Is Chiz your Vice President for #Eleksyon2016?
Outrage Magazine’s exclusive interview with Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero – who is running as Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines in #Eleksyon2016 – who discusses other issues concerning the LGBT community aside from same-sex marriage, including the long-delayed passage of an anti-discrimination law, development of a gender recognition law, worsening HIV situation in the country and how the LGBT community can push for its issues.
Citing a basic principle in social justice that those who have less in life should have more in law, Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero reiterated his support for the LGBT community, a sector he said that continues to be neglected and is also repeatedly stigmatized.
In an exclusive Outrage Magazine interview, and because the LGBT community is not a one-issue sector, Escudero – who is running for Vice President in the 2016 national elections – discussed other issues concerning the LGBT community aside from same-sex marriage (He is, by the way, for civil partnerships), including the languishing anti-discrimination bill in both Houses of Congress, development of a gender recognition law in the Philippines, worsening HIV situation in the Philippines, inclusion of LGBT people in existing and/or policies being developed, and how the LGBT community can push for its issues.
ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAW, NOW NA!
In 2014, Escudero co-authored Senate Bill 2358 (Anti-Discrimination Bill, along with Presidentiable Sen. Grace Poe), which eyed to make any form of discrimination a “crime against humanity and human dignity”.
For Escudero, “simpleng batas yun na hindi naman dapat kontrahin ninuman (It’s a simple law that should not be hindered by anyone).”
However, Escudero said, “binibigyan ng kahulugan ng iba (others assume it has a different intention)” even if these assumptions are not stipulated in the proposed bill.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), for instance, has repeatedly expressed its opposition (which turned into partial support) against an anti-discrimination bill as it could open the door for the legalization of same-sex marriages in the Philippines; a position shared by others in Congress (e.g. Sen. Vicente Sotto III).
For Escudero, an anti-discrimination law simply states that “pantay-pantay ang bawat tao anuman ang kanilang sexual orientation, anuman ang kanilang paniniwala (everyone is equal irrespective of sexual orientation, or whatever their beliefs).”
Considering that passing an anti-discrimination law continues to be challenging, Escudero said that it is important to open the minds of the people, “lalo na ng ating mga mambabatas (more particularly our lawmakers),” he said.
Escudero added that often, this becomes an election issue, but afterwards, politicians forget about it. And so “mahalaga at imortante ang pagkakataong ito kung saan pinipili natin ang ating mga mambabatas… na alamin ang bawat isa (kung) ano ba ang kanilang posisyon sa bagay na ito, isusulong ba nila ‘yan o hindi (elections are valuable and important times when we select our lawmakers… to ask each of them what their position is on this matter, and if they will advocate for this or not).”
Escudero even suggested having a covenant that will specify this support; and that the LGBT community can use the same to remind politicians of their promise once they get into power.
“May karapatan ang botante na hilingin yun sa mga kumakandidato at tanungin yun sa mga nagnanais manilbihan sa pamahalaan (Voters have the right to ask for this from political candidates, and ask for the same for those who want to serve in the government),” he said.
DEVELOPING A GENDER RECOGNITION LAW
In 2012, Escudero received flak from some in the transgender community in the Philippines.
With Senate Bill 3113, Escudero sought to amend RA 9048, which authorizes the city or municipal civil registrar or the consul general to correct a clerical or typographical error in an entry and/or change the first name or nickname in the civil register without need of a judicial order.
Senate Bill 3113, however, expressly states that no petition for a change of gender by a person who has undergone sex change or sex transplant will be entertained.
The Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP), then helmed by Naomi Fontanos of GANDA Filipinas, violated the rights of trans Filipinos as human beings.
“But upon close inspection, you will see that RA 9048, the law that they seek to amend, is actually antitransgender in the first place, and… SB 3113 affirm(s) the transphobia inherent in RA 9048,” Fontanos was quoted as saying.
At that time, Escudero said that “there is no such intention (to violate anyone’s right). It simply seeks to facilitate and make easier corrections based on error and easily verifiable without that need to go through a complicated and expensive court process.”
Also, in a letter of clarification coming from Escudero’s office, the proposal from the trans community cannot be accommodated “since doing so would make the bill itself unconstitutional.”
The proposal, instead, was to have a “measure similar to or a magna carta may be drafted given the uniqueness of your position in Philippine society.”
Now aware of the transgender community’s need for a gender recognition law, Escudero said he was actually fascinated the first time he heard of this – “Fascinated in the sense that it’s advanced human rights; it’s advanced in the sense that everything in your license, everything in your birth certificate can now be determined by the person himself. Nothing to be determined by the accident of birth. That is advanced citizenship, and I am all for it,” he said. “Pabor ako at gusto kong makita ang ating bansa na may ganyang uri ng paggalang sa karapatang pantao (I am in favor of this and I want to see our country have this kind of respect to human rights).”
Escudero is, nonetheless, cognizant that this may not yet be timely considering that even the anti-discrimination bill is not progressing. However, for him, “hindi yan rason o dahilan para hindi simulang isulong (that’s not reason for people not to start pushing for this).”
WORSENING HIV SITUATION
In December 2015, the Department of Health’s (DOH) Epidemiology Bureau reported 650 new cases of HIV infections, which was 28% higher compared to the 2014 figure. Ninety-seven percent were male, with the median age of 27, and with more than half belonging to the 25-34 year age group, while 28% were youths belonging to the 15-24 year age group.
This continues the upward trend in HIV infections in the country, already shamed for being one of only a handful of countries where HIV infections continue to increase.
And with 88% of the sexually transmitted cases of HIV infection in the Philippines involving men who have sex with men (MSM, involving gay and bisexual men), HIV continues to be an issue for the LGBT community.
For Escudero, the government should not pretend that there’s no problem. He believes that DOH and PhilHealth should have active roles here, such as in information dissemination, particularly in preventing HIV infection since “mas mura pa rin kasi yun kesa gamutin natin ang ating kababayang maysakit na. HIV or AIDS or anumang karamdaman, sana preventive ang mas pagtutuunan ng pansin (prevention is still cheaper than treating our fellow Filipinos who already have HIV, AIDS or any other ailment, so preventive efforts should be prioritized).”
But since there are already Filipinos with HIV, and since services continue to be lacking, Escudero is critical with the current responses.
“The services continue to be lacking because, I think, the government is trying to ignore it, the government is trying to look the other way, the government refuses to accept that there is a problem. The first step in resolving any problem is admitting that there is a problem. That the problem is increasing. That the problem is not so small that you can simply sweep it under the rug. It’s something that must be confronted by the government head-on,” he said.
Escudero added that this may also form part of the anti-discrimination efforts of the LGBT community since this affects its members and “pinipili marahil ng gobyerno na huwag masyadong tingnan, huwag masyadong pansinin ito. Pero para sa akin ang sakit ay sakit, ang buhay ay buhay at obligasyon ng pamahalaan na tiyakin at subukan at sikapin na iligtas ang buhay ng bawat mamamayan niya (maybe the government is choosing not to pay attention to this, not to give this as much attention. But for me, an illness is an illness, life is life, and it’s the government’s duty to ensure and try to save the lives of all its people).”
INTERCONNECTION OF LGBT ISSUES WITH PHL ISSUES
Perhaps to be taken as recognition (knowingly or not) of the interconnection of LGBT issues with other mainstream social issues, Escudero – with Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago – called for a review of the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US following the killing of 26-year-old transpinay Jennifer Laude in the hands of American serviceman Joseph Scott Pemberton.
Now, with policies still being developed, Escudero said that the ideal is to include minority sectors – e.g. in the case of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, for instance, which affects many LGBT people in Muslim areas.
Escudero said that the government’s panel’s decision to speak only with one group (the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF) is the reason why Senate couldn’t pass it. “Dahil wala silang ibang kinausap, inakala nila na sila na lang ang mga nagmamay-ari ng lahat ng talento, galing, talino at magandang intensyon para sa ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) o BBL area (Because they didn’t talk to others, they assumed that they have the exclusive right over all talents, goodness, intelligence and good intentions for ARMM or BBL area),” Escudero said.
SHOULD LAWS BE MADE TO CHANGE CULTURE, OF SHOULD CULTURE BE RECEPTIVE BEFORE LAWS SHOULD BE MADE?
Considering that a law can only do so much if the culture of intolerance perpetuates, Escudero was asked which should be prioritized: making laws (that may have a hard time getting implemented) or changing hearts and minds before laws are made.
“It’s a ‘chicken and egg’ thing. Minsan nauuna ang kultura at sumusunod ang batas; minsan nauuna ang batas at sumusunod ang kultura (Sometimes cultural change comes first before laws; and sometimes laws are made and cultural change follows),” he said.
Escudero said that for him, there are two principles to note here.
On the one hand, Escudero questions why it is okay to have personal relationships with LGBT people, but “pag usaping pangkalahatan na – komunidad at bansa na ang pinag-uusapan – bakit kailangang mag-iba yun? Kung tanggap at normal at okay sa pang-personal na lebel na relasyon, bakit biglang mag-iiba (when the issue shifts to community or national level, why do relationships with LGBT people change? If relationships with LGBT people are okay at the personal level, why should these change [at any level])?”
On the other hand, “ang batas inimbento, ang gobyerno inimbento para protektahan ang minoriya, para protektahan at pangalagaan ang karapatan nung konti, nung naaapi, nung marahil hindi kasing-kaya ipagtanggol ang kanilang sarili kumpara sa mas nakakaraming sektor o miyembro ng isang lipunan. Kung ganyang pananaw ang ating gagamitin, walang dahilan para hindi ipasa ang gender recognition law o anti-discrimination at iba pang batas na ang layunin ay bigyang pagpapahalaga at proteksyon ang sektor ng LGBT na maliwanag ay nasa minority ng ating lipunan (at) matagal nang hindi pinapansin at niyuyurakan at kailangan na pantayin ng batas (laws are inventions, the government is an invention to protect the minorities, to protect at look after the rights of the few, those who are oppressed, maybe those who cannot defend themselves compared to most in society. If that is the lens that we use, there’s no reason that laws like gender recognition and anti-discrimination or others that will give importance and protect the LGBT sector that is clearly not given attention and whose rights are trampled, and therefore should be made equal by law),” Escudero said.
For Escudero, “those who have less in life should have more in law.”
CALL FOR PARTICIPATION
Escudero says that for the LGBT community to continue pushing its issues, it has to know that “hindi illegal mag-lobby sa Kongreso (it is not illegal to lobby in Congress).”
Escudero said that often, when people speak with politicians, many immediately become suspicious that influence-peddling is happening. But he said that this is just “bahagi yun ng karapatan ninyo bilang mga mamamayan na paalalahanan ang inyong mga kinatawan (it is part of your right as citizens to remind your representatives).”
Escudero advocates having an LGBT representative in Congress; and for LGBT people to “makilahok kayo sa bawat usapin (join all discussions)”, with the latter, he said, gaining ground as more LGBT people come out to help change minds.
Inter-Agency Committee on Diversity and Inclusion created via executive order
An executive order intends to create an inter-agency committee on diversity and inclusion, as well as establish the Diversity and Inclusion Program (DIP) that will consolidate efforts and implement laws “towards the identification and adoption of best practices in the promotion of diversity and inclusion.”
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is flexing his supposed anti-discrimination cred with the signing of Executive Order (EO) 100, which focuses on minority sectors, including members of the LGBTQIA community, Indigenous Peoples, youth and persons with disability (PWDs).
The EO – titled “Institutionalizing the diversity and inclusion program, creating an inter-agency committee on diversity and inclusion (IACDI), and for other purposes – intends to create the aforementioned IACDI, as well as establish the Diversity and Inclusion Program (DIP) that will consolidate efforts and implement laws “towards the identification and adoption of best practices in the promotion of diversity and inclusion.”
The order was signed on December 17, prior to Duterte meeting with a politicized organization composed of LGBTQIA Filipinos that eye to win seat in Congress in the next elections via the country’s partylist system; but was only released to the media on December 19.
The to-be-established IACDI will be composed of: Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Budget Management (DBM), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Health (DOH), Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA), and National Youth Commission (NYC).
Worth noting: No LGBTQIA representation is specifically mentioned/included in the committee.
The committee is expected to work with “relevant stakeholders, advocacy groups and NGOs” to develop a DIP; dictate the direction of the DIP; “encourage” local government units to issue ordinances promoting diversity and inclusion; and recommend possible legislation to address gaps in existing laws.
Meanwhile, the to-be-established DIP is supposed to “consolidate efforts and implement existing laws, rules and issuances against the discrimination of persons on the basis of age, disability, national or ethnic origin, language, religious affiliation or belief, political affiliation or belief, health status, physical features, or sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, towards the identification and adoption of best practices in the promotion of diversity and inclusion.”
For trans activist Naomi Fontanos, who helms GANDA Filipinas, there are provisions in the EO that are problematic.
“(It) looks good on paper but has problematic provisions,” Fontanos said.
For example, “the composition of the IACDI excludes key government agencies like the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and Civil Service Commission (CSC). Instead they have consultative status. This is surprising since based on RA No. 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women (MCW), the CHR is the Gender and Development (GAD) Ombud.”
Fontanos noted that with “funding for the implementation of EO No. 100, s. 2019 will either be from sources identified by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) or through Gender and Development (GAD) funds, why then does the GAD Ombud only have consultative status?”
Also excluded from the IACDI is the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, “which is unfortunate since the EO seeks to prohibit discrimination based on religious affiliation or belief,” Fontanos said.
Fontanos similarly questioned the chairmanship of the IACDI by the DILG.
“The DILG’s main function is to ensure peace and order, public safety, and building the capacity of local governments for basic services delivery. Implementing a nationwide DIP better fits the mandate of the DSWD, which is to empower disadvantaged sectors in our country. The DSWD is only the committee’s Vice Chair.”
For Fontanos, “also most telling is that the committee is tasked to consult relevant stakeholders and NGOs to develop the DIP. Given that EO No. 100, s. 2019 was signed during the oath-taking of officers of LGBT Pilipinas Party-List at Malacañang Palace, will they be the default ‘stakeholder’ to be consulted on LGBT issues? If they are running for a congressional seat in 2022, won’t that give them undue advantage given that they will be working with LGUs through the chairmanship of the DILG?”
Following the release of the EO, future steps to be taken have yet to be announced.
Province of Capiz holds first Pride parade
The city of Roxas in the Province of Capiz held its first LGBTQIA Pride parade, a “historic event that was organized for and by the LGBTQIA people of Capiz.”
Pride in Capiz.
The city of Roxas in the Province of Capiz held its first LGBTQIA Pride parade, a “historic event that was organized for and by the LGBTQIA people of Capiz,” said Charmel Delfin Ignacio Catalan, who helmed the organizing of the event via Queens of all Queens and LGBT Community Capiz.
The local LGBTQIA community is not exactly completely “invisible”, admitted Catalan, having participated in the city’s/province’s past gatherings – e.g. last August 12, 2019, when a contingent joined the parade for the International Youth Day. But this Pride is “important – particularly as it is being held as the world observes World AIDS Day – because it highlights what’s solely relevant to our community.”
As is common with non-commercialized Pride events, “the main problem (we encountered) was financial,” Catalan said. This is because “we only relied on donations of generous individuals (to be able to hold this event).” But since “it had the backing of the community… we were able to push through.”
With Catalan in organizing the Pride parade were Atty. Felizardo Demayuga Jr. and Sandro Borce.
For Catalan: “I believe we still need Pride in this day and age to celebrate the unique individuality of the members of the LGBTQIA Community, and – of course – to continue the advocacy of equal rights and mutual respect and the causes that we are fighting for.”
Roxas City, in particular, still records LGBTQIA-related hate crimes. In a 2015 interview with Outrage Magazine, Catalan recalled the bashing of a trans woman na napag-tripan (because some people just felt like it); sex work-related ill-treatment; and even killings.
This is why Catalan said she hopes for (particularly local) LGBTQIA people to attend the gathering as a show of strength that “we’re in this together.”
Catalan, nonetheless, recognizes that many non-LGBTQIA people still detest/discriminate LGBTQIA people. And so to them she said: “To all our bashers/haters, please take note that we have no ill feelings towards you; we love you and you are always in our prayers. Please take note that sticks and stones may break our bones but you won’t see us fall.”
‘We need inclusive responses to HIV’ – Bahaghari Center
For Ms Disney Aguila, board member of Bahaghari Center, “it needs to be emphasized that HIV can only truly be dealt with if everyone is on board.”
In early 2019, Jay (not his real name), a Deaf gay man who lives outside Metro Manila, was encouraged by his friends who knew community-based HIV screening (CBS) to get himself tested. It was, he recalled, “the first time someone offered me this service; so I caved in.”
Jay was reactive; and “my world crumbled,” he said.
Though his friends tried to comfort him, telling him that knowing his status is good, “since at least now I can take steps to get treatment and live a normal, healthy life,” Jay wasn’t assuaged. His friends had to eventually go back to Metro Manila, and he worried that he would be left on his own to “find ways to access treatment.” And the same issue that did not make testing accessible for him – i.e. him being Deaf – is now the same issue he believed would hinder him from getting treatment, care and support (TCS).
Jay’s case, said Ms Disney Aguila, board member of the Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy Inc. (Bahaghari Center), highlights how “numerous sectors continue to be ignored in HIV-related responses.”
Aguila, the concurrent head of the Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, the pioneering organization for Deaf LGBTQIA Filipinos, added that “it needs to be emphasized – particularly today as #WAD2019 – that HIV can only truly be dealt with if everyone is on board.”
WORSENING HIV SITUATION
As reported by the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) of the Department of Health (DOH), the Philippines has 35 new HIV cases every day. The figure has been consistently growing – from only one case every day in 2008, seven cases per day in 2011, 16 cases per day in 2014, and 32 cases per day in 2018.
In July, when HARP released its (delayed) latest figures, there were 1,111 newly confirmed HIV-positive individuals; this was 29% higher compared with the diagnosed cases (859) in the same period last year.
Perhaps what is worth noting, said Aguila, is the “absence in current responses of minority sectors” – e.g. when even data does not segregate people from minority sectors, thus the forced invisibility that used to also affect transgender people who were once lumped under the MSM (men who have sex with men) umbrella term.
For Aguila, this is “detrimental to the overall response re HIV because specific needs are not answered.”
DEAF IN FOCUS
In 2012, Bahaghari Center conducted “Talk to the Hand”, the first-of-its-kind study that looked at the knowledge, attitudes and related practices (KAP) of Deaf LGBT Filipinos on HIV and AIDS. The study had numerous disturbing findings.
To start, majority of the respondents (33 or 54.1%) were within the 19-24 age range at the time of the study, followed by those who are over 25 (21 or 34.3%). Most of them (53 of 61 Deaf respondents) had sex before they reached 18. Many (36.1%) of them also had numerous sexual partners, with some respondents having as many as 20 sex partners in a month.
Only 21 (34.4%) use condoms, and – worryingly – even among those who used condoms, 12 (19.7%) had condom breakage during sex because of improper use.
Perhaps the unsafe sexual practice should not be surprising, considering that not even half (29, 47.5%) of the respondents heard of HIV and AIDS, with even less that number (23, 37.7%) knowing someone who died of HIV or AIDS-related complications. And with not even half of the total respondents (29) familiar with HIV and AIDS, not surprisingly, only 19 (31.1%) considered HIV and AIDS as serious, with more of them considering HIV and AIDS as not serious (20, 32.8%) or maybe serious (22, 36.1%).
The study also noted that the level of general knowledge about HIV and AIDS is low, with 40 (65.6%) of them falling in this category. Only about 1/5 of them (12, 19.7%) had high level of knowledge about HIV and AIDS. Even fewer (9, 14.8%) may be classified as having moderate knowledge level.
For the Deaf community, at least, accessing testing and – if one tested HIV positive – the TCS is challenging because “we’d need Filipino Sign Language (FSL) interpreters who can help make sure we’re getting the right information/treatment/et cetera, Aguila said. And in the Philippines, the numbers of service providers who know FSL remain very limited.
Already there are Deaf Filipinos trained to conduct CBS particularly for other Deaf Filipinos – here in “Stop HIV Together“, a photo campaign stressing the need for inclusion.
INCLUDING OTHER MINORITIES
Aguila stressed that forced invisibility, obviously, does not only affect the minority Deaf community as far as HIV-related responses are concerned – e.g. “other persons with disability continue not to have HIV-related interventions,” she said.
For Aguila: “To truly stop HIV and AIDS, we need to be inclusive.”
Back in the city south of Metro Manila, Jay was forwarded to a counselor who knows FSL so that he can be supported in accessing TCS. Even that was “problematic,” said Jay, because “I was ‘forced’ to come out to someone I didn’t necessarily want to disclose my status only because I had no choice.”
For him, this highlights “how we just have to make do with what’s there; and there really isn’t much that’s there to begin with.”
He feels “lighter” now, however, having started his antiretroviral treatment (ART). But he knows he’s one of the “lucky people with contacts”; and that “not every one has access to the same support I had… and that’s something we need to deal with.”
‘Ang laban ng LGBT ay laban ng mamamayan’
As Baguio City holds its 13th #Pride March, there is emphasis on the de-commercialization of Pride to ficus on issues affecting all minority sectors including the #LGBT community. As stressed by Nico Ponce of Bahaghari-UP Baguio, hopefully other sectors join the fight for human rights for all because “ang laban ng LGBT ay laban ng buong mamamayan.”
The struggle of the LGBTQIA community is the struggle of the people/nation.
So said Nico Ponce, chairperson of the UP-Baguio University Student Council and of Bahaghari-UP Baguio, which helmed Amianan Pride Council (APC), the organizer of the 13th Pride March in Baguio City.
This is why, Ponce added, at least particularly for Pride in Baguio City, there was an intent to veer away from commercializing Pride, to instead focus on the issues of all LGBTQIA people no matter the sector they belong to. There was also an emphasis on intersectionality – i.e. that other minority sectors have a stake in the fight for equal treatment of LGBTQIA people, also a minority sector.
“We are against the commercialization of Pride,” Ponce said, “since naniniwala tayo na ang historic roots of Pride ay… sang protest (we believe in the historic roots of Pride as a protest).” And so, to maintain the militant nature of Pride, we “make calls that… are comprehensive; and that affect not just LGBTQIA people but all Filipinos.”
The position, of course, is relevant considering the seeming (if not eventual) move towards commercialization of Pride events – e.g. cash-dependent Metro Manila’s Pride parade was able to gather over 50,000 participants in this year’s party/gathering; though the same number won’t surface to push for the anti-discrimination bill (ADB) that has been pending in Congress for 19 years now.
“There is still no equity,” said transgender activist Ms Santy Layno, which makes hosting Pride still relevant.
“We still march,” added Rev. Pastor Myke Sotero of MCC-MB, “because even if people say that LGBTQIA people are already tolerated in the Philippines, we continue to suffer discrimination… with our transgender siblings still killed/murdered. We still need to march for Pride… as a form of protest.”
‘We (still) need Pride because of the apparent need of the LGBTQIA community (for acceptance) in all sectors of society,” Ponce added.
Baguio City already has an anti-discrimination ordinance, passed in April 2017, that wants to ensure that “every person… be given equal access to opportunities in all fields of human endeavor and to equitable sharing of social and economic benefits for them to freely exercise the rights to which they are rightfully entitled, free from any prejudice and discrimination.”
But the city also has anti-LGBTQIA history. For instance, in 2011, eight pairs of LGBTQIA people had commitment ceremony there, under MCC-MB. Oppositions were raised by the Catholic Church and a group of pastors from Baguio and Benguet. Bishop Carlito Cenzon of the Baguio-Benguet Vicariate of the Roman Catholic Church, for one, stated that “these unions are an anomaly.”
In the end, said Sotero, Pride is a way to inform society “that we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, so society should accept LGBTQIA people.”
“To people who ridicule/mock us, we’re open to discussions,” said Ponce. “Hindi sila kaaway… kaya sana makiisa kayo dahil ang laban ng LGBTQIA ay laban ng buong mamamayan (We are not enemies… so we hope you join the struggle because the fight for equality of LGBTQIA people is similar to the fight for social justice of the entire nation).” – WITH ALBERT TAN MAGALLANES, JR.
Baguio marks 13th LGBTQIA Pride
The “City of Pines” marked its 13th LGBTQIA Pride March, themed “Diverse but equal” to stress that “despite diversity, everyone remains inherently equally human.” According to Rev. Pastor Myke Sotero of MCC-MB, Pride is a way to inform society “that we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, so society should accept LGBTQIA people.”
Equally diverse; equally human.
The “City of Pines” marked its 13th LGBTQIA Pride March, themed “Diverse but equal” to stress that “despite diversity, everyone remains inherently equally human.”
According to Rev. Pastor Myke Sotero, who helms Metropolitan Community Church-Metro Baguio (MCC-MB), which is part of the Amianan Pride Council (APC), the organizer of the annual event, even now that LGBTQIA issues (continue to) gain traction in mainstream awareness, holding a Pride event remains relevant because “kahit na sinasabi nating tolerated na ang mga LGBTQIA dito sa Pilipinas (even if it is said that LGBTQIA people are already tolerated in the Philippines), we continue to suffer discrimination.”
Sotero noted that, in fact, “patuloy pa din ang pagpatay sa mga kapatid natin na transgender (our transgender siblings are still being murdered/killed).”
Only in September, for instance, the lifeless body of Jessa Remiendo was found on the shore of Patar in Bolinao, Pangasinan – only approximately 94 kilometers away from Baguio City (just over two hours of road trip).
A few weeks before the gruesome murder, LGBTQIA people have been highlighting the need to pass an anti-discrimination law in the Philippines, particularly since the bill that eyes to protect the human rights of sexual minorities have been pending in Congress for 19 years now.
“Kailangan pa ring ipagpatuloy ang pagmamartsa sa Pride bilang sang protesta (Marching for Pride is still needed as a form of protest),” Sotero said.
Sotero added that Pride is also a way to inform society “na andito kami, hindi kami aalis, at dapat i-accept ang mga LGBTQIA people (we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, so society should accept LGBTQIA people).”
Baguio City actually already has an anti-discrimination ordinance, passed in April 2017, and notes that “discrimination is a crucial and serious issue” and it wants to ensure that “every person… be given equal access to opportunities in all fields of human endeavor and to equitable sharing of social and economic benefits for them to freely exercise the rights to which they are rightfully entitled, free from any prejudice and discrimination.”
But the city also has anti-LGBTQIA history – e.g. in 2011, when eight pairs of LGBTQIA people had commitment ceremony there, under MCC-MB, there were oppositions from the Catholic Church and a group of pastors from Baguio and Benguet.
In reaction, Bishop Carlito Cenzon of the Baguio-Benguet Vicariate of the Roman Catholic Church stated at that time that “these unions are an anomaly.” Meanwhile, the Guiding Light Christian Church maintained that “marriage should be between a man and woman only”.
And so for Det Neri, chairperson of Bahaghari-Metro Manila, a multisectoral militant and nationalist LGBTQIA organization based in Metro Manila (and whose arm in UP Baguio healed this year’s gathering), even now, LGBTQIA people are still mocked and “ginagawang katatawanan (made fun of).” And so celebrating Pride is “mahalaga para hindi tayo nawawala sa kasaysayan, hindi tayo mawawala doon sa hinaharap (we aren’t erased in our history, and we aren’t neglected as we head into the future).”
Neri added that Pride’s essence remains militant, and should remain as such. – WITH ALBERT TAN MAGALLANES, JR.
Dumaguete City passes SOGIE equality ordinance
In a victory for members of the LGBTQIA community in the City of Dumaguete, an ordinance was passed in the City Council to ensure non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).
In a victory for members of the LGBTQIA community in the City of Dumaguete, an ordinance was passed in the City Council to ensure non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).
Dumaguete is a 3rd class city in the province of Negros Oriental. According to the 2015 census, it has a population of 131,377 people.
It is the capital and most populous city of the province of Negros Oriental, it has a population of 131,377 people, according to the 2015 census.
Authored by Councilor Rosel Margarette Q. Erames with co-authors Councilors Lei Marie Danielle Tolentino, Bernice Ann Elmaco, Edgar Lentorio Jr., Lilani Ramon and Nelson Patrimonio, the anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO) penalizes actual or perceived SOGIE-based discrimination in the workplace, school and other similar acts that undermines and harms the rights of the LGBTQIA people.
Under the ordinance among the prohibited acts include:
- Actual or perceived SOGIE-related discrimination from employment, training, promotion, remuneration;
- Delaying, refusing or failing to accept a person’s application for admission as a student;
- Expelling or any penalty on the basis of SOGIE;
- Harassment and intimidation committed by teachers, administrators and fellow students;
- Refusing to provide goods or service, or imposing onerous terms and conditions as a prerequisite for such;
- Denying access to health services and facilities;
- Refusing or failing to allow LGBTQIA to avail of services or accommodations;
- Denying application for licenses, clearances, certifications or other documents;
- Vilifying, mocking, slandering or ridiculing LGBTQIA people through words, action and in writing; and
- Executing any activity in public which incites hatred towards or serious contempt for or severe ridicule of LGBTQ and other analogous acts.
The bill didn’t have smooth sailing before it passed. For instance, the Diocesan Commission on the Laity (whose members consist of 42 Parish Pastoral Councils from the different parishes of the Diocese of Dumaguete, covering the provinces of Negros Oriental and Siquijor, with the exception of the municipalities of La Libertad and Vallehermoso, and the cities of Guihulngan and Canlaon), as well as the Diocesan Organization of Renewal Movements & Communities (composed of 14 organizations) expressed their opposition of the ADO.
When the passage of the ADO also made the news, a handful of locals expressed their disapproval, stating – among others – that LGBTQIA people do not face discrimination in Dumaguete (thereby contradicting their own statement), prioritizing other issues of the city, and that protecting the human rights of LGBTQIA people is against the will of God.
But now with the ADO, first time violators will be made to attend a gender sensitivity training. Second time offenders may be jailed for not less than 60 days but not more than one year, or be fined with not less than P2,000 but not more than P 5, 000 (or both at the discretion of the court).
With the ADO, SOGIE-related concerns will be incorporated in the functions of existing Barangay Violence Against Women and Children (VAW) Desk, which will document and report cases of discrimination against LGBTQIA persons.
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