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HIV situation in Phl continues to worsen; advocates continue calling for better responses

With just under 700 Filipinos infected with HIV in October, a figure 21% higher compared to the same period last year, HIV advocates and activists are calling for better responses if the country is to fight the epidemic. “The worsening HIV situation in the Philippines is highlighting how far we are from truly ending this problem,” Outrage Magazine’s Michael David dela Cruz Tan said. “And – sad as this may sound – if we continue doing only what we’re doing even if we know that they are not enough, then our situation will not change anytime soon.”

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Just under 700 Filipinos were infected with HIV in October, based on the latest data from the HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) released by the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau. For the month starting the last quarter of 2015, there were 651 new HIV Ab sero-positive individuals, a figure 21% higher compared to the same period last year.

Eighty-five percent (24,655) of all the 29,079 diagnosed cases in the Philippines were actually reported in the past five years, from January 2010 to October 2015.

According to Michael David dela Cruz Tan, publishing editor of Outrage Magazine, the country’s only exclusively LGBT publication that also has HIV-related programs, “we can give this a ‘positive’ spin – that is, more people are getting tested for HIV infection, so we now have a ‘clearer’ picture of the impact of the epidemic in the country.”

However, Tan said that “let’s be completely honest here: The continuing upward trend in the number of HIV infection in the Philippines highlights that our efforts – limited as they are – continue not to have the effects that we desire.”

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For Fritzie Estoque, chairperson of the Misamis Oriental-Cagayan de Oro AIDS Network (MOCAN), “we were not surprised at all with the continuing steep upward trend. As a long-time advocate, together with my team, we have anticipated this trend to happen in the Philippines soon(er).”

Estoque said that MOCAN’s engagements and interactions with varied sectors of the society “gave us a picture of what’s going to happen in the next 10 years. Indeed, we are here now.”

Desi Andrew Ching, executive director of HIV and AIDS Support House (HASH), agreed, saying that “on a positive note, this is a sign that more and more people are becoming more educated, more informed and more aware about HIV and AIDS. It is a sign that more and more people are taking initiatives to reach more people towards informing and testing the at-risk population.”

However, the increasing number of people getting infected with HIV in the Philippines is “a realization that we are really far behind the other countries when globally… trends (show that HIV infection rates) are going down. We are among those with an aggressive increasing trend,” Ching said.

WORSENING PROBLEM

Among those who tested positive for HIV this October, 96% were male. The median age was 28 years old (age range: four years to 75 years). Half belong to the 25-34 age group, while 29% were youth aged 15-24 years old.

The regions with the highest number of reported cases for October were: National Capital Region (with 258 cases or 40%), Region 4A (111 or 17%), Region 3 (51 or 8%), Region 7 (47 or 7%), Region 6 (38 or 6%), and Region 11 (31 or 5%).

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Reported modes of transmission were sexual contact (631), needle sharing among injecting drug users (IDU, 18), and mother-to-child transmission (2). Eighty-six percent of the sexually transmitted cases were among males who have sex with males (MSM).

According to Dr. Jose Narciso Melchor Sescon, who helms AIDS Society of the Philippines (ASP), “experts have predicted that HIV cases in the Philippines will continue to rise as a result of scaling up of access and availability of HIV testing and services across the country.”

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Sescon, nonetheless, expressed alarm in “the trend (showing the rise in number of HIV infections). This should be taken seriously in terms of the scaling up efforts, as well as the setting of priorities (considering our) resources are still limited.”

Sescon also lamented the lack of political will in the country, particularly because many politicians and government officials ignore science-based solutions in the fight against HIV.

“We have yet to see political leaders with formidable conviction to support, implement and monitor effective programs, and even review and update the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act,” Sescon said.

CHANGING TRENDS

How HIV is affecting Filipinos has been changing. From 1984 (when the first case was reported in the country) to 1990, 62% (133 of 216 cases) were female. Starting 1991, however, more males were reported to be infected with HIV in the Philippines. By the 2010-2015 period, males already comprised 95% (23,458) of the reported 24,655 cases.

Those who are getting infected are also getting younger. From 2000 to 2004, it was 30-39 years; from 2005 to 2009, it was 25-34 years; and from 2010 to 2015, it was 20-29 years. Data from the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau showed that the proportion of PLHIV in the 15-24 year age group increased from 20% in 2005-2009 to 28% in 2010-2015.

The modes of transmission have also been changing. While heterosexual sexual contact was the main mode of HIV transmission in the past, from January 2010 to October 2015, 84% (19,685) of infections through sexual contact were among MSM. Meanwhile, cases among IDU also increased from <1% in 2005 to 2009, to 5% within the past five years.

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Outrage Magazine’s Tan also noted that “just as the country has been ill-equipped with responding to the link between drug use and HIV infection in the Philippines, we are now seeing the same lack of capacity in responding to the link between the sex industry and HIV infection.”

In the Department of Health’s October figures, 11% (73) of those who tested HIV-positive engaged in transactional sex; with most (97%) of them male whose ages range from 16 years old to 61 years old (median: 30 years). Fifty-five percent of males who engaged in transactional sex were the ones who paid for sex.

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As defined, “people who engage in transactional sex are those who report that they regularly accept payment for sex, pay for sex, or do both.”

The Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau further reported that “a total of 2,399 cases reported… from October 2012 to October 2015 were people who engaged in transactional sex. Ninety-six percent were male. Of the 2,399 cases, 1,314 (55%) paid for sex, 707 (29%) accepted payment for sex, and 378 (16%) engaged in both.”

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For the month of October, there were 50 reported deaths.

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(EVEN) MORE TO DO

ASP’s Sescon said that “we still have a long way to go in terms of coverage (of HIV testing) and reaching of targeted populations at risk to HIV infection.” For Sescon, to broaden the scope of the existing efforts, “everyone has a responsibility to do; it has to begin with ourselves first.”

HASH’s Ching said that “there is a need to keep pushing for more information dissemination and more education in the community. More programs should be implemented from the grassroots level to strengthen new organizations working on HIV and AIDS. More campaigns should be conducted to promote prevention and early diagnosis and treatment. The youth should be engaged aggressively, considering that the age range of the newly affected are those from 15-24 years old.”

Ching also tasked the PLHIV community in dealing with HIV. “The PLHIV community should demand less and act more, expect less and move more. The health system has a long way to go from becoming at par with our neighboring countries, but other than a more progressive health system is the need for a more mature and more emphatic health service provider program.”

For Outrage Magazine’s Tan, “the solutions we provide to confront this problem should be holistic. Yes, we need to continue promoting means to prevent the spread of HIV – from intensifying campaigns for condom use, introduction of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) in the Philippines, and inclusion of sex-positive messages in educating the public, among others.”

But Tan said that “we should not just ‘put all our eggs in one basket’ – as the saying goes – by over-emphasizing only prevention efforts.” As it is, Tan said that “the HIV discussion in the Philippines is often ‘dictated’, if not hijacked, by those who are not HIV-positive, so that the needs of PLHIVs are generally neglected.”

Tan added: “It is only right that we worry that the numbers of those getting infected with HIV continue to increase, just as it is right for us to take all steps to stop HIV infection. But we should also not forget that there are already so many Filipinos who are infected with HIV, and we need to better their access to quality treatment, care and support services. Solving this epidemic goes beyond people knowing their HIV status. It also means including PLHIVs in the conversations; and ensuring that their needs after they find out that they are HIV-positive are served.”

For Tan, efforts that need to be highlighted, include bettering “access to antiretroviral medicines, uniform implementation of PhilHealth coverage (since PLHIVs in different hubs receive different services, even if they pay the same premium), amendment of the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act to ensure it protects the rights of PLHIV, and dealing with stigma and discrimination that many Filipinos living with HIV now face.”

MOCAN’s Estoque echoed the World Health Organizations’ call for a “bigger response” to bring the epidemic under control, “though, really, we should have next big STEPS.”

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Like Tan, Estoque is calling for the “immediate amendment of Republic Act 8504 since there are provisions in this law that somehow hinders the prevention and control program of the government”; and the introduction of PrEP as another choice for HIV prevention.

But Estoque added that there is also a need for the Department of Health to “create/provide more timely training opportunities for dedicated advocates and active organizations to level-up their capabilities and potentials.; share the DOH’ technical support and resources fairly and justly without politics”; and not opt-out people in prison (PiP), women and other key affected populations in the services offered.

Meanwhile, local government units (LGU) “should come up with a functional and a working Local AIDS Council. An effective HIV and AIDS Ordinance should serve as a guiding principle in dealing issues re: HIV & AIDS in every LGU. Apart from treatment, care and support (TCS) and capability building mechanisms, a component on education and prevention and control program must also be given of equal importance. Awareness is power. One can have the power to choose the best option for his/her own health. Positive awareness can save one’s life,” Estoque said.

Estoque said that care should be given to those rendering services/frontline service providers. At least in MOCAN’s observation, site implementation officers (SIOs) and peer educators are not paid on time (delays taking up to four months), which – in turn – affects the quality of care provided by those in the frontline.

Estoque similarly recommended for the health sector to “improve quality service. This sector must not just perform their respective duties merely to comply the expectation and target accomplishments as required, but rather work as effective and as compassionate health providers always serving to the best interest of the patients. Serve with care and respect.”

“As for MOCAN, we continue to do all of these: correct misconceptions, educate properly both the young and general population in schools, in communities, in churches, and in different institutions. We continue to speak, collaborate, and engage with officials so that we can level up our campaigns. We continue to empower providers to give complete and genuine health care, eliminate stigma and discrimination. We continue to inspire more individuals, more organizations to help us deliver the message of hope. Hope that having an HIV is not a life sentence. Hope that there is life after getting infected with HIV. And that the hope is available and free (treatment) and if one seeks for that help voluntarily, we handle one with utmost confidentiality and respect,” Estoque said.

“The worsening HIV situation in the Philippines is highlighting how far we are from truly ending this problem,” Tan said. “And – sad as this may sound – if we continue doing only what we’re doing even if we know that they are not enough, then our situation will not change anytime soon.”

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Province of Capiz holds first Pride parade

The city of Roxas in the Province of Capiz held its first LGBTQIA Pride parade, a “historic event that was organized for and by the LGBTQIA people of Capiz.”

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All photos courtesy of Charmel Delfin Ignacio Catalan

Pride in Capiz.

The city of Roxas in the Province of Capiz held its first LGBTQIA Pride parade, a “historic event that was organized for and by the LGBTQIA people of Capiz,” said Charmel Delfin Ignacio Catalan, who helmed the organizing of the event via Queens of all Queens and LGBT Community Capiz.

The local LGBTQIA community is not exactly completely “invisible”, admitted Ignacio, having participated in the city’s/province’s past gatherings – e.g. last August 12, 2019, when a contingent joined the parade for the International Youth Day. But this Pride is “important – particularly as it is being held as the world observes World AIDS Day – because it highlights what’s solely relevant to our community.”

As is common with non-commercialized Pride events, “the main problem (we encountered) was financial,” Catalan said. This is because “we only relied on donations of generous individuals (to be able to hold this event).” But since “it had the backing of the community… we were able to push through.”

With Catalan in organizing the Pride parade were Atty. Felizardo Demayuga Jr. and Sandro Borce.

For Catalan: “I believe we still need Pride in this day and age to celebrate the unique individuality of the members of the LGBTQIA Community, and – of course – to continue the advocacy of equal rights and mutual respect and the causes that we are fighting for.”

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Roxas City, in particular, still records LGBTQIA-related hate crimes. In a 2015 interview with Outrage Magazine, Catalan recalled the bashing of a trans woman na napag-tripan (because some people just felt like it); sex work-related ill-treatment; and even killings.

This is why Catalan said she hopes for (particularly local) LGBTQIA people to attend the gathering as a show of strength that “we’re in this together.”

Ignacio, nonetheless, recognizes that many non-LGBTQIA people still detest/discriminate LGBTQIA people. And so to them she said: “To all our bashers/haters, please take note that we have no ill feelings towards you; we love you and you are always in our prayers. Please take note that sticks and stones may break our bones but you won’t see us fall.”

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‘We need inclusive responses to HIV’ – Bahaghari Center

For Ms Disney Aguila, board member of Bahaghari Center, “it needs to be emphasized that HIV can only truly be dealt with if everyone is on board.”

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In early 2019, Jay (not his real name), a Deaf gay man who lives outside Metro Manila, was encouraged by his friends who knew community-based HIV screening (CBS) to get himself tested. It was, he recalled, “the first time someone offered me this service; so I caved in.”

Jay was reactive; and “my world crumbled,” he said.

Though his friends tried to comfort him, telling him that knowing his status is good, “since at least now I can take steps to get treatment and live a normal, healthy life,” Jay wasn’t assuaged. His friends had to eventually go back to Metro Manila, and he worried that he would be left on his own to “find ways to access treatment.” And the same issue that did not make testing accessible for him – i.e. him being Deaf – is now the same issue he believed would hinder him from getting treatment, care and support (TCS).

Jay’s case, said Ms Disney Aguila, board member of the Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy Inc. (Bahaghari Center), highlights how “numerous sectors continue to be ignored in HIV-related responses.”

Aguila, the concurrent head of the Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, the pioneering organization for Deaf LGBTQIA Filipinos, added that “it needs to be emphasized – particularly today as #WAD2019 – that HIV can only truly be dealt with if everyone is on board.”

WORSENING HIV SITUATION

As reported by the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) of the Department of Health (DOH), the Philippines has 35 new HIV cases every day. The figure has been consistently growing – from only one case every day in 2008, seven cases per day in 2011, 16 cases per day in 2014, and 32 cases per day in 2018.

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In July, when HARP released its (delayed) latest figures, there were 1,111 newly confirmed HIV-positive individuals; this was 29% higher compared with the diagnosed cases (859) in the same period last year.

Perhaps what is worth noting, said Aguila, is the “absence in current responses of minority sectors” – e.g. when even data does not segregate people from minority sectors, thus the forced invisibility that used to also affect transgender people who were once lumped under the MSM (men who have sex with men) umbrella term.

For Aguila, this is “detrimental to the overall response re HIV because specific needs are not answered.”

DEAF IN FOCUS

In 2012, Bahaghari Center conducted “Talk to the Hand”, the first-of-its-kind study that looked at the knowledge, attitudes and related practices (KAP) of Deaf LGBT Filipinos on HIV and AIDS. The study had numerous disturbing findings.

To start, majority of the respondents (33 or 54.1%) were within the 19-24 age range at the time of the study, followed by those who are over 25 (21 or 34.3%). Most of them (53 of 61 Deaf respondents) had sex before they reached 18. Many (36.1%) of them also had numerous sexual partners, with some respondents having as many as 20 sex partners in a month.
Only 21 (34.4%) use condoms, and – worryingly – even among those who used condoms, 12 (19.7%) had condom breakage during sex because of improper use.

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Perhaps the unsafe sexual practice should not be surprising, considering that not even half (29, 47.5%) of the respondents heard of HIV and AIDS, with even less that number (23, 37.7%) knowing someone who died of HIV or AIDS-related complications. And with not even half of the total respondents (29) familiar with HIV and AIDS, not surprisingly, only 19 (31.1%) considered HIV and AIDS as serious, with more of them considering HIV and AIDS as not serious (20, 32.8%) or maybe serious (22, 36.1%).

The study also noted that the level of general knowledge about HIV and AIDS is low, with 40 (65.6%) of them falling in this category. Only about 1/5 of them (12, 19.7%) had high level of knowledge about HIV and AIDS. Even fewer (9, 14.8%) may be classified as having moderate knowledge level.

For the Deaf community, at least, accessing testing and – if one tested HIV positive – the TCS is challenging because “we’d need Filipino Sign Language (FSL) interpreters who can help make sure we’re getting the right information/treatment/et cetera, Aguila said. And in the Philippines, the numbers of service providers who know FSL remain very limited.

Already there are Deaf Filipinos trained to conduct CBS particularly for other Deaf Filipinos – here in “Stop HIV Together“, a photo campaign stressing the need for inclusion.

INCLUDING OTHER MINORITIES

Aguila stressed that forced invisibility, obviously, does not only affect the minority Deaf community as far as HIV-related responses are concerned – e.g. “other persons with disability continue not to have HIV-related interventions,” she said.

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For Aguila: “To truly stop HIV and AIDS, we need to be inclusive.”

Back in the city south of Metro Manila, Jay was forwarded to a counselor who knows FSL so that he can be supported in accessing TCS. Even that was “problematic,” said Jay, because “I was ‘forced’ to come out to someone I didn’t necessarily want to disclose my status only because I had no choice.”

For him, this highlights “how we just have to make do with what’s there; and there really isn’t much that’s there to begin with.”

He feels “lighter” now, however, having started his antiretroviral treatment (ART). But he knows he’s one of the “lucky people with contacts”; and that “not every one has access to the same support I had… and that’s something we need to deal with.”

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‘Ang laban ng LGBT ay laban ng mamamayan’

As Baguio City holds its 13th #Pride March, there is emphasis on the de-commercialization of Pride to ficus on issues affecting all minority sectors including the #LGBT community. As stressed by Nico Ponce of Bahaghari-UP Baguio, hopefully other sectors join the fight for human rights for all because “ang laban ng LGBT ay laban ng buong mamamayan.”

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All photos by Michael David dela Cruz Tan

The struggle of the LGBTQIA community is the struggle of the people/nation.

So said Nico Ponce, chairperson of the UP-Baguio University Student Council and of Bahaghari-UP Baguio, which helmed Amianan Pride Council (APC), the organizer of the 13th Pride March in Baguio City.

This is why, Ponce added, at least particularly for Pride in Baguio City, there was an intent to veer away from commercializing Pride, to instead focus on the issues of all LGBTQIA people no matter the sector they belong to. There was also an emphasis on intersectionality – i.e. that other minority sectors have a stake in the fight for equal treatment of LGBTQIA people, also a minority sector.

“We are against the commercialization of Pride,” Ponce said, “since naniniwala tayo na ang historic roots of Pride ay… sang protest (we believe in the historic roots of Pride as a protest).” And so, to maintain the militant nature of Pride, we “make calls that… are comprehensive; and that affect not just LGBTQIA people but all Filipinos.”

The position, of course, is relevant considering the seeming (if not eventual) move towards commercialization of Pride events – e.g. cash-dependent Metro Manila’s Pride parade was able to gather over 50,000 participants in this year’s party/gathering; though the same number won’t surface to push for the anti-discrimination bill (ADB) that has been pending in Congress for 19 years now.

“There is still no equity,” said transgender activist Ms Santy Layno, which makes hosting Pride still relevant.

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“We still march,” added Rev. Pastor Myke Sotero of MCC-MB, “because even if people say that LGBTQIA people are already tolerated in the Philippines, we continue to suffer discrimination… with our transgender siblings still killed/murdered. We still need to march for Pride… as a form of protest.”

‘We (still) need Pride because of the apparent need of the LGBTQIA community (for acceptance) in all sectors of society,” Ponce added.

Baguio City already has an anti-discrimination ordinance, passed in April 2017, that wants to ensure that “every person… be given equal access to opportunities in all fields of human endeavor and to equitable sharing of social and economic benefits for them to freely exercise the rights to which they are rightfully entitled, free from any prejudice and discrimination.”

But the city also has anti-LGBTQIA history. For instance, in 2011, eight pairs of LGBTQIA people had commitment ceremony there, under MCC-MB. Oppositions were raised by the Catholic Church and a group of pastors from Baguio and Benguet. Bishop Carlito Cenzon of the Baguio-Benguet Vicariate of the Roman Catholic Church, for one, stated that “these unions are an anomaly.”

In the end, said Sotero, Pride is a way to inform society “that we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, so society should accept LGBTQIA people.”

“To people who ridicule/mock us, we’re open to discussions,” said Ponce. “Hindi sila kaaway… kaya sana makiisa kayo dahil ang laban ng LGBTQIA ay laban ng buong mamamayan (We are not enemies… so we hope you join the struggle because the fight for equality of LGBTQIA people is similar to the fight for social justice of the entire nation).” – WITH ALBERT TAN MAGALLANES, JR.

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Baguio marks 13th LGBTQIA Pride

The “City of Pines” marked its 13th LGBTQIA Pride March, themed “Diverse but equal” to stress that “despite diversity, everyone remains inherently equally human.” According to Rev. Pastor Myke Sotero of MCC-MB, Pride is a way to inform society “that we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, so society should accept LGBTQIA people.”

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ALL PHOTOS BY MICHAEL DAVID dela Cruz TAN

Equally diverse; equally human.

The “City of Pines” marked its 13th LGBTQIA Pride March, themed “Diverse but equal” to stress that “despite diversity, everyone remains inherently equally human.”

According to Rev. Pastor Myke Sotero, who helms Metropolitan Community Church-Metro Baguio (MCC-MB), which is part of the Amianan Pride Council (APC), the organizer of the annual event, even now that LGBTQIA issues (continue to) gain traction in mainstream awareness, holding a Pride event remains relevant because “kahit na sinasabi nating tolerated na ang mga LGBTQIA dito sa Pilipinas (even if it is said that LGBTQIA people are already tolerated in the Philippines), we continue to suffer discrimination.”

Sotero noted that, in fact, “patuloy pa din ang pagpatay sa mga kapatid natin na transgender (our transgender siblings are still being murdered/killed).”

Only in September, for instance, the lifeless body of Jessa Remiendo was found on the shore of Patar in Bolinao, Pangasinan – only approximately 94 kilometers away from Baguio City (just over two hours of road trip).

A few weeks before the gruesome murder, LGBTQIA people have been highlighting the need to pass an anti-discrimination law in the Philippines, particularly since the bill that eyes to protect the human rights of sexual minorities have been pending in Congress for 19 years now.

Kailangan pa ring ipagpatuloy ang pagmamartsa sa Pride bilang sang protesta (Marching for Pride is still needed as a form of protest),” Sotero said.

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Sotero added that Pride is also a way to inform society “na andito kami, hindi kami aalis, at dapat i-accept ang mga LGBTQIA people (we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, so society should accept LGBTQIA people).”

Baguio City actually already has an anti-discrimination ordinance, passed in April 2017, and notes that “discrimination is a crucial and serious issue” and it wants to ensure that “every person… be given equal access to opportunities in all fields of human endeavor and to equitable sharing of social and economic benefits for them to freely exercise the rights to which they are rightfully entitled, free from any prejudice and discrimination.”

But the city also has anti-LGBTQIA history – e.g. in 2011, when eight pairs of LGBTQIA people had commitment ceremony there, under MCC-MB, there were oppositions from the Catholic Church and a group of pastors from Baguio and Benguet.

In reaction, Bishop Carlito Cenzon of the Baguio-Benguet Vicariate of the Roman Catholic Church stated at that time that “these unions are an anomaly.” Meanwhile, the Guiding Light Christian Church maintained that “marriage should be between a man and woman only”.

And so for Det Neri, chairperson of Bahaghari-Metro Manila, a multisectoral militant and nationalist LGBTQIA organization based in Metro Manila (and whose arm in UP Baguio healed this year’s gathering), even now, LGBTQIA people are still mocked and “ginagawang katatawanan (made fun of).” And so celebrating Pride is “mahalaga para hindi tayo nawawala sa kasaysayan, hindi tayo mawawala doon sa hinaharap (we aren’t erased in our history, and we aren’t neglected as we head into the future).”

READ:  Southern Tagalog holds 7th Pride March, turns political

Neri added that Pride’s essence remains militant, and should remain as such. – WITH ALBERT TAN MAGALLANES, JR.

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Dumaguete City passes SOGIE equality ordinance

In a victory for members of the LGBTQIA community in the City of Dumaguete, an ordinance was passed in the City Council to ensure non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).

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For Pride.

In a victory for members of the LGBTQIA community in the City of Dumaguete, an ordinance was passed in the City Council to ensure non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).

Dumaguete is a 3rd class city in the province of Negros Oriental. According to the 2015 census, it has a population of 131,377 people.

It is the capital and most populous city of the province of Negros Oriental, it has a population of 131,377 people, according to the 2015 census.

Authored by Councilor Rosel Margarette Q. Erames with co-authors Councilors Lei Marie Danielle Tolentino, Bernice Ann Elmaco, Edgar Lentorio Jr., Lilani Ramon and Nelson Patrimonio, the anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO) penalizes actual or perceived SOGIE-based discrimination in the workplace, school and other similar acts that undermines and harms the rights of the LGBTQIA people.

City passes own SOGIE protection In a significant victory for members of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and…

Posted by HEADZ UP NegOr on Sunday, October 27, 2019

Under the ordinance among the prohibited acts include:

  • Actual or perceived SOGIE-related discrimination from employment, training, promotion, remuneration;
  • Delaying, refusing or failing to accept a person’s application for admission as a student;
  • Expelling or any penalty on the basis of SOGIE;
  • Harassment and intimidation committed by teachers, administrators and fellow students;
  • Refusing to provide goods or service, or imposing onerous terms and conditions as a prerequisite for such;
  • Denying access to health services and facilities;
  • Refusing or failing to allow LGBTQIA to avail of services or accommodations;
  • Denying application for licenses, clearances, certifications or other documents;
  • Vilifying, mocking, slandering or ridiculing LGBTQIA people through words, action and in writing; and
  • Executing any activity in public which incites hatred towards or serious contempt for or severe ridicule of LGBTQ and other analogous acts.
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The bill didn’t have smooth sailing before it passed. For instance, the Diocesan Commission on the Laity (whose members consist of 42 Parish Pastoral Councils from the different parishes of the Diocese of Dumaguete, covering the provinces of Negros Oriental and Siquijor, with the exception of the municipalities of La Libertad and Vallehermoso, and the cities of Guihulngan and Canlaon), as well as the Diocesan Organization of Renewal Movements & Communities (composed of 14 organizations) expressed their opposition of the ADO.

When the passage of the ADO also made the news, a handful of locals expressed their disapproval, stating – among others – that LGBTQIA people do not face discrimination in Dumaguete (thereby contradicting their own statement), prioritizing other issues of the city, and that protecting the human rights of LGBTQIA people is against the will of God.

But now with the ADO, first time violators will be made to attend a gender sensitivity training. Second time offenders may be jailed for not less than 60 days but not more than one year, or be fined with not less than P2,000 but not more than P 5, 000 (or both at the discretion of the court).

With the ADO, SOGIE-related concerns will be incorporated in the functions of existing Barangay Violence Against Women and Children (VAW) Desk, which will document and report cases of discrimination against LGBTQIA persons.

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Ilagan City in province of Isabela enacts SOGIE-specific anti-discrimination ordinance

General Ordinance 198-2019 finds the “need to prohibit… discrimination against people on the basis of actual or perceived SOGIE on the areas of work, accommodation, education, provision of goods, facilities and services, memberships in organizations, and the administration of local laws and programs.”

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The rainbow rises up north.

Ilagan – officially the City of Ilagan – a first class city and capital of the province of Isabela, enacted its own anti-discrimination ordinance based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

Authored by City Councilor Rolando Tugade, General Ordinance 198-2019 stated that the office of the Sangguniang Panglungsod “finds the need to prohibit, so far as is possible, discrimination against people on the basis of actual or perceived SOGIE on the areas of work, accommodation, education, provision of goods, facilities and services, memberships in organizations, and the administration of local laws and programs.”

According to Yonidick Pascua, president of City of Ilagan Gay Association, who pushed for the passage of the ADO, having the same is important “para mapangalagaan ang bawat LGBTQIA person,” he said. This is also needed, he added, to show respect to the rights and “dignidad ng bawat LGBTQIA person; para sa pagkapantay-pantay (na trato) bilang tao sa lipunan.

Passing the ADO was challenging, said Pascua.

Marami pa rin sa ating mga kababayan ang lubos na hindi naiintindihan kung ano ba talaga ang SOGIE,” he said, adding that this is – nonetheless – exactly why the ADO is needed. Fortunately, for him, City Mayor Josemarie L. Diaz and Vice Mayor Kit Bello backed the ADO.

With the ADO, “inaasahan natin na magiging mas ligtas ang bawat LGBTQIA person (dito sa Ilagan); inaasahan natin na mas lalong magkakaroon ng lakas ng loob at mamuhay ng mas panatag ang bawat LGBTQIA person, at inaasahan natin ang mas masaya at makulay na pamumuhay ng bawat LGBTQIA person dito,” he said.

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Aside from the aforementioned acts prohibited by the ADO, also deemed unlawful is “discrimination through verbal or non-verbal ridicule and vilification,” where it is declared “unlawful for any… person to vilify or ridicule any person on the based of perceived or actual SOGIE which may result in the loss of self-esteem or sense of safety and security, or the infliction of psychological harm through: contemptuous imitating or mockery; and uttering of abusive and slanderous statements.”

Persons who violate the ADO may be jailed for up to 60 days, and/or fined up to P5,000.

With the ADO, the city mandates its barangays to “develop a system to record and document reported cases of discrimination and violence against LGBTQIA persons, and provide assistance to victims.” But the ADO also establishes an LGBTQIA council.

Yakapin po ninyo ang LGBTQIA people, itaguyod ang SOGIE para sa proteksyon ng bawat LGBTQIA person at bigyan sila ng pagkakataon na mamuhay ng mapayapa at ligtas sa pamamagitan ng pagpasa ng ADO,” Pascua said. “Ang mga LGBTQIA people ay kasama sa lipunan kaya nararapat laman na yakapin, tanggapin at bigyan ng respeto.

PHOTO COURTESY OF MS DINDI TAN

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