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LGBT leaders recall Christian, militant beginnings of Pride in Phl

In Pride Speaks, a gathering that eyed to educate and engage both the members of the LGBT community and heterosexual allies on the fight for equality and non-discrimination of LGBT people, LGBT leaders who pioneered Pride celebrations in Asia, including in the Philippines, stressed the relevant role of Christianity and militant activism in the development of Pride in these parts of the world.

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Being LGBT

LGBT leaders who pioneered Pride celebrations in Asia, including in the Philippines, stressed the relevant role of Christianity and militant activism in the development of Pride in these parts of the world.

In Pride Speaks, a gathering that eyed to educate and engage both the members of the LGBT community and heterosexual allies on the fight for equality and non-discrimination of LGBT people, Bishop Richard Mickley of the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit, Murphy Red of Kapederasyon, and Allan Tollosa of Pro-Gay recalled how in June 26, 1994, the first LGBT Pride March in the country happened. The first Pride March, called Stonewall Manila, was participated by more than 30 individuals from Sine Café, Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), Pro-Gay, Can’t Live in the Closet (CLIC) of Ana Leah Sarabia and Malu Marin, UP Babaylan, and students of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP).

MILITANT STRUGGLE

The march was a call to “tsugiin ang VAT. Ang VAT ay salot sa mga bakla at mamamayang Pilipino (eradicate VAT. VAT is a curse to gays and the Filipino people),” said Red, referring to the first march as “Stonewall Manila”, which gathered members of the LGBT commuity in the fight to junk the value added tax (VAT) in 1994. “Ang mga bakla sa parlor ang grabeng apektado ng VAT. Maraming nagsasarado dahil hindi sila makapagcharge sa mga costumers nila. Huhulihin sila ng BIR. Matingkad ang mga panawagan ng mga bakla na bitbitin ang VAT issue (Gays in the parlor were most affected by the VAT. Many would close because they could not charge their customers. They were caught by the BIR. The call was clear: that gays should carry the VAT issue). We campaigned to junk VAT.”

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The first Pride manifesto in 1994 showed the militancy of the LGBT struggle.

Bawiin ng mga Pilipinong bakla ang ating mga karapatan at kalayaan sa anumang paraan mapayapa man o madugo. Sama sama kaming kikilos buhay man ang ialay (Gay Filipinos should reclaim our rights and freedom though any means, peaceful or bloody. We will act together even if we offer our lives),” the 1994 manifesto stated.

Ang militansiya ang nagsimula nitong lahat. Ang panawagan natin noon ay ang panawagan pa rin natin ngayon. Wala pa ring nagbabago sa taon taon nating pagdiriwang ng Pride. Hindi lang ito dapat pagdiriwang lang, ito ay ang pagpapatuloy ng pakikibaka (Militancy started this all. Our calls before are still our calls now. There has been no change in every year that we have celebrated Pride. This should not just be a celebration but a continuation of the struggle),” said Tollosa.

‘HIDDEN’ PRIDE

For Tollosa, the period from 1994 to 1998 was lively, when “we called for gays to come out,” he said.

The march started at EDSA corner Quezon Avenue, where the articipants marched to Quezon City Hall. “There was no permit, but the activists worked it out,” Mickley recalled.

Talagang takot na takot na magmartsa ang mga bakla. Sa Quezon Memorial Circle kami kasi doon ang madalas na hadahan. Ang monument din ni Quezon ay simbolo din ng ating pagka semi-colonial at ng phallus (Gays were so scared to march. We were Quezon Memorial Circle because that was a frequented gay cruising area. The Quezon monument was also a symbol of our semi-colonial status and the phallus),” laughed Tollosa.

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“When we are at the circle there were some MCC members hiding in the trees. In 1994, people didn’t congregate as LGBT people but they all did secretly. That’s why they hid in the trees and it took them a while to be out of the closet,” Mickley added.

A Pride mass was held, highlighting the Christian roots of Pride.

GETTING TOGETHER

“After the first march, Jomar Fleras and his organization called ReachOut organized three different marches, and the last of it was called People’s Parade of the Centennial Celebration of the Philippines in 1998. It was the only LGBT Pride march scheduled in front of the President.

In 1999, people started to get together early in the year. “If what we did in 1994 stopped in 1994, it would have been useless. How can I be proud of just us marching in 1994 if nothing happened after that?” said Mickley.

“It was fulfilling to see a yearly celebration after that. Despite our yearly commemoration of the first gay Pride march in 1994 , we struggle with the same systemic orders that discriminated us, that put us inside boxes. Let’s keep the militancy ablaze. Carry the torch towards victory,” said Red.

Maraming mga LGBT sa mga mahihirap na komunidad. Mas higit natin silang tulungan . Hindi tulungan para magdole out. Kung para ipaglaban ang kanilang mga karapatan. Magakroon ng pagkakaisa ang mga baklang mayayaman at ang mga LGBT na poor. Magkaisa ito dahil apektado sa parehong isyu sa lipunan. Tiyak tayo sa paglaya ng LGBT at kasama na ang buong sambayanang Pilipino (There are many poor LGBTs in the communites. We should help them more. Not dole-out help but the help to let them fight for their rights. Rich and poor LGBTs should be united. Be united for we are affected by the same issues in society. We will be certain of the liberation of LGBTs together with the whole Filipino people),” Tollosa ended.

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A registered nurse, John Ryan (or call him "Rye") Mendoza hails from Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao (where, no, it isn't always as "bloody", as the mainstream media claims it to be, he noted). He first moved to Metro Manila in 2010 (supposedly just to finish a health social science degree), but fell in love not necessarily with the (err, smoggy) place, but it's hustle and bustle. He now divides his time in Mindanao (where he still serves under-represented Indigenous Peoples), and elsewhere (Metro Manila included) to help push for equal rights for LGBT Filipinos. And, yes, he parties, too (see, activists need not be boring! - Ed).

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Sotto says SOGIE Equality Bill has ‘no chance’ of passing Senate

In a message, Sen. Sotto stated: “Anti-discrimination on persons, pwede, pero [it’s possible, but] focused on gays, which the SOGIE bill is, and religious and academic freedom impeded plus smuggling of same sex marriage? No chance!”

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Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III declared that the bill that seeks to ban discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIE) has “no chance” of passing in the Senate – at least under his leadership.

In a message, Sotto stated: “Anti-discrimination on persons, pwede, pero [it’s possible, but] focused on gays, which the SOGIE bill is, and religious and academic freedom impeded plus smuggling of same sex marriage? No chance!”

Sotto has repeatedly shown his opposition of the anti-discrimination bill, known in its current iteration as the SOGIE Equality Bill. For instance, during the 17th Congress, he was among the senators who – in essence – blocked the passage of the measure because of his insistence to want to interpellate the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Risa Hontiveros. The same interpellation didn’t happen until Congress adjourned, thereby killing the measure.

Surprisingly, in 2018, he actually stated that the ADB’s passage is “possible”. But his response even then was tempered by his position to continue allowing education/religious institutions to discriminate, and was similarly still stuck in toilet use (i.e. disallowing people to use restrooms according to their gender identity).

More recently, still confused about the meaning of LGBTQIA – coming after years of hosting Eat Bulaga, which has a trans pageant Super SiReyna, segment Suffer SiReyna, and co-hosts who are part of the LGBTQIA community, including Liza Seguerra and Allan K – Sotto suggested removing the acronym and instead just refer to members of the community as “homo sapiens”.

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The onus is not on Sotto alone, however, but those who placed him in his position of power to maneuver what will be discussed in the Senate’s session hall. Last June 4, 13 senators signed a resolution backing Sotto’s so-called leadership in the then incoming 18th Congress. These included: Sens. Juan Miguel Zubiri, Panfilo Lacson, Manny Pacquiao, Ralph Recto, Nancy Binay, Loren Legarda, Grace Poe, Sonny Angara, Francis Escudero, Sherwin Gatchalian, Gregorio Honasan, Aquilino Pimentel III, and Joel Villanueva.

Escudero, Honasan and Legarda ended their terms on June 30.

In contrast to the Senate under the so-called Sotto leadership, the Lower House/House of Representatives passed the bill in 2017.

The first anti-discrimination bill was filed 19 years ago. It was first filed in the 11th Congress by Akbayan Party-List Representative Etta Rosales. That version of the bill was approved on third and final reading in the 12th Congress, but failed to gain traction in the Senate. In 2006, during the 13th Congress, the ADB reached second reading.

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Daughter of former dictator wants to expand list of punishable acts of LGBTQIA discrimination

Among the other punishable offenses against LGBTQIA people that Sen. Imee Marcos added are: refusal to admit a child in school due to a parent’s or guardian’s sexual orientation, preventing a child from exhibiting gender identity, denial of access to public services, and exposing an LGBTQIA member’s sexual orientation without prior consent.

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Photo from the Twitter account of Sen. Imee Marcos

Neophyte senator Imee R. Marcos wants to expand the list of punishable acts of discrimination committed against members of the LGBTQIA community as stipulated in Senate Bill 412, which also prescribes measures to preempt such acts.

Marcos has said that the incident of Gretchen Diez, a transgender woman handcuffed by the police after attempting to use a women’s toilet in Quezon City, was “a blatant act of discrimination that defies Quezon City’s Gender-Fair Ordinance and makes me livid.”

So Marcos wants for the “harassment of LGBTQIA members by law enforcers to be a punishable offense in the Senate bill”, just as she wants to prescribe gender-neutral toilets, similar to those specially assigned for persons with disabilities, to protect transgender women in particular from public humiliation.

Diez recently made the news because of her ordeal while trying to access the female toilet in Farmers Plaza, a mall in Cubao, Quezon City. But Diez, who has been in the limelight following her experience and not because of her involvement in LGBTQIA advocacy, now fashions herself as the sole representative of the local LGBTQIA community/as the “face of the LGBT movement”.

The veracity of Diez’s narrative is now also put in question.

Among the other punishable offenses against LGBTQIA people that Marcos added to those in previous bills are the refusal to admit a child in school due to a parent’s or guardian’s sexual orientation, preventing a child from exhibiting gender identity, denial of access to public services including military service, and exposing an LGBTQIA member’s sexual orientation without prior consent.

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Among the other punishable offenses against LGBTQIA people that Marcos added to those in previous bills are the refusal to admit a child in school due to a parent’s or guardian’s sexual orientation, preventing a child from exhibiting gender identity, denial of access to public services including military service, and exposing an LGBTQIA member’s sexual orientation without prior consent.

If found guilty, offenders must pay a fine of not less than Php100,000 or face one to six years in jail.

“We must establish the equal footing of LGBT members as Filipino citizens and as human beings,” Marcos said. “LGBT members deserve the fullest measure of participation in society.”

As FYI, Marcos is the daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. Ousted in 1986, the Marcos family is said to have stolen from $5 billion to $10 billion from the coffers of the country, based on documents provided by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). Also, under the Marcos presidency, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines has recorded: 2,668 incidents of arrests, 398 disappearances, 1,338 salvagings, 128 frustrated salvagings and 1,499 killed or wounded in massacres. Meanwhile, Amnesty International reported: 70,000 imprisoned, 34,000 tortured and 3,240 documented as killed.

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‘Patuloy na itaguyod ang SOGIE Equality Bill’ – LGBTQIA activists

Though there are still politicians who refuse to see the merits to pass #SOGIEEqualityNow, #LGBT Filipinos are taking this as a challenge to keep pushing for a national policy that will protect the rights of all no matter their SOGIESC.

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As far as the equal protection of LGBTQIA Filipinos are concerned, “may mga gaps talaga (there are really gaps in the laws of the land),” said Anastacio Marasigan, executive director of TLF SHARE Collective Inc. “Kailangan ng SOGIE lens sa mga batas natin; yun ang nawawala sa current laws natin (Our laws need to use SOGIE lens/awareness; this is what’s not present in our current laws).”

Marasigan stressed that this SOGIE focus that is needed may best come in the form of the SOGIE Equality Bill, the current iteration of the anti-discrimination bill that has been pending in Congress for 19 years now.

Marasigan’s call was also made following the continuing confusion – and retaliation, for that matter – with passing the SOGIE Equality Bill.

At the Senate hearing on the SOGIE Equality Bill on August 20, Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa said that “you can’t just consider one portion of the society.”

Dela Rosa’s biggest concern, for instance, revolves around providing trans people access to toilets befitting their gender identity (not their assigned sex at birth).

“What if isang lalaking manyak magsuot ng pambabae at papasok sa CR ng babae (What if a heterosexual male who is a sex predator/maniac dresses up as a woman and enters the female toilet)?” Dela Rosa asked.

Dela Rosa’s comments were also triggered by the incident involving Gretchen Diez, who recently made the news because of her ordeal while trying to access the female toilet in Farmers Plaza, a mall in Cubao, Quezon City.

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Incidentally, Diez, who has been in the limelight following her experience and not because of her involvement in LGBTQIA advocacy, now fashions herself as the sole representative of the local LGBTQIA community, claiming to be the “face of the LGBT movement.”

The new senator stressed that “this is not an attack on your group (the LGBTQIA community).” But that this is a concern of “totoong babae (real women)” (sic), he added, referring to those who were assigned female at birth.

For TLF SHARE Collective’s Marasigan, “we are not expecting that the SOGIE Equality Bill will be passed smoothly,” he said. “There will be questions, there will be challenges; those will be part of the process.” The bigger challenge is “for us advocates to see to it that the version (of the bill) that we like will be the one that will become a law.”

From her end, Naomi Fontanos, executive director of GANDA Filipinas Inc., noted that there are those who say that there are already existing laws that could serve the intent of the SOGIE Equality Bill.

But Fontanos said that “wala pang batas na nagpoprotekta sa mga LGBTQIA Filipinos sa diskriminasyon at karahasan base sa kanilang SOGIESC. Kailangang malinaw na sinasabi ito ng isang batas na hindi tama mag-diskrimina at mag-abuso ng mga Pilipinong LGBTQIA dahil sa kanilang SOGIESC (there is currently no law protecting LGBTQIA Filipinos from discrimination and violence committed against them based on their SOGIESC. This has to be specifically stipulated in a law, that it is not right to discriminate and abuse LGBTQIA Filipinos solely because of their SOGIESC).”

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Sen. Rosa Hontiveros, sponsor of one of the ADBs filed in the Senate now, said that “halos 20 taon na na ang SOGIE Equality Bill ay sinusulong sa Congress (the SOGIE Equality Bill has been getting pushed in Congress for almost 20 years now).”

And yet, she added that even if discriminatory acts reach the hears of politicians, the bill continues not to be a priority.

Hindi puwedeng hanggang pasensiya na lang (It’s not enough for us to say ‘bear with us’ before acting on the SOGIE Equality Bill),” Hontiveros said.

And so “kailangan ipagpatuloy natin ang pagtataguyod para maging isang batas ang SOGIE Equality Bill (we need to continue pushing until the SOGIE Equality Bill finally becomes a law),” Fontanos ended.

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Sen. Pimentel questions need for anti-discrimination bill, pans emphasis on Diez as face of ADB

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III questioned the need to pass the SOGIE Equality Bill, the latest iteration of the anti-discrimination bill in the Senate, particularly if acts of discrimination committed against members of the LGBTQIA community are actually “already covered” under present laws.

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Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III questioned the need to pass the SOGIE (sexual orientation and gender identity and expression) Equality Bill, the latest iteration of the anti-discrimination bill in the Senate, saying that some acts of discrimination committed against members of the LGBTQIA community are actually “already covered” under present laws.

During the August 20 hearing of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality, Pimentel expressed the need to specify what the SOGIE Equality Bill will really address.

Ang dapat nating sagutin talaga is, ano ang maitutulong ng SOGIE (Equality) Bill para mawala o ma-address ‘yung mga na-share na karanasan ng discrimination? Kasi marami nang nagsasabi na ang pakiramdam, punishable na rin naman sila ngayon by set of laws (What we need to answer is, how can the SOGIE Equality Bill help to remove or address the experiences of discrimination that were shared? Because some said that it feels like these are punishable by existing set of laws),” Pimentel said.

For instance, some of the discriminatory acts faced by members of the LGBTQIA community may already be covered by Republic Act No. 11313 or the Safe Spaces Act, which prevents various forms of sexual harassment and use of words or gestures that ridicule on the basis of sex, gender, or sexual orientation, among others acts.

Pimentel stressed the need for the identification of discriminatory acts done against LGBTQIA people in the SOGIE Equality Bill, instead of waiting for the implementing rules and regulations t identify the same, as this will avoid confusion.

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Klaruhin natin ‘yan. Otherwise there will be no need for SOGIE bill dahil ang lalabas, may confusion pa (Let’s clarify that. Otherwise there will be no need for a SOGIE Equality Bill as it will just confuse/obfuscate),” Pimentel said.

During the same hearing, Pimentel also panned the use of the case of Gretchen Diez to push for the passage of the ADB.

On August 13, Diez – a trans woman – attempted to use the female toilet of Farmer’s Plaza in Cuba, Quezon City. After an altercation with the janittress manning the facility, she was handcuffed and then detained.

After only being in the limelight following her experience and not because of her involvement in LGBTQIA advocacy, Diez now fashions herself as the “face of the LGBT movement.”

“I don’t think that the case of Gretchen (Diez) is a good example of (a discrimination case against LGBTQIA people) to promote this bill,” Pimentel said, adding that “if you conduct a survey, people will be divided.”

For Pimentel, “there would be discrimination if Gretchen (was not) allowed to use any CR.” But this was not the case, since Diez was allowed to use other toilet facilities – e.g. male toilet, and all-gender PWD toilet. It was Diez who refused to do so.

There is a need for “balancing of interests,” Pimentel stressed, particularly if may “umaangal naman na female (there are women who are complaining)”, referring to those who were assigned female at birth and who may express discomfort sharing toilet facilities with transgender women.

For Sen. Koko Pimentel, “there would be discrimination if Gretchen (was not) allowed to use any CR.” But this was not the case, since Diez was allowed to use other toilet facilities – e.g. male toilet, and all-gender PWD toilet. It was Diez who refused to do so.

Various LGBTQIA activists have repeatedly stressed that the discrimination experienced by members of the LGBTQIA community in the Philippines go beyond the issue raised in the Gretchen Diez debacle.

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Still during the Senate committee hearing, mentioned was a survey conducted by Rainbow Rights Project Inc. (R-Rights) with Metro Manila Pride Inc. from 2017 to 2019, with the results showing that 51% of 400 LGBTQIA community members surveyed claiming that they experienced discrimination in public schools, 31% in the streets, and 28% in private schools.

In the 17th Congress, the House of Representatives passed the SOGIE bill on third and final reading but its counterpart measure languished in the Senate and did not even make it past second reading. Now, in the 18th Congress, three senators filed their own versions of the SOGIE Equality Bill in the Upper House: Sen. Risa Hontiveros, Sen. Imee Marcos and Sen. Francis Pangilinan.

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‘Bato’ dela Rosa backs same-sex marriage; still can’t detach trans people from sexual misconduct in toilets

Neophyte Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa expressed his support for same-sex marriage, even as his supposedly pro-LGBTQIA support is softened by his continuing stance on not allowing people to use toilets based on their gender identity.

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Neophyte Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa expressed his support for same-sex marriage, making his position on the issue known during a Senate hearing on the proposed anti-discrimination bill (ADB).

“I’d like to manifest na ako po (that me), I’m on your side,” dela Rosa said, addressing members of the LGBTQIA community. “Ako nga (Me), I’m advocating, kung pwede magpakasal kayo parehong lalaki, parehong babae, okay lang sa akin, walang problema. Magsama kayo, magpakasal, walang problema sa akin (If two men, two women want to get married, that’s fine by me, that’s not a problem for me. If you want to live together, if you want to marry each other, that’s a non-issue for me).”

Only last May, Dela Rosa said he is still torn on proposals for recognizing same-sex marriage in the country.

But Dela Rosa’s supposedly new pro-LGBTQIA support is softened by his continuing stance on not allowing people to use toilets based on their gender identity. It may be true/documented that there are no recorded cases of any transgender woman harassing another woman inside a toilet, the former head of the Philippine National Police (PNP) raised the possibility of it happening in the future.

“You can’t detach me from my wild imagination being a retired police officer,” Dela Rosa said. “Pag in-allow kasi natin yan… hindi naman kailangang you just consider one portion of the society, kung hindi lahat i-consider mo yung mga maapektuhan na grupo din like yung totoong babae din (If we allow that…. we’d end up just giving in to the needs of one sector of the society, and yet we should also consider the other affected sectors, such as ‘real women’). Are our sisters and daughter safe in those bathroom?”

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By way of explanation, Dela Rosa said he asked his own daughter, and she expressed apprehension sharing toilets with a transgender woman.

To offer clarification, Naomi Fontanos, who helms Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas, said she understands the concern of the senator about sexual violence. But Fontanos stressed that sexual violence can happen anywhere, and “they don’t necessarily have to be in the toilets alone.”

GANDA Filipinas is a human rights organization that promotes the dignity and equality of transgender people in the Philippines and beyond

Fontanos added that there are already existing laws against sexual violence in the Philippines.

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Duterte pledges to work with Congress to pass SOGIE Equality Bill; still not considered urgent

Though Pres. Rodrigo Duterte vowed to work with Congress to push for the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill, the bill was still not certified as urgent. And aside from planning to finally formalize the formation of an LGBTQIA commission he earlier pledged, the president is said to be eyeing a national conference – something the LGBTQIA community has already been doing sans government support.

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Courtesy of the Office of Sen. Bong Go

President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to work with Congress to push for the passage of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill that would protect the rights of members of the LGBTQIA community against discrimination.

This came after a meeting with select members of the LGBTQIA community, including Gretchen Diez, a transgender woman who was recently in the news after being barred from entering a female restroom.

As relayed by Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, who organized the meeting, also discussed during the meeting was the possibility of creating a commission for LGBTQIA Filipinos pending the enactment of a SOGIE law.

This is – however – not a new pledge, but a delayed one, with Duterte promising the formation of the same in December 2017.

During the gathering that was also joined by 1st District of Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman, Go also said that the government plans to coordinate with LGBTQIA groups to create a national LGBTQIA convention in September, when advocates from different regions will be represented to raise their concerns and come up with policy proposals to promote and protect their welfare.

It is worth noting that this, too, is not a new solution; in the past, the country’s LGBTQIA community already held such a gathering, with the latest, 4th LGBTQIA National Conference, co-hosted by Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy Inc., Outrage Magazine and Cebu City-based Bisdak Pride Inc. with funding support not from the national government, but from UNDP and the offices of Rep. Roman and Sen. Chiz Escudero, among others.

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In fact, the national gathering’s 2013 iteration, the 3rd LGBT National Conference, produced “Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippines Country Report” in 2014; it was funded by UNDP and USAID. The report – written by Michael David C. Tan – reviewed the legal and social environment faced by LGBTQIA people in the Philippines. By doing so, it already cited many of the issues besetting members of the LGBTQIA community; and the solutions that may be considered for the same.

“The (LGBTQIA) advocates… are looking forward to the passage of a law that will protect them from discrimination before the President’s term ends,” Go said in a statement.

But following the meeting, it was not immediately made clear if Duterte is certifying the SOGIE Equality Bill as urgent.

The SOGIE Equality Bill, re-filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros in the 18th Congress, seeks to penalize discrimination against the LGBT community by a fine of P100,000 to P500,000 or imprisonment of six to 12 years subject to the discretion of the court.

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