriage in this case does not address bigotry; it only endorses it.

We should tell people to stop bullying anyone. Tell your kids to stop bullying other kids.

It will lead to more HIV/AIDS cases.

This argument can be translated like this: same-sex marriage is wrong because it leads to unsafe sexual practices that raise the married couple’s risk of HIV.

Gay sex is mistakenly identified as the culprit of HIV/AIDS. It seems logical. Cases are well and alive among men having sex with men. Because of that, same-sex marriage is wrong. Or so say the marriage equality critics. There’s one inconsistency, though. Lesbian women have the least cases of HIV or STIs for that matter.

The argument also assumes that same-sex marriage will encourage more promiscuity among gay men, but that is yet to be seen. One can argue that marriage creates a social and legal responsibility among homosexual couples to be together in fidelity and monogamy.

But the most important counterargument for this spurious claim is that gay sex doesn’t cause HIV. Nor does it lead to more cases on its own. The real culprit is unsafe sexual practices, such as engaging in casual sex with multiple partners without appropriate protection; and it doesn’t matter whether you are gay or straight. Two HIV-free men in a committed and monogamous relationship having sex will not get HIV no matter how many times they engage in sex. They will get tired, though, for sure. But that doesn’t mean they can’t get married because frequent sex causes fatigue.

There are more important issues.

This is a fallacy of relative privation. There are always more important issues. Poverty, territorial disputes, and peace and order problems were around when legislators debated and approved the then Anti-Cybercrime and RH bills. If they waited until all these important issues were resolved, would they have passed and approved new bills? Laws for relatively less important issues get passed every time, because legislators discuss bills in their own right without appealing to “more important” issues that have nothing to do with those bills.

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As an analogy, do you skip dinner because there are hungry homeless children in your town?

It’s special rights.

Without a law that allows same-sex couples to get married, they simply do not have an alternative. They can only live together as cohabiting couples whose unions are not recognized by the state for illogical reasons. They do not enjoy the benefits that come with state-sanctioned unions. They do not have conjugal property rights, next-of-kin rights, joint adoption rights, etc. We are not talking about petty rights. These are major rights that have major implications on the lives of couples. Currently, there are no alternatives. Same-sex couples do not even have cohabitation rights, and that’s only because they are same-sex couples.

The right to get married is a basic right. Freedom from discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation is a basic human right. Not recognizing same-sex unions is a form of discrimination and should not be exercised in a country that adheres to the principles of human rights.

Gay men can marry women.

This is an extension of the previous argument. Marriage equality critics consider same-sex marriage special rights because they argue that gay men can marry women or lesbian women can marry men, anyway. It sounds like a good argument until we dig deeper and find that most men and lesbian women do not want to marry women and men respectively. Gay men are not attracted to women and thus do not form romantic and intimate relationships with women, let alone want to marry them. So, telling them they can marry women does not make any sense.

We are a Christian country. It is against our culture.

Both statements sound valid except that they are both appeals to religion, tradition, and common belief, hence fallacious. Most of the people in the country are Christians, but it doesn’t mean that this country is theocratic. Legislators do not invoke the Bible or any religious scripture in drafting laws, and they should not. Laws are secular. They do not adhere to a common religion. Otherwise, we would have enacted laws against female non-virginity before marriage or banning of work on Sundays. The Philippine Constitution stipulates the separation between Church and State. Whereas the church can give its opinion regarding same-sex marriage, it cannot and should not interfere with or influence the legislative process of passing and approving of bills.

Regarding the Philippine culture, it has to be stressed that the culture is dynamic, not static, and that the culture and the law go hand-in-hand in shaping a nation. The culture shapes the law, but the law also shapes the culture. Neither is above the other. Laws can be established to uphold the rights of gay, lesbian, and transgender people to promote a culture of equality regardless of sexuality or gender. In other words, laws for marriage equality and non-discrimination based on SOGI can change our culture into something that is truly LGBT-inclusive.

Majority are not in favor of it.

This is very much similar to the previous argument. Just because the majority share the same opinion regarding something doesn’t necessarily follow they’re right. The reasons why eight in 10 Filipinos do not like gay marriage are laid out in this article, and we are debunking them.

When the Supreme Court of the Unites States ruled in favor of marriage equality, it ruled in favor of the rights of same-sex couples and considered their rights and dignity to be above popular opinion, culture, or religion. The SCOTUS operated under the principle of equality, reminding people that the law serves to protect the minority and that it serves to keep the majority from oppressing the minority.

It’s against the Family Code.

Of course. That’s why we’re discussing it.

Laws are not static and can be amended. This is why marriage equality advocates are lobbying for same-sex marriage. The Articles 1 and 2 of the Family Code discriminate against two-men or two-women partnerships. Changing the legal definition of marriage to remove its heterosexist veil would be a crucial step in ensuring any two adults in a committed and monogamous relationship can get married regardless of their sexes or genders.

I don’t think that the marriage equality proponents in the country are so optimistic that they see their advocacy being signed into law anytime soon. It’s going to be a long walk towards marriage equality, but we’ll walk the long path anyway.

Peter Jones Dela Cruz is a gay demiguy, a heretic, and someone who believes popular opinion and norms should be challenged if they are devoid of reason. He yearns for a future wherein everyone is treated equally regardless of who they love or what they wear ― a future where labels no longer matter. Apart from ranting for LGBTQ rights, he also likes to snap pictures and sing covers.

Op-Ed

Being LGBTQ+ means nothing

Being unaware of and deviant from what that community is intentionally fighting for clearly does not make us a part of it. We have to realize that our identity does not really matter as much as what we actually say, do or stand for.

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Unsplash.com

We’ve heard it all before — a woman who still espouses misogyny, Filipinos who can be insulting towards their own skin color, a devout Christian who has little knowledge about the Bible and the history of Christianity, a gay person who is against the rights of other LGBTQ+ folks. These seemingly self-contradictories show that our identity is nothing but superficiality.

Our identity does not hold the substance of what we’re all about.

Having a certain identity does not follow that we know all there is to understand about it.

More importantly, it does not immediately give us the authority or credibility to speak on behalf of a larger group we supposedly belong to. Otherwise, we only cause much harm and misinformation.

What does a community mean? Fumbling through the dictionary, we would find similar definitions that basically sum up as “a group of people sharing a commonality of interests, attitudes, characteristics, values, goals – even history – and living in a particular location or within a greater area”. Applying this to the so-called LGBTQ+ community, since LGBTQ+ persons obviously do not live in the same quarters or have exactly the same lived experiences (hence the need for the acronym with a plus sign), we need to take only the spirit of the word — that is, a community is a social state of more than skin-deep commonality.

People who label themselves as LGBTQ’s do not see the whole picture if they go against equality and the principle that human rights must be bestowed to all regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, physical appearance and so forth. Such people who proclaim they are “part of the LGBTQ+ community but…” are merely disruptive tumors. They are not part of the community but only a part of the problem, which is compounded by ignorance, indifference, hate and discrimination.

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So before we open our mouths and ascribe to some sort of community or identity, let’s be truly certain first that we know what it’s all about. Being unaware of and deviant from what that community is intentionally fighting for clearly does not make us a part of it. We have to realize that our identity does not really matter as much as what we actually say, do or stand for.

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Literary Pieces

Babae. Lesbiyana.

“Babae po ako. Ngunit babae rin ang gusto ko. Pang-lalake man ang kilos at anyo. Sa babae pa rin naman ako nagbabanyo.”

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Photo by Chris Johnson from Unsplash.com

By Chris Salvatierra

Pilit kong iniisip
Kung inisip ko at pinilit
Kung nagbago ba ang ihip
Ng hangin noong ako’y isang paslit

Ang paghanga sa kapwa babae
Ang kilos, lakad at pananalita
Na animo’y lalake
Na nagsimula noong ako’y bata

Tinanong ako kung ako ba’y humanga
Sa mga guwapo at pogi
At ang sagot ko’y oo nga
Pagtangi ay sa babae lagi

Ni minsa’y hindi kinilig
Kahit na noong panahong
Maliit pa ang mga bisig
Suot ay bestida at hindi lontang maong

Matagal na proseso
Matagal na nilihim
Hindi umasenso
Dahil sa sariling paninimdim

Hanggang ako’y namulat
At seryosong nagkagusto
At sinimulang isulat
Nilahad, ipinusta pati pamato

Wala naman kasing nagturo
Naramdaman na lang
Tapos para akong tuliro
Noong ako’y pitong taong gulang

Kaibigan ko siya
Sa ikalawang baitang
Kapag kasama’y masaya
Kapag naka-akbay ay lutang

Marami nang napusuan
Panahon na ang lumipas
Gusto’y babae pa rin naman
Sa pagkatorpe’y walang kupas

Madalas sakin ay tinatanong
Kahit hanggang opisina
Siguro sila’y hilong talilong
Kung Ma’am o Sir ang itatawag twina

Babae po ako
Ngunit babae rin ang gusto ko
Pang-lalake man ang kilos at anyo
Sa babae pa rin naman ako nagbabanyo

Lesbiyana kung ako’y tawagin
Tomboy sa kanto namin
Ate sa kapatid ko
Tita sa mga pamangkin ko

Eto ang aking SOGIE
Lesbiyana – Sexual Orientation
Babae – Gender Identity
Butch/masculine – Gender Expression

Hindi napipilit ang puso
Kusang tumitibok sa ritmo
Hindi ito parang damit na nakiki-uso
Hindi sinisino kahit amo

Masarap sanang maging malaya magmahal
Malaya sa mga matang mapanghusga
Malimit pang nasasabihan ng hangal
Madalas pang tumanggap ng pang-aalipusta

Pantay-pantay na karapatan
Dinggin sana ang aming hiling
Hindi espesyal ang aming panawagan
Sugat ng diskriminasyo’y laging nasasaling

Lungkot ay aking ramdam
Kapag hindi niyo maintidihan
Sana hindi niyo maranasan
Ang araw-araw naming pinagdadaanan

Kapag maganda o guwapo sa paningin
Sayang ang palaging sinasabi sa amin
Pero bakit sayang ang sasabihin?
Ano bang nasayang sa amin?

Isa po akong babae
Mahigit apat na pung taong gulang na
Mukha lang pong lalake
Isa pong lesbiyana

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Op-Ed

Salvation our God is extending

“With a SOGIE Law enforced, the sensibilities of some (they cannot claim to represent the majority) will be offended as has happened in legislation on women’s rights. But the tradeoff will be LGBTQ+ individuals participating more meaningfully in national development. The Philippines would foster a culture of nonviolence, and I think God would be smiling down on us.”

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By Koko Alviar

The SOGIE Equality Bill is not against religious freedom. If anything, it will help us recapture the diversity of beliefs in our country.

I am Vaughn Alviar, from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, a liberational Church that has interpreted Scripture in light of facts and God’s commissioning for charity and liberation. The Church coopted me some time in 2015 to help the Supreme Council of Bishops articulate a statement that wanted to affirm LGBTIQ+ individuals, “Our Common Humanity, Our Shared Dignity.” It was approved in February 7, 2017.

Incidentally, I am a homosexual cisgender male son of a heterosexual cisgender male priest. I say these belatedly because they have never negatively affected my craft as a writer and my practice as a good Christian, although I will not deny knowledge of my SOGIE has affected the perception of what I am capable of doing.

I am more than my SOGIE; in fact we in the LGBTQ+ community are all more than our SOGIE. Unfortunately, people have seen the physical manifestations of it and felt they could see right through us, judge and discriminate us. My classmates from Day Care in Sanchez Mira, Cagayan, to university in Baguio City had always criticized my being effeminate and emotional, my not being manly. Despite all these, I had the will power to prove my value in my communities and circles. I can’t say the same for many others, whose chances were impaired by abuses far worse than I’ve experienced and who didn’t belong to families that earned well enough to send them to good schools or who disowned them – sometimes because of the faith they profess.

Being LGBTQ+ is a choice, we are told. But, given all the disadvantages laid out before us (per the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, LGBTQ+ people experience more poverty, hunger, joblessness and depression than our heterosexual, cisgender counterparts), what would we benefit from choosing to be minoritized? Having to prove we are good, capable and beneficial workers, or hiding how we express ourselves to conform with straight environments, these are definitely burdens. Our siblings in the faith have claimed that the law sees us equally, but our lived experiences and jurisprudence claim we are not. Thus, vulnerable sectors need the State to help us claim equity, aid us in reminding everyone that we are human too, and enable us to fight back when our rights are abused.

It has also been claimed that a law protecting LGBTQ+ persons against discrimination would negate Christians’ freedom of religion. It is a preposterous claim that insults the very spirit of “freedom of religion”: that individuals will not be force-fed belief systems; and that we are all free to hold beliefs – or not – and to conduct ourselves accordingly, except when we harm others. If anything, many people, driven by their “Christian” beliefs, harmed LGBTIQ+ individuals without provocation.

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While they lift from the Bible, the holy book cannot be seen as a definitive guide to what must be social convention. It has, in fact, been used to stall important laws to end slavery, and to uphold the rights of persons with disability and women.

For example:

I permit no woman to teach or have authority over men; she is to keep silent.” (Timothy 2:11)

Whosoever … hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God. For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or anything superfluous, Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, Or crookback, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken … He shall not go in unto the vail, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries.” (Leviticus 21:17-23)

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” (Ephesians 6:5)

With verses inapplicable in our time, how do we know for sure that verses chastising LGBTIQ+ individuals should still apply? In the laws enacted for women, children, senior citizens, persons with disability, among others, the justification was unequal treatment on the ground, in real life, despite the Constitutional guarantee of equality that our other siblings cite. The drawback was sensibilities getting hurt; the reward has been greater empowerment and participation in society for those sectors. We need our guarantee, too.

Another case in point: If two people are equally passionate about Bible-based beliefs, do we have objective criteria to judge which person is more righteous?

Here is an example: A cisgender man has been a top employee for years. He is the breadwinner for his family, encouraged by 1 Timothy 5:8: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” One day, he comes out as homosexual and discloses he has a boyfriend. The heterosexual cisgender owner, who comes from a conservative background, fires the person, because of Romans 1:26-27: “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.”

“We believe that the best way to fulfill our duty to establish heaven on earth is the full realization of human rights for all – and LGBTQ+ rights are human rights.”

Who’s to say that the business owner holds the right understanding of faith? What if the homosexual man goes to church more often? Doesn’t that make him better? The law must declare that productivity trumps sexual orientation.

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One thing I’ve observed among people of faith who decide not to support the SOGIE Bill is self-righteousness – a confidence that they are to be seen as authoritative, the voice of a majority. In doing so, they downplay other peoples’ faith, among these that which LGBTQ+ individuals have forged from their lived experiences of discrimination and resilience.

While some traditions will scoff at the justness of the ordained going to protests, the Aglipayan faith believes it is a legitimate expression of Christian witness. We believe that the best way to fulfill our duty to establish heaven on earth is the full realization of human rights for all – and LGBTQ+ rights are human rights. Thus, the crusade for equality on the basis of SOGIE falls within our fight for equity, along with our advocacy for peace talks, economic equity, genuine land reform and more.

Another Christian community is the Metropolitan Community Church, which has a presence in the Philippines. It casts more importance on love, genuine relationships and nondiscrimination than on punishment and fear. Many of their members are victims of SOGIE-based discrimination even in their own Christian homes, or are people living with HIV who have the added burden of stigma. One member told me that her family attends a Church that has a ministry helping LGBTQ+ individuals possessed by the devil – she worships with her family in the morning, is occasionally prayed for; she worships at MCC in the afternoon, is welcomed fully as a gender-nonconforming woman. There has to be a policy to guard LGBTQ+ lives against torturous conversion rituals if and when they occur. The SOGIE Bill has that.

The above instances illustrate that a single religion on its own has variations and pluralities. But, if regardless of this, lawmakers side with the more conservative Christian belief that tends to put LGBTQ+ lives in the way of harm and indignity, what compels the State other than to reward the conservatives and, thus, violate the Church-State separation?

As faithful Christians, too, we stand on the passage of the SOGIE Law because we believe God wants us to exist in a community of love, and because it will permeate our lives beyond Church. “We love the sinner not the sin,” some anti-SOGIE Christians say, in an attempt to deem the law irrelevant. If we do love the sinner, however, shouldn’t we recognize the person of that sinner who has the secular, universal right to a job, education and healthcare, among others. None of these are about “the homosexual act.”

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It is a shame that some religious have led crusades based on falsehoods: from alleging we do not need the SOGIE Equality Bill because the law already pronounces equality; to criticizing our advocacy as an issue of restrooms and third spaces only; to misleading people that the SOGIE Equality Bill will allow same-sex marriage; to stretching religious freedom – weaponizing it to homogenize the nation when the measure actually protects diversity.

The “definition of terms” in the proposed bills says that bad behavior – discrimination, stigma, hate crime and marginalization – will warrant punishment. Some religious are worried that LGBTIQ+ individuals will be empowered to file cases of discrimination simply because we “felt discriminated.” But suing should be within our rights as citizens, and with wisdom the courts should be able to decide which ones are nuisance and which ones bear sense.

In IFI, the statement has affirmed and validated the faithfulness of LGBTQ+ members, some of whom serve as ordained ministers. Through it, the faithful have been oriented on SOGIE and SOGIE-based discrimination; began to openly discuss sexuality, mental health and sexual harassment; and revisited the situation of women as part of the greater gender minority in a patriarchal society. We are now more equipped to counsel LGBTQ+ individuals and people living with HIV. The Church became more inclusive.

At the end of “Our Common Humanity, Our Shared Dignity,” the SCB stated a hope that our small act could spark bigger changes leading to greater inclusion for outcasts. The more accepting parents, you will note, express worry for their LGBTQ+ children based not on the worldview of conservative Churches but on the question: “How will you be in this world that is harsh on LGBTQ+ individuals?”

While some LGBTQ+ people are born to parents who are unequipped and would abandon their children, some are born to parents who are ready to understand and nurture them, and would worry that the world at large is not hospitable. Let’s lessen the legitimate fears by enacting a safeguard.

While the SOGIE Bill languishes, men could be raping homosexual and bisexual women to “convert them,” gay guys could be looking for their next boxing match or Miss Gay (for visibility and extra income), brilliant transgender individuals could be flying out to find career advancement elsewhere.

With the SOGIE Law enforced, the sensibilities of some (they cannot claim to represent the majority) will be offended as has happened in legislation on women’s rights, but the tradeoff will be LGBTQ+ individuals participating more meaningfully in national development. With the SOGIE Law, there will be no special LGBT bonuses or leaves, just jobs and schools and communities that value us as humans, and that hone and harness our skills as citizens.

The Philippines would foster a culture of nonviolence, and I think God would be smiling down on us.

On social media, there’s a viral post saying SOGIE means “Satanic Organization of Godless people who are Inspired of Evil”, which is so grammatically wrong. To me, it means “Salvation Our God Is Extending” – and I should enjoy a Constitutional guarantee to claim you can’t tell me I’m wrong. That is freedom of religion for you.

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Op-Ed

‘Members of LGBTQIA community should be afforded the same protection that others enjoy’

An open letter to Bro. Eddie Villanueva, now a politician, who continues to claim he supports equality but is fighting against the protection of LGBTQIA people from discrimination.

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Photo by Harry Quan from Unsplash.com

Sir, I am Posit Bo, a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ and PLHIV community in the Philippines. I was once a follower of your faith; I am still a believer of the Almighty God but no longer of your faith.

This letter is made as rebuttal of your privilege speech against the SOGIE Equality Bill. This is not intended to convince you and your group to vote for the proposed law; but rather, a letter that aims to see a future where there can be mutual respect.

You raised two constitutionally supported arguments against the SOGIE Equality Bill, to wit: (a) it imperils academic freedom, and (b) it endangers freedom of speech and religion.

I) ON ACADEMIC FREEDOM

You cited Article XIV, Section 5, par (2), of the 1987 Constitution, which states that: “Academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning.” This provision’s meaning can be viewed from two perspectives, namely: (a) Freedom of a Faculty member, and (b) Freedom of an academic institution of higher learning.

Certainly, faculty members have the freedom to discuss subjects with the responsibility not to discuss matters not related to the subject matter and with respect to the opinions of others. In the same manner, the academic institutions per se are given the freedom to decide what is the best manner to attain its aims and objectives.

You seem to fear that religious academic institutions being compelled to accept LGBTQIA+ students or employees, against the institution’s dogma on gender.

Under Section 5(c) of Senate Bill 159, it has two portions, to wit: (a) it declares discriminatory when educational or training institution refuses admission by reason of SOGIE, and (b) the right of educational and training institutions in determining qualifications for admission shall be duly upheld.

It is clear under the second portion of the aforementioned provision that religious institution’s right to determine qualification for admission shall be duly upheld. Compulsion to admit against dogma on gender by religious institutions cannot be feared when in the Bill itself it is protected, not to mention, in our very own Constitution as you cited, Sir.

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The bill cannot obviously be made to circumvent the Constitutional guarantees as it echoes the very essence of this Constitution that is – Equality. Moreover, I would like to believe that in proposing this law, the case of Ateneo de Manila v. Capulong, was taken into consideration, wherein the Court beautifully fleshed out the concept of academic freedom. The Court held that: “Academic institutions are free to determine for itself on academic grounds who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught, and who may be admitted to study.”  The Court further held in Isabelo Jr. v. Perpetual Help College of Rizal that: a school of higher learning has the discretion to admit or not to admit students. The Court further stated that: Admission is not a right but merely a privilege.

No, Sir. Religious academic institutions cannot be compelled to admit LGBTQIA+ students or employees. As these juridical entities are protected under our Constitution based on the very law you cited. But the likes of KJ T. Lorenzana and the students of Bulacan State University are not protected against discrimination based on SOGIE in a secular educational institution; no, they are not protected for this particular kind of discrimination, not even by the Constitution. While sectarian institutions enjoy protection under our Constitution, what about the protection of the LGBTQIA+ students and employees who have been and still are being discriminated in secular educational institutions.

“The SOGIE Equality Bill cannot obviously be made to circumvent the Constitutional guarantees as it echoes the very essence of this Constitution that is – Equality.”

The LGBTQIA+ community, more than the letters, consists of individuals, of humans who should be afforded an equivalent amount of reasonable protection that you enjoy in professing your religious beliefs, protection against any form of discrimination without engendering violation of constitutional guarantees.

II) ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION

There are three principal parts of the Constitutional provision for Religious freedom under Article III, Section 5 of the 1987 Constitution.

First, the NON-ESTABLISHMENT Clause: No law shall be made respecting the establishment, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

The SOGIE Equality Bill does not establish LGBTQIA+ community as a religion, neither does SOGIE Awareness prohibit the free exercise of any religion, including yours. Hence, the proposed law does not violate the non-establishment clause.

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Second, the FREE EXERCISE Clause: The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed.

The SOGIE Equality Bill is in fact adherent to religious sensitivities that despite of it being both a secular and social legislation, the proponents had the basic human decency to hear sectarian opinion on issues of a marginalized community on account of being exposed to daily discrimination of all forms.

There are two aspects of religious freedom, which are as follows: (a) Freedom to believe; and (b) freedom to act on one’s belief. The freedom to believe is absolute but the freedom to act on one’s belief is not absolute. The freedom to act may be regulated if its actualization clashes with accepted norms of social behavior and established order of decency.

Therefore, you can absolutely believe that being an LGBTQIA+ is a sin in view of your religion as a part of your freedom. But to act upon it by spreading or imposing such belief upon nonbelievers or believers of a different sect may be regulated.

Status quo dictates that freedom to exercise can be regulated; unfortunately, even if it could be regulated, Christians have continuously condemned this community. Our community has been continuously ridiculed for no reason, discriminated for being diverse, and hated for merely loving; we, suffer all these, based on your religious beliefs. While we suffer, you continuously enjoy being guarded by your religious freedom.

This is the saddest part of our reality: Family and friends who exercises christian faith act upon their religious belief on gender through: sharing hate messages; treating us indifferently; laughing at our struggles; and being considered as an abomination. While you are guarded by your religious freedom, why does it have to be at our expense? When you speak of equality it must be uttered in fairness to everyone and not at the expense of others.

The SOGIE Equality Bill does not force upon people to become a member of the LGBTQIA+ community neither does it influence people to change dogma on gender; but this merely seeks to spread awareness and understanding of an existing community, which should neither be treated differently but your fair equal.

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Lastly, Sir, finally now that you are elected, as a member of the House of Representatives of the 18th Congress, I would like to congratulate you. You are indeed an inspiration to the LGBTQIA+ community, just like you did, no matter how long and how many failed attempts there may be, we will never say it’s over ‘til it is done.

In James Imbong etc. v. Hon. Paquito Ochoa, Jr. et al., the court held that: the state cannot meddle in the internal affairs of the church. On the other hand, the church cannot impose its beliefs and convictions on the state and the rest of the citizenry. It cannot demand that the nation follow its beliefs, even if it sincerely believes that they are good for the country.

Sir, there would be no confusion even if you both act for both the state and the church by simply applying the time-honored State policy under Article II Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution, that the separation of church and state shall be inviolable. Inside your church, you are your peoples Pastor. You don’t preach to them matters of legislation; but instead your bible. While in the House of Representatives, you are to act as a legislator not as a Pastor. Sir, in your privilege speech you interjected a biblical passage. I would like to humbly remind you that you now belong in a Secular institution. Inside the very ‘august chamber’ to where you belong, are muslims; agnostic;  and heck may be even atheist congress(wo)man, who are being alienated by your interjection. Sir, you do not merely answer to your representation but to the entire secular electorate.

“Our community has been continuously ridiculed for no reason, discriminated for being diverse, and hated for merely loving; we, suffer all these, based on your religious beliefs. While we suffer, you continuously enjoy being guarded by your religious freedom.”

I could not still imagine a day where we can live harmoniously even in diversity, when there’s no willingness to reach a compromise, taking into consideration: fairness and respect for everyone regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity, color or religion. Religious freedom is a fundamental right under our constitution, it will forever be guarded and no legislation can circumvent this constitutional guarantee. You have exemplified in your privilege speech, that in the exercise of your religious freedom, there can be three options: (a) purvey discrimination based on scriptures; (b) exhaust available laws without state intervention in protecting a minority and marginalized group; and (c) when there is no law available, blame it on our SOGIE.

It was once said that we cannot normalize the culture of LGBTQIA+ despite its historical precedent being a cultural norm pre-colonial year of the Philippines; therefore, this being the case, incidents of discrimination by reason of SOGIE in the workplace and educational institutions may rise in the absence of any law that prohibits it. This is the very reason why an anti-discrimination policy should be enacted not by reason of entitlement but by reason of being exposed in an everyday struggle to surpass all forms of SOGIE-related discrimination.

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Op-Ed

Tulungan ang bawat isa na magmulat at mas mamulat pa

Pastor Carleen Nomorosa: “Tulungan natin ang bawat isa na magmulat at mas mamulat pa. Huwag tayong mapako sa mga sarili lamang nating pagdurusa, magsama-sama tayo at magtulungan. Huwag din tayong malunod sa mga pribilehiyong tinatamasa dahil marami padin ang hindi ligtas.”

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By Carleen Nomorosa
Program Coordinator, National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP)

Isa sa mahal ko sa buhay, na-rape. Ng paulit-ulit.

Sabi ng isang ahensya ng gobyerno noon sa amin nung nagpapatulong kami: Mabuti nga at nakauwi pa ng buhay ang nanay mo.”

Wala pa akong sampung taong gulang noon, seven years old pa lang ako, panganay. Probinsyana. Walang alam sa siyudad. Litong-lito ako bakit ganoon.

Kaya umuwi na kami, at sinubukang hilumin ang lahat ng pait na pinagdanan, hindi lamang ng aking ina, kundi ng buong pamilya.

Ang lupit ng lipunang ito, sa mga mahihirap at walang kakayanan.

Sana tulungan nyo ang mga katulad namin, para lumaban at makapag patuloy sa paglaban.

Tulungan natin ang mga magulang nila Eileen at Allan, hindi lang para panatilihin ang sentensya ni Antonio Sanchez.

Kundi imulat din ang henerasyong ito sa kalagayan ng bayan. Huwag nating hayaang gawin tayong manhid sa lahat ng pagpatay sa mga dukha at maralita. Huwag nating hayaang magdiwang ang mga panginoong maylupa na nagpapahirap sa magsasaka. Huwag nating hayaan na manatiling kontrakwal ang mga ordinaryong manggagawa. Huwag nating hayaang may inaaping sektor dahil minorya sila. Huwag nating hayaang marami ang nagkakasakit ngunit hindi makapag pa-ospital.

Tulungan natin ang bawat isa na magmulat at mas mamulat pa. Huwag tayong mapako sa mga sarili lamang nating pagdurusa, magsama-sama tayo at magtulungan. Huwag din tayong malunod sa mga pribilehiyong tinatamasa dahil marami padin ang hindi ligtas.

Wala na tayong ibang aatrasan, kundi ang paglaban. Sana bukas wala ng rape. Wala ng papatayin. Wala ng gutom. Magtulungan tayo.

Ang pananampalatayang napapako na lamang sa pag-pikit, pagluhod o pagtaas ng kamay sa pananalangin ay hindi makakabangon sa ikatlong araw. Walang resureksyon and ganitong pananampalataya.

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From the Editor

3 HIV-related questions (plus sub-questions) to ask re the PhilHealth scam

Every PLHIV is allocated P30,000 per year. As of April 2019, 37,091 PLHIVs are on treatment. Multiply that by P30,000 per person (per OHAT Package/coverage), and the amount involved here is P1,112,730,000. Too much money involved for us not to ask how the money is getting spent.

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Here are the facts:

  • As early as last year, two former employees of WellMed Dialysis Center already reported that it has been forging signatures of patients who have long died to file claims from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) from 2016-2018.
  • Typical in the Philippines (e.g. think of Napoles, PDAF, fertilizer scandal, et cetera), this was soon “forgotten” (or at least not as widely covered anymore particularly by mainstream media, so not gaining traction with the public). That is, until June, when the Philippine Daily Inquirer detailed the scam (again) via an investigative report.
  • Still in June, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would “reorganize” PhilHealth after the agency lost some P154 billion to “ghost” patients and deliveries.
  • WellMed Dialysis Center’s accreditation was (finally) withdrawn in June. But in a privilege speech, Sen. Panfilo Lacson alleged that PhilHealth continued to pay WellMed Dialysis Center even after its accreditation was suspended because of its involvement in a scam.
  • A hearing was started by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee (chaired by Richard Gordon) to look at the allegations of corruption in the Department of Health (DoH), and – yes – PhilHealth.

Now why is this issue important to PLHIVs and those in the HIV advocacy in the Philippines?

Aside from the fact that there may be LGBTQIA Filipinos who may also be needing dialysis, the money that actually pays for the “free” treatment and antiretroviral medicines of Filipinos living with HIV come from PhilHealth.

No, darling, you don’t get “free” meds; a PLHIV is expected to enroll in PhilHealth before he/she can access the treatment. Meaning, YOU are paying for your treatment via your P2,400 (if voluntary) PhilHealth contribution. Anyone who tells you the meds are “free” is hiding the truth from you, or is outright lying to you.

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And so the talk about stealing P154 billion should be an issue to PLHIVs and those serving them; particularly since it is not rare to encounter service providers who say that they can only offer shitty (and often lacking) TCS (treatment, care and support) services because there’s no money available (DUH!).

Every PLHIV is allocated P30,000 per year. As of April 2019, 37,091 PLHIVs are on treatment. Multiply that by P30,000 per person (per OHAT Package/coverage), and the amount involved here is P1,112,730,000.

Now off my head, here are a few questions that should also be asked as we tackle the PhilHealth scam (and questions that particularly touch on HIV in the Philippines).

1. Does PhilHealth monitor the use of the OHAT package, or they solely rely on reports that can – apparently, as the case of WellMed Dialysis Center highlighted – be faked/made up? Can individuals access the individual reports filed for them (on the use of their OHAT package)? If there’s none, why not? If these can be accessed, are there mechanisms to question the same?

These questions have to do with whether a PLHIV actually uses his/her allocation.

The Outpatient HIV/AIDS Treatment (OHAT) Package covers: drugs and medications; laboratory examinations based on the specific treatment guideline including Cluster of Differentiation 4 (CD4) level determination test, viral load (if warranted), and test for monitoring anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs toxicity; and professional fees of providers.

But in 2015, when interviewed by Outrage Magazine, PhilHealth’s Medical Specialist III and Millennium Development Goals Benefit Products Team Head Dr. Mary Antoinette Remonte said that “it has come to our attention that some treatment hubs charge for some laboratory tests, even after the release of the OHAT Package circular.” And so while the circular may specifically mention covered items, the same circular should not be taken too literally.

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For instance, VL is not included in the circular, but if a PLHIV needs “viral load, if it’s really needed, they can still charge it on the OHAT package. Any laboratory tests related to ART treatment, they can use the OHAT Package for it.” For Remonte, “even if viral load testing was not written in the first circular, it was already included in the coverage.”

2. The baseline tests are still not specified in the circular/OHAT Package. This is why many PLHIVs are lost to TCS – i.e. they are told to pay for their own tests (e.g. chest X-ray, CBC) before they can get their hands on the life-saving meds (the ARVs). Why is this idiotically still not included in the OHAT Package, and even knowing that (many) PLHIVs won’t end up consuming the P30,000 allocated them anyway?

3. Do they also withdraw the accreditation of treatment hubs/clinics/satellite clinics that claim the P30,000 even if they did not actually use the entire amount for the use of the PLHIV? Has there ever been a service provider that lost its accreditation because of non-delivery of services?

We have spoken with PLHIVs who were told to get lab tests outside of their treatment hubs (e.g. chest X-ray, VL, CD4 count); they were told to pay for the same. No, they may NOT use their OHAT Package for the same, a handful of them were told. They have to shell out their OWN money.

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The thing is, if these are already supposedly covered by PhilHealth, why the additional expenses? Who then benefits from the OHAT Package? The service providers not offering the services and yet getting the money? Isn’t this theft? And if one thinks so, what are the mechanisms for complaining? Are there any at all?

Let’s be blunt here: If these are not answered, here’s another avenue where profiteering is happening via PhilHealth, and at the expense of PLHIVs.

To end, let me state this to stress this: Every PLHIV is allocated P30,000 per year. As of April 2019, 37,091 PLHIVs are on treatment. Multiply that by P30,000 per person (per OHAT Package/coverage), and the amount involved here is P1,112,730,000.

Too much money involved and yet service providers still often saying “there’s no money” to help PLHIVs…

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