While some members of the society are reaping the gains of the Aquino administration, many Filipinos are still excluded because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is the reaction of Dangal Pilipinas, a national network of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders (LGBTs) to President Benigno Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) for 2013, where he stressed that “it feels good to be a Filipino these days”.
“Hindi masarap maging Pinoy kung may diskriminasyon (It is not good to be Filipino when there is discrimination). The ‘daang matuwid (righteous path)’ is paved with stigma and discrimination against LGBTs, and they would negate the achievements of the Aquino government if they continue to be ignored,” said Jonas Bagas, network president and concurrent executive director of TLF Share.
The group blamed stigma and discrimination for the “fast and furious” HIV epidemic in the Philippines, which is mainly affecting men who have sex with men and transgenders.
“One Filipino gets infected with HIV every two hours, and 80% of new cases are among gays, bisexuals and transgenders,” said Ruffa Torregoza of Gayon, an Albay-based LGBT group and member of Dangal Pilipinas. “Because of homophobia and transphobia, MSM and TGs find it difficult to access life-saving HIV services. Even if we increase our HIV prevention programs, the community will not access them due to fears of discrimination and abuse.”
This is why Dangal Pilipinas calls for the government to also focus on the needs of LGBT Filipinos.
Magdalena Robinson, president of Cebu-based COLORS, said that what the LGBT community needs is protection, not discrimination.
And as for Cris Lopera of SHINE SOCCSKARGEN in General Santos City, “it’s about time that we ensure basic fairness and equal protection for LGBTs. Without protection, access to the opportunities being provided by the Aquino administration will not be even. The community will be excluded.”