Where are LGBT people in President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s so-called “daang matuwid” (straight/righteous path)?
As Aquino nears the end of his term, people are now asking if he has fulfilled his promises to the oft-mentioned “bosses”, the people. But – although since his election Aquino has focused on such issues as the economic growth by cutting the government spending, peace in Mindanao by talking (only) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the anti-corruption campaign that saw the arrests (though still sans the needed trials) of the likes of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. – the issue of LGBT rights was never part of his priorities.
Looking back, Aquino’s addresses to the nation (via the annual State of the Nation Address, or SONA) contained parts that gave hope to minorities – the LGBT community included – whose lives continue to be dire solely because they are minorities.
In Aquino’s his first SONA in 2010, he said that “kaakibat ng ating mga karapatan at kalayaan ay ang tungkulin natin sa kapwa at sa bayan (together with our rights and freedom is our responsibility to our fellowmen and to our country/nation).” In 2012, “kung may inaagrabyado’t ninanakawan ng karaptan, siya ang kakampihan ko. Kung may abusadong mapang-api, siya ang lalabanan ko. Kung may makita akong mali sa sistema, tungkulin kong itama ito (if there is someone disadvantaged and whose rights are stolen, I will side with him. If there are abusers, I will fight them. If I see errors in the system, it is my duty to correct these).” And then last year, “gabi-gabi po, bago ako matulog, thank you at nakalamapas pa ako ng isang araw. Kung, sabi nga noong bata kami, ‘finish or not finish, pass your paper’, eh dumating na sa akin, palagay ko naman naramdaman na ninyo kung anong pagbabagong karapatan ng bawat Pilipinong mangyari. At bahala na kayong ituloy ito (every night, before I go to sleep, I say thanks for surviving another day. When – as it was said when we were kids, ‘finished or not finished, pass your paper’, it already reached me, and I think you already felt the changes to the rights that happened for every Filipinos. It’s now up to you to continue these).”
But in actuality, five years hence, none of these changes are LGBT-specific.
This is why, according to Murphy Red, chairperson of Kapederasyon LGBT Sectoral Organization, they are under no illusion that Aquino will do anything anymore for the LGBT Filipinos.
“Hindi na kami umaasa, hindi na kami nagiilusyon na magbibigay siya ng tulong sa huling taon niya (sa mga LGBTs). Sana lang sa huling pagkakataon, sa huling taon ng kanyang paninilbihan ay mamulat siya sa katotohanan na may LGBT sa lipunan na pinagsisibilhan niya at sa sa bayan na tinuturing niyang boss (We no longer hope, we are not under any illusion that he will give help in his remaining year to LGBT people. We hope that in the last stretch, in the last year of his office, he will finally see that there are LGBT people among the Filipino people he keeps saying as his bosses),” Murphy Red said.
Aquino’s neglect of the LGBT people may be seen in the non-mention of the need for the passage of an anti-discrimination law, with an anti-discrimination bill languishing in Congress for over 15 years now. If passed, such a law will protect the human rights of LGBT Filipinos by enforcing fines and even jail times to anyone who discriminates against LGBT people.
But, as Murphy Red said, “hindi priority ng rehimen na ito ‘yung pagpapasa ng Anti-Discrimination Bill o yung paghahain ng Anti-Hate Crime Law o Bill, para mapangalagaan sana ‘yung karapatan ng mga LGBT, at yung seguridad ng mga LGBT (this regime has not prioritized the passage of an anti-discrimination bill or an anti-hate crime law that could ensure the protection of LGBT people, and the security of LGBT people).”
Already, the lack of anti-hate laws has “nagresulta na sa sunod-sunod na pagpatay ng LGBTs (this already resulted in the numerous deaths of LGBT people),” said Murphy Red, who cited as an example transgender woman Jennifer Laude, who was brutally killed last year, with the primary suspect a US Marine.
There are already anti-discrimination ordinances in some local government units (LGUs) in the country, including in Angeles, Bacolod, Cavite, Cebu, Davao, and Quezon City. But even here, there are still reported cases of discrimination, showing that LGU-wide ordinances are not enough to ensure the protection of the rights of LGBT people.
“Ang ibang mga marginalized sectors ay kahit papaano may mga institution sa pamahalaan na nag-ca-cater sa kanilang mga interest, tulad ng iba-ibang programa ng mga LGUs o ng DSWD na tumutulong sa mga pangangailangan ng ibang minorities. Pero sa mga LGBT, wala talagang institution na nasa gobyerno na mangangalaga. Kung mayroon man, kami pa ang namimilit (Other marginalized sectors at least have institutions in the government that cater to them and their interests, such as in LGUs and the Department of Social Welfare and Development. But for LGBT people, no government body looks after our interests. And even if they end up serving us, it’s because they are forced to do so),” Murphy Red said.
In this year’s SONA, Aquino’s motherhood statements abound, such as when he said that “kaya gaya sa lahat ng iba pang suliranin, pagkakaisa po ang tanging susi para mapangalagaan ang ating karapatan (like when dealing with all problems, unity is the key to look after our rights).” But while many LGBT people dared join his sloganeering for “daang matuwid“, thereby joining in his fight, Aquino’s administration didn’t show any concrete efforts for the LGBT community in the last five years.
“Wala talaga siyang nagawa. Nakalimang SONA na siya pero ni minsan hindi niya binanggit and mga LGBT. Wala sa agenda niya ang kalagayan ng LGBT (He hasn’t done a thing for LGBT people. He already had five SONAs but he did not even mention LGBT people once. The plight of LGBT people is not in his agenda),” Murphy Red said. “Zero ang marka ni PNoy sa buong termino niya (He gets zero mark for his entire term).”
Aquino’s 2015 SONA lasted more than two hours – one of the longest delivered by any President. And as he concluded his speech, some militant lawmakers, staged their protest inside the plenary hall by showing placards that read, among others, “Human Rights Violator”, “Serbisyo Palpak”, and “Pork Barrel King”.
As if Aquino couldn’t do any wrong, those who did not agree with him were booed.
And now the countdown begins for the last months of Aquino’s presidency.
For some LGBT groups like Kapederasyon, there is no longer hope for the current administration to take notice of the struggles of the LGBT people. But as is routine, every six years, they can’t help but hope that the next president will finally give LGBT people the attention.
“Sa mga tatakbo sa 2016, para masiguro nila na makukuha nila ang boto ng mga LGBT, kailangan may malinaw silang agendang ilalatag para sa kagalingan ng mga LGBT. At ‘yun lang talaga ang hihilingin namin sa mga susunod na kandidato (To those who will run for office in 2016, for them to get the votes of LGBT people, they should have clear agenda to better the lives of LGBT people. That’s the only wish we have for these next candidates),” Murphy Red ended.