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Post-Yolanda dialogue held for LGBT communities in Tacloban

As an effort to surface issues encountered by members of LGBT communities in areas affected by super typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), members of the LGBT community in the Visayas gathered for “Boses Bahaghari: A Dialogue Among LGBT Communities in Tacloban”.

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As an effort to surface issues encountered by members of LGBT communities in areas affected by super typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), Oxfam in the Philippines’ Tacloban Resettlement Integrated Programme (TRIP) hosted “Boses Bahaghari: A Dialogue Among LGBT Communities in Tacloban”.

According to UP Prof. Pierce Docena, the event was relevant not only in identifying LGBT-related post-Yolanda issues, particularly to do with rehabilitation efforts; but also because it was an avenue to: raise the level of awareness of key sectors in society on issues of human rights and discrimination as experienced by LGBT people post-Yolanda; and identify plans of action based on these issues and concerns, and as a way of moving forward for LGBT people in Tacloban, especially those living in resettlement sites.

When super typhoon Yolanda hit portions of the Philippines in November 2013, it affected about 11 million people (as per UN figures), killing over 6,000 people (with the numbers varying depending on who’s reporting, as some claim the figures to have reached over 10,000). Billions of dollars of aid were promised; though the amount that reached the beneficiaries continue to be a source of controversy, particularly due to the much-maligned weak response of the past administration of former Philippine Pres. Benigno Aquino III.

Speakers at Boses Bahaghari included Director of the City PopComm Office, Cielito Esquievel; Nina Somera, gender adviser of Oxfam Philippines, who discussed the appropriateness of an intersectionality approach to eradicating poverty; City Councilor Jom Bagulaya, the first openly transwoman elected to public office in the country; Docena, who discussed SOGIE 101; and Henry Abawag, Oxfam Tacloban’s gender and protection officer, who focused on stories of survival and discrimination from LGBT Yolanda survivors.

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Issues raised during the gathering included: concerns of LGBT people in Tacloban about livelihood; water, sanitation and hygiene; disaster risk reduction; governance/participation; and housing and tenure status. As was stressed during the gathering, some of the issues may seem “trivial” to others, but these are relevant to the LGBT community as they touch not only on their being LGBT but how this identity limits their access to services that should be readily available – e.g. LGBT people are usually discriminated when using common restrooms especially in resettlement areas.

The results of the gathering will be consolidated by Oxfam, which will then write a report to be elevated to higher government and non-government authorities for their consideration.

Participants included LGBT members from various resettlement sites in Tacloban, such as those coming from the north (i.e. group called Gender Association of Tacloban for Equal Society or GATES), from San Jose (group called Haiyan), and other LGBT leaders in the city. Also in attendance were senior psychology students of St Scholastica’s College of Tacloban, headed by their department chair, Sr. Rose Ann Leonardo, OSB.

Boses Bahaghari was co-organized by the University of the Philippines Visayas Tacloban College, through Prof. Pierce Docena; UP Iolaus (the recognized organization for UP Tacloban’s LGBT students and their straight allies); and select LGBT Psychology students of UP Tacloban.

Partner organizations included Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK), Philippine Network of Rural Development (PhilNet), the City Government of Tacloban through the City Population Commission & City Council (represented by Councilor Jom Bagulaya), and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

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PHOTOS COURTESY OF JOEL CASTILLEJOS
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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.

Diez declared herself to be 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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Mental health talk series on women, LGBTQ+ slated starting Aug. 23

SPARK! Philippines is organizing a three-part mental health talk series called SPARK! Conversations, to be held on August 23, September 6 and 27 at Commune Cafe + Bar, Makati City.

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Photo by Camila Quintero Franco from Unsplash.com

SPARK! Philippines is organizing a three-part mental health talk series called SPARK! Conversations, to be held on August 23, September 6 and 27 at Commune Cafe + Bar, Makati City.

The mental health talk series is specifically targeted towards women and members of the LGBTQ+ community who have suffered from mental health issues due to social factors such as gender based violence, socioeconomic disadvantage and income inequality. With the passage of the Philippine Mental Health Law, this mental health talk series aims to promote efforts to improve the awareness and encourage discussions on mental health in the Philippines, especially on women and the LGBTQ+ community.

The three-part series of SPARK! Conversations Mental Health Talk Series will focus on the topics of:

  • Single working mothers and the structural disadvantages they tend to experience, such as financial insecurity and lack of social support
  • Supporting the supporter, the struggles that the support system of people who have mental health disorders go through especially in balancing what they can offer to others while also looking after their own needs
  • Members of the LGBTQ+ community and the mental health challenges that they face due to discrimination, societal pressures and stigma that they come across every day

The series is held in partnership with Vanguard Assessments and the Austrian Embassy Manila with the support of J. Amado Araneta Foundation and Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment.

For more information, contact Kassandra Barnes at ktbarnes@sparkphilippines or 09177287961.

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Catriona Gray bats for anti-discrimination law that actually works

Catriona Gray reiterated her support for members of the LGBTQIA community, with an Instagram post that pushed not only for an anti-discrimination law, but one that actually works/is properly implemented.

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Screencap of Catriona's Gray's IG post

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray reiterated her support for members of the LGBTQIA community, with an Instagram post that pushed not only for an anti-discrimination law, but one that actually works/is properly implemented.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B1JxnVEg0A0/

On Tuesday, a transgender woman was prohibited from using the female toilet in Farmer’s Plaza in Cubao, Quezon City. But the trans woman was eventually also handcuffed, and then detained.

For Gray, this “only highlights further… the Philippines’ need for implementation of the #SOGIEEqualityBill.”

Gray added: “LGBTQ+ rights are HUMAN rights – mga karapatang pangkaligtasan at kalayaan mula sa diskriminasyon, karahasan at pagmamalupit batay sa pagkakakilanlan.

But because the unfortunate incident happened in a city with an existing anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO) that supposedly legally prohibits discriminatory acts to be committed against members of the LGBTQIA community, Gray noted that “ibig sabihin, walang saysay ang isang bill na hindi maipatupad sa isang komunidad.

Gray mentioned two recommendations that for her ought to also be considered with the development of any anti-discrimination policy.

First, “‘accessible forms of information for the public such as educational drives, programs and awareness campaigns’; para mas maintindihan natin ang mga pangangailangan ng LGBTQ+ community at para malaman natin ang mga bagay na maaari pa nating magawa bilang mga kaalyado o mga taong may awa sa kapwa.

And second, “a SOGIE workplace policy; para sa lahat ng mga pampublikong tagapaglingkod at mga taong may impluwensiya sa komunidad.”

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Gusto ko ring pagtuunan natin ng pansin ang katotohanang wala dapat makaranas ng anumang uri ng pagpapahiya at pang-aabuso (emotional, physical o sexual), LGBTQ+ man o hindi,” Gray said.

She added that “the whole argument of shifting the blame to the victim for reasons of being trans to justify abuse – is still victim blaming and IS NOT RIGHT. The blame should be on the perpetrators who should be held accountable and corrective actions should be taken… to help prevent future similar incidents from happening. Ang LGBTQ + ay nakikipaglaban para sa kanilang mga karapatan – ang karapatan sa kaligtasan, proteksyon at pagkakapantay-pantay – ay laban din natin.”

Gray has been vocal about her support for the LGBTQIA community in the past. Let June, for instance, she stated that “religion is never an excuse to hate, put down or act indifferent to the suffering of others. I believe God is love, and I will treat everyone – no matter who they are, to best of my ability, with love.”

Despite her outspokenness, however, it is worth noting that when Gray posted about LGBTQIA people in June, it was because of her endorsement of @sanmiglightph (San Miguel Light), an alcoholic drink. Though still not widely discussed particularly in the Philippines, members of the LGBTQIA community are at higher risk for alcoholism (and polysubstance abuse, in general).

Also, last July, Gray backed Manny Pacquiao during his fight against Keith Thurman. The boxer cum senator is infamous for referring to gay people as “mas masahol pa sa hayop (worse than animals).”

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Trans woman handcuffed, detained for using female toilet

Use of toilet befitting their gender identity continues to be a big issue for members of the trans community. If a trans woman uses the male toilet, for instance, she may be harassed/molested; and if she uses the female toilet, apparently she could also be jailed.

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Screencap of a photo provided to the media by the group of Gretchen Custodio Diez

A trans woman, Gretchen Custodio Diez, was handcuffed and then detained late Tuesday after she used the female toilet of a mall in Cuba, Quezon City.

It is worth noting that Quezon City is supposed to be a “Gender Fair City”, with its own anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO) that eyes to prevent discrimination of members of the LGBTQIA community.

Use of toilet befitting their gender identity continues to be a big issue for members of the trans community. If a trans woman uses the male toilet, for instance, she may be harassed/molested; and if a trans woman uses the female toilet, something like this could happen.

In an Instagram post, singer/songwriter and former National Youth Commission (NYC) chairperson Ice Seguerra said that being barred from using a comfort room is one of his biggest fears.

In his post, Sueguerra said: “Honestly, this is one of my biggest fears whenever I’m out. Lalo na pag nasa Arabic countries ako. Pag sa pambabaeng banyo, ilang beses na akong pinalabas. And kung sa panlalaki naman, ang daming tanong, lalo na kung may mga Pinoy.

To avoid an incident like this from happening, Seguerra said that “kapag may ASEAN events akong dinadaluhan nung nagtatrabaho ako sa NYC, hindi ako umiinom ng tubig buong araw kasi natatakot ako mag-banyo. This is a real concern. Na hanggat hindi mo pa narararnasan, isasawalang bahala mo lang. Concern na hindi ko kailanman inisip na pagdadaanan ko rin pala.

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Seguerra also noted that many people may think this is a superficial issue, but “hindi mababaw yung pagtititnginan ka ng mga tao lalo na yung papalabasin ka. Parang kinakain ako ng lupa sa tuwing nangyayari yun and what’s worse is I don’t feel safe. All of these feelings and more, AND NOW THIS… just because gusto lang namin magbanyo.”

In a statement posted on her Facebook page, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte stated:

Nakatutok ako sa kaso ni Gretchen Custodio Diez, isang transwoman, na umano’y sapilitang pinalabas sa isang comfort room para sa mga babae ng Farmers Plaza at dinala sa QC Police District 7.

“We condemn this kind of discrimination towards members of the LGBT+ community. Ang Quezon City ay ang unang lungsod na may Gender Fair Ordinance upang protektahan ang karapatan ng mga miyembro ng LGBT+. Sa batas na ito, ipinagbabawal ng lungsod ang lahat ng uri ng diskriminasyon, at binibigyan ng proteksyon at paggalang ang dignidad at karapatang-pantao ng lahat, lalung-lalo na ang LGBT+.

Malinaw na hindi sumusunod ang Farmers Mall sa nasabing ordinansa kung saan lahat ng government offices, private, at commercial establishments ay dapat magtalaga ng ‘All-Gender Toilets’ para sa lahat (Section 5: Affirmative Acts, 1 Affirmative Acts in Employment, Part D).

Ipinag-utos ko sa Business Permit and Licensing Department (BPLD) na siguraduhin na susunod, sa lalong madaling panahon, ang lahat ng business establishments sa ating Gender Fair Ordinance.

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“We assure the members of the LGBT+ community that Quezon City will always protect their rights and be a home for their sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression. We do not support any kind of violence and discrimination in our city. Sa ating LGBT+ community, protektado ang karapatan ninyo sa QC.”

Image may contain: 6 people, people sitting and text

The legal team of Diez is still considering what steps to take, considering that the mall ended up as the complainant against her even if she did not violate anything.

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