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Phl records highest number of reported HIV cases since 1984 with over 30 Filipinos infected daily in March

In March 2017, the HIV/ AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines reported 968 new HIV cases, the “highest number of cases ever reported since 1984.” For Bisdak Pride Inc.’s Roxanne Omega Doron, “We should reexamine and reevaluate our national HIV response if it is still relevant,” stressing that “now having 30 cases per day cases means that we need to work more since the data suggest an alarming trend that has, in fact, been going on for years now.”

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Another month to highlight the worsening HIV situation in the Philippines; and how existing efforts continue to be lacking, if not actually failing.

In March 2017, the HIV/ AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) of the Department of Health reported 968 new HIV cases, which is 32% higher compared to the same period in 2016 (735). According to HARP, this was the “highest number of cases ever reported since 1984.”

The first HIV case in the Philippines was reported in 1984. From January 1984 to March 2017, the number of HIV cases reported to HARP totaled 42,283.

“Let’s be blunt: We are not doing enough to deal with the (worsening) HIV situation in the Philippines,” said Michael David dela Cruz Tan, publishing editor of Outrage Magazine, the only LGBT publication in the Philippines, which also has HIV-related efforts. “Enough of the sugarcoating and patting of the backs of those who are currently in the HIV advocacy; we may risk burnout, but we have to do more and act even faster if we want to see all our efforts make a dent at all in this continuously worsening social problem.”

This development is alarming, according to Roxanne Omega Doron, who helms Bisdak Pride Inc., a Cebu City-based LGBT organization that also has HIV-related efforts, including conducting community-based HIV screening (CBS).

“Thirty (people getting infected with HIV) per day is something we need to worry about – economically, socially and even politically,” Doron said. “While HIV incidence is decreasing in a significant majority of countries around the world, ours is increasing. Demographers even call it demographic anomaly, and rightfully so.”

Most (96%) of the 968 new HIV cases reported by HARP were male. The median age was 27 years old; with half belonging to the 25-34 year age group, while 33% were youth aged 15-24 years.

Region-wise, the most number of reported cases were from the National Capital Region (NCR) with 309 (32%) cases, Region 4A with 135 (14%) cases, Region 3 with 107 (11%) cases, Region 7 with 76 (8%) cases, and Region 11 with 52 (5%) cases. An additional 289 cases (30%) came from the rest of the country.

For Fritzie Estoque, chairperson of the Misamis Oriental-Cagayan de Oro AIDS Network (MOCAN), existing efforts continue to be lacking. “No, we are not doing enough,” she said.

For instance, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has D.O. No. 102-10 (HIV Workplace Policy) requiring all private companies to conduct HIV education to all employees and officers, while the Civil Service Commission has Memorandum Circular No. 11 s. 2013 that provided guidelines in the implementation of workplace policy and education program on HIV and AIDS. Now, if only these orders were fully implemented… then by this time, we’d be reaping the benefits that these orders ought to have sown,” Estoque said.

Estoque added that there’s always a gap with “the grand plans, and what’s being implemented.”

DOLE Region 10, where MOCAN is directly involved in the awareness aspect of the implementation – may be certain of the need to implement the ordinance there, but “it seems to us that other companies don’t bother to comply because complying isn’t strictly implemented.”

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MODES OF TRANSMISSION

Reported modes of transmission (MOT) were sexual contact (942), needle sharing among injecting drug users (IDU, 22) and mother-to-child transmission (4). Eighty-seven percent of infections transmitted through sexual contact were among males who have sex with males (MSM).

It is worth noting that from 1984 to 2009, the predominant MOT was male-female sex. But starting 2010, the trend shifted to male-to-male sex as the main MOT; this has continually increased since then, so that from January 2012 to March 2017, 82% (27,709) of new infections were through sexual contact among MSM.

Different regions also have different predominant MOTs. For instance, almost half (47%) of the MSM ever reported were from NCR; almost all of the IDU were from Region 7; and 39% of females who engaged in transactional sex were from Region 3.

Tan already earlier noted the “inevitable pending return to mainstream population of HIV infection”. While the current trend seems to signify that “the Philippine sis mimicking largely (particularly former) Western trends, where HIV infection seemed to have focused particularly on gay men, we will buck this ‘trend’ because MSM do not necessarily only have homosexual sexual contacts. And when they start having sex with women, the risk for infection is also there.”

For Tan, this is worth highlighting because there were instances when Outrage Magazine made rounds in other parts of the country, where there are actually so-called service providers that refuse to offer HIV testing to women, claiming that their ‘priority’ is only to serve MSM. This is true, for instance, in select (and well-funded) community-based HIV screening (CBS) programs that only target MSM, and “even openly refuse to test women who want to know their HIV status.”

“It’s almost like we recognize that many MSM are at risk for HIV infection due to their unsafe sexual practices, and yet we refuse to acknowledge that they have other sexual partners aside from men,” Tan said. “Again, if left sans proper responses, we’re setting the stage for things to just worsen.”

MOCAN’s Estoque also lamented the “over-emphasis on key affected populations (KAP)/key populations (KP), considering that if people are HIV ignorant, then they won’t know that any one can get infected with HIV.”

This is why she’s pushing for better HIV education, instead of “just focusing on voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) and treatment.” “Why not invest in the education aspect as a prevention measure?”

SPECIAL POPULATIONS

Four pregnant women were, in fact, diagnosed with HIV in March, with two cases from NCR, one case was from Region 4B, and another one from Region 7.

Perhaps also worth noting is the encumbrance of HIV among the young.

In March, 315 (33%) cases were among youth aged 15-24 years. Most (96%) were male; and almost all (312) were infected through sexual contact (30 male-female sex, 200 male-male sex, 82 sex with both males and females). Three were infected through needle sharing among IDU.

Under-19 adolescent Filipinos also figured in the March data. Forty-five adolescents aged 10-19 years were reported to HARP, and all of them were infected through sexual contact (three male-female sex, 31 male-male sex, 11 sex with both males and females).

READ:  Under-reporting the HIV problem among non-MSM?

Ninety-five people (or 10% of the total number of cases for the month) who engage in transactional sex – or those who report paying for sex, regularly accept payment for sex, or do both – were infected with HIV. Almost all (98%) were male whose ages ranged from 18 to 64 years; the two females were from 20-31 years old.

It was only in December 2012 when HARP started reporting on those who engaged in transactional sex. And since then, a total of 3,788 cases reported in HARP from were people who engaged in transactional sex. Ninety-six percent (3,625) were male and 4% (163) were female.

NO ONE SHOULD DIE FROM AIDS – YEAH, RIGHT!

Twenty-seven Filipinos dies from AIDS-related complications in March; all of them were male. Eighteen (67%) of the reported deaths belonged to 25-34 year age group, eight (30%) were from 35-49 year old age group, and one case from 15-24 year age group. All were infected through sexual contact (three male-female sex, 16 male-male sex, eight sex with both males and females).

Since 1984, when the first HIV case was reported in the Philippines, a total of 2,124 deaths were already reported. The number is believed to be inaccurate, however, due to under-reporting.

For Tan, “internationally, there’s this notion that no one should die from HIV anymore. “In an ideal world, this is all good. But in a setting like the Philippines, this is also a very naïve perspective.”

In the Philippines, there remain many issues that lead to AIDS-related deaths, e.g.:

  1. Delayed detection (often “blamed” on the PLHIV, with this blaming neglecting that there are still unresolved issues related to stigma and discrimination).
  2. Bureaucratic deterrent to make new approaches the norm (e.g. rollout of well-funded CBS takes years; ignorance of U=U, thus non-inclusion among existing solutions).
  3. Lack of information about HIV and AIDS that often lead to stigma and discrimination (e.g. PLHIVs getting kicked out of their homes after their family members discover their status).
  4. Inability to get tested (e.g. there are fishermen and farmers who have no access to HIV testing facilities; minors who are unable to get tested sans consent from their parents/guardians).
  5. Inconsistent HIV services offered even by government-owned treatment hubs (e.g. viral load is not available in many of treatment hubs outside of Metro Manila).
  6. Mismanagement of available resources (e.g. existing projects allocate for some implementers to stay in posh hotels to hobnob with some well-compensated ‘ambassadors’; while some PLHIVs unable to access ARVs because of inability to pay PhilHealth).

On the latter (i.e. access to life-saving antiretroviral medicines), in March, 784 PLHIVs started on ART. Three of them died within the same month.

Over 19,370 PLHIVs were on ART as of March, most (97%) of them males. The number continues to be less than half the 42,283 number of reported PLHIVs in the Philippines. Ninety-five percent were on first line regimen, 4% were on second line regimen, and 1% were on other regimen.

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Stephen Christian Quilacio, former head of Cagayan de Oro City-based Northern Mindanao AIDS Advocates, believes there’s a “continuing effort to reach out everyone”, adding – somewhat sardonically – that “if we believe we’re doing just fine with whatever we’re doing now, the numbers of Filipinos getting infected should have been dwindling, not increasing.”

ALL HANDS NEEDED

Tan stressed that, “just as we repeatedly say, all efforts that eye to stop the worsening HIV situation in the Philippines matter,” he said. “But we need an urgent and very realistic reassessment of the services we’re currently offering to see what works and what doesn’t; or for that matter, who works and who doesn’t. Remove those that/who aren’t working. Remove politicking and even profiteering in releasing existing funding. Amend the law (RA 8504), and start implementing it. Start implementing (and funding, for that matter) new approaches re HIV (e.g. CBS, U=U, PrEP, PEP). Stop the profiteering happening in the HIV advocacy. Deal with elitism in HIV advocacy (e.g. gaining traction in social networks is all good and well, but reach out to those who do not even have access to the Internet). Reconsideration of how we deal with the sex industry. If we act like it’s business as usual, then we’re f***ed.”

Quilacio seconded this, adding more succinctly the “need to go beyond only the popular approaches to instead put into place those that truly work.” On this end, he advocates the “funding of ‘right’ advocates, not opportunists who are benefiting from the HIV cause. Reaching out to grassroots communities that continue to be neglected by ‘popular’ campaigns that may generate lots of media mileage and funding but are actually very limited. Inclusion of responses to the needs identified by PLHIVs themselves, such as psychosocial support, legal counsel (particularly for those who are discriminated against), and others.”

For Quilacio, “solving problems is always possible. But we can’t just keep talking about solving this issue, yet fail to actually deliver the solutions.”

Bisdak Pride Inc.’s Doron is similarly advocating for prompt reconsideration of efforts. “We should reexamine and reevaluate our national HIV response if it is still relevant,” he said, stressing that “now having 30 cases per day cases means that we need to work more since the data suggest an alarming trend that has, in fact, been going on for years now.”

More specifically for Doron, “the national HIV response should be recalibrated to include various groups, sectors and areas.”

MOCAN’s Estoque hopes for “bigger participation of so many neglected sectors – e.g. religious sector to come up with a ‘genuine Christian response’ in solving the HIV epidemic.” Similarly, she hopes for government to have “ngipin (contextually: political will and will power)” when implementing HIV-related programs – e.g. local AIDS ordinances should be properly implemented, AIDS Councils should be made active, and the Department of Health should go beyond media savvy. “Hindi na sapat ang mga pa-konswelo lang (Consolation efforts no longer suffice),” Estoque ended.

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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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.”

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Photo by daniel james from Unsplash.com

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.

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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.

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“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.

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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 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.”

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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.”

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.”

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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).”

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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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