Rising up against hate.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations, as well as ally groups gathered to renew public awareness on the issues of discrimination and hate crimes in the Philippines, just as the country marked the first death anniversary of slain transgender woman Jennifer Laude, allegedly in the hands of US Marine Serviceman Joseph Scott Pemberton.
In Makati City, an event – named “VAKLASH: LGBTQ Backlash against Hate and Injustice” – stressed the call to convict Pemberton, with an acquittal expected to “cause a backlash against the government of Pres. Benigno Aquino III as the LGBT community, and the Filipino people, won’t accept such an ending that obviously disregards the value of a Filipino life. This goes beyond one man’s crime against another. This is about us Filipinos standing up against moves by the likes of the United States to protect its interest. It is about us standing up for our sovereignty,” said Aaron Bonette, youth representative of Outrage Magazine and concurrent spokesperson of Bahaghari LGBT Organization, which spearheaded the gathering.
In a statement provided to Outrage Magazine, LGBT organization True Colors Coalition stated that “the murder of Jennifer Laude symbolizes the whole struggle of the LGBT community. We can all remember how the society has blamed her for her murder as if she asked for it. This is also the case of every LGBT person who continuously experience discrimination, and hate done to us simply because of who we are. It is also the exact face of our country’s struggle against those capitalist nations wanting to use and exploit our resources, and militarize our nation – like China, and especially US.”
True Colors Coalition observed Laude’s death anniversary in Olongapo City, where a march was also held with the Laude family.
Laude’s demise highlights the continuing pervasive committing of crimes against LGBT people in the Philippines.
Michael David dela Cruz Tan, publishing editor of Outrage Magazine, lamented how, “over a decade has already passed since an anti-disrimination bill (ADB) was first filed in Congress, and – to date – we continue not to have a law penalizing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE), which could help protect the human rights of every Filipino, irrespective of their SOGIE.”
In February, a bill banning discrimination on the basis of SOGI hurdled the committee level at the Philippine House of Representatives (Lower House). Its version in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Bam Aquino, a relative and party-mate of the country’s head, remains idle.
For her part, GABRIELA Women’s Party Second Nominee Arlene D. Brosas noted her dismay that “even as there is an urgent need to pass the ADB, the Aquino government continue to ignore its existence,” she said.
GABRIELA Women’s Party is a co-author of House Bill No. 1842, which seeks to criminalize discrimination against LGBT people. The bill, filed by Bayan Muna’s Neri Colmenares, also aims to set the ground rules for penalizing hate crimes as it provides the proper context for the trial of such crimes. HB 1842 is still being discussed by a technical working group in the House of Representatives.
Surprisingly, even the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines earlier said that it supports a law that rejects the second-class treatment of LGBT people. However, and somewhat ironically, CBCP itself seems to want to be excluded from possible sanctions for discriminatory acts, as it hopes to be able to exert its “exclusive right” to choose priests “even on the basis of SOGI”.
With the lack of a national policy protecting the rights of LGBT people in the Philippines, some local government units (LGUs) have ordinances that eye to afford their LGBT constituents protection from discrimination. These include Quezon City, Davao City, Angeles City, Cebu City, Vigan City, Candon City, the Province of Agusan del Norte, and the Province of Cavite.
Tan added that, “worse, even local governments with anti-discrimination ordinances (ADOs) fail to protect the rights of LGBT people because their policies that mandate for everyone to be treated equally are not implemented. This makes being LGBT in the Philippines seem like an ongoing, day-to-day struggle just to exist (see HERE, for example).”
“The time to ensure that the LGBT community enjoys the same rights as everybody else is now. The anti-discrimination bill has languished long enough in Congress; it must be enacted now. No one deserves to be discriminated, hated, or violated against because of his/her sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or for any other reasons. Let’s make sure that there will not be one more Jennifer to fall victim to hate,” Brosas said.
“The LGBT community has been suffering for the longest time. It is high-time we stand up and end our misery. Let us all unite against the discrimination, and hate crimes being done to us. Now is the time we show the world our strength and determination,” stated True Colors Coalition.
“We need to work towards having a society that is just, that is humane,” said Tan. “And having a law that prohibits all forms of violence committed against others, and all forms of intolerance is always a good first step towards a just society.”
Meanwhile, Bonette stressed the need to continue “rising against hate. This is everyone’s struggle against all forms of hate, and so everyone should also take part in pushing for the solutions that plague us,” Bonette ended.