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Op-Ed

R.A 11166: Anong wala sa iyo na sana meron kami?

With the IRR of the new RA 11166 being drafted, Posit Bo recommends developing an implementing policy that will actually benefit the PLHIV community instead of just pretending to do so.

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Photo by Valentin Salja from Unsplash.com

#HIVPOLICYBATASNA, but it does not end there.

Babala, asawa ni…: The views in this entry are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher, or any affiliated organizations. Samakatuwid, ikinakaila ng lahat ang author! Chos!

On January 9, 2019, the President signed the “Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy act (HIV POLICY).” Like all other laws passed by Congress and signed by the President, the HIV policy must have an Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).

HIV and AIDS Policy Act signed into law

Under Sec. 54 of R.A. 11166, it states that PNAC (the council from R.A. 8504 by holdover capacity) SHALL promulgate the necessary IRR within 90 days from effectivity of the law.

Under this provision, the law makes a directive to create an IRR within 90 days but not mandatorily within that period. Note that the manner of the legislators crafting the provision lacked a mandatory term like “SHOULD” before the phrase  “WITHIN 90 DAYS.”

Ano daw? Kung di naintindihan, pabayaan na. Next!

I personally don’t see the need to rush in creating an IRR that’s half-baked due to time constraints. This is a crucial and integral part of the HIV policy.

The IRR of our laws must consists of detailed necessary guidelines not found in the principal law. In essence, therefore, an IRR must indicate requirements, qualifications, periods, and clarificatory provisions of ambiguously worded provisions of the law. If certain guidelines are not reflected on the principal law nor IRR, it becomes vulnerable to a question of law, which may only be judicially resolved. This is what an IRR seeks to prevent.

Department Orders (DO), Manual of Procedures (MOP), and other documents of the same nature do not have the same force and effect as the principal law nor IRR. Prudence would dictate that between now and the time of release of the IRR of the HIV policy, stakeholders must cautiously plan what and what not to include in the IRR. Otherwise, we’ll encounter a number of deadlocks not curable by mere issuance of DO or MOP, as legislation is within the jurisdiction of the legislative and questions of law is within the jurisdiction of the judiciary.

So, beshies, kalma, huwag madaliin. As my former professor would often say: “Basahin. Intindihin. Ulitin.” Eh ‘yun inulit ko nga subject ko sa kaniya.

I) ON THE DEFINITION OF TERMS:
#HIVPOLICYBATASNA but what more can be done?

Oo, madami akong issues sa buhay, kasi may kakulangan sa pakahulugan.

Sec. 3(d) of R.A. 11166 defines Civil Society Organization (CSO). Unfortunately, the definition is not clearly in consonance to the Corporation Code that is the governing law for CSOs, as non-stock non-profit corporations. CSOs under the Corporation Code are not merely considered as organizations but a corporation. 

Sec. 19 of Corporation Code provides that: a corporation (CSO) acquires legal capacity to act as such only upon the issuance of certificate of incorporation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In the case of Cagayan Fishing Dev’t v. Sandiko (65 PHIL 233), the Court held that Cagayan Fishing Dev’t. Corporation was not a legal entity nor did it posses juridical capacity to act absent the issuance of certificate of incorporation by SEC.

Five minutes break. Tissue muna, beshie. . .Okay, ano daw? So eto na nga…

In the absence of a clear qualification of CSOs under R.A. 11166, the IRR must distinctly provide the criterion for CSOs applying for PNAC Membership under Sec. 6, par 13 – 21, of R.A. 11166 must comply in accordance with the Corporation Code; otherwise, non-compliant CSOs must be denied application for membership n PNAC absent juridical capacity to act.

Sa madaling sabi, mainam talaga na para magkaroon ng kahulugan, lagyan ng LABEL YAN! Bago mapakanta ng “best thing I never had.”

II) #HIVPOLICYBATASNA but PNAC should say ‘not even a whiff of corruption’:
ON REPRESENTATIVES OF CSO PNAC MEMBERS

“Hi! Do you remember me? I’m the senator who died, but I came back to life.” –Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago

Under Sec. 6 of R.A. 11166, CSO PNAC Members are entitled to have representatives in the Council, as sitting member. However, the law is silent as to the qualifications of the CSO representatives being a sitting member of PNAC, a government corporation created by special law.

I am strongly advocating that a minimum requirement for representatives of CSO PNAC as sitting members of a government corporation must come with qualifications that should be provided on the IRR. Absences of qualification will raise a valid question of law grounded on their legal capacity or competence to act for and on behalf of the CSO they duly represent. Unless, the legislation is intended to keep this open for more clientele in the legal profession. Panalo ang mga abogado!

A minimum requirement would set the tone that these representatives are not capable of being involved in any criminal offenses in relation to their office and that of PNAC, to wit:

  • Malversation of Public Funds Art. 217 of the Revised Penal Code;
  • Violation of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act;
  • Violation of the provisions of HIV Law or any other law realted thereto.
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If only the legislation of HIV policy was precisely worded, I would not question: “who are qualified representatives of the CSO PNAC members?” The hope to determine this matter depends upon the stakeholders and legal consultants drafting the IRR.

Absence of a minimum requirement that clearly establishes LEGAL CAPACITY COMPETENCE free from whiff of corruption must be meted out on the IRR; otherwise, it’s a missed opportunity to clear an ambiguity on the HIV policy.

I was once asked: “what could be the measure of integrity or character” as a prerequisite to becoming a representative of CSOs PNAC member, the law provides for the measure but it must be appropriately appreciated; otherwise, failure to appropriately apply it on HIV policy, PNAC becomes a sitting duck.

If I were to put a measure of integrity on the IRR, it could be stipulated in this manner:

A representative of CSO PNAC members must not have been convicted, in the past # years for the following crimes or offenses:

Malversation of Public Funds with an attached penalty of Civil Interdiction as defined under Art. 34 of the Revised Penal Code in relation to Art. 38 of the New Civil Code;

Violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act;

Violation of the HIV Policy and related laws thereto.

And during their term of office as representative for CSO PNAC Member must not be charged of the crimes as above-mentioned, in addition thereto:

Estafa or Swindling under ART. 315 of the RPC; Bribery under Art. 210 of the RPC; Violation of BP 22; and Violation of Anti-Money Laundering Law.”

All of the abovementioned crimes are in relation to monetary transactions. Considering that PNAC as a government corporation under the new law has its own SEPARATE BUDGET under GAA.

Yes, mga besh, ang tamang attitude: “A whiff of corruption makes me sick.” Sa isip, puso, gawa, at di lang puro SALITA, di ba TATAY DIGS?

I would not want a sitting member previously convicted of any of those crimes become a member of PNAC as it would be a mockery of the legality pertaining to my OWN community. In the words of the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago: “We should have ‘moral’ excellence. Dapat ibinoboto natin, walang bahid sa kaniyang record.” #NotAWhiffOfCorruption

Mga mumsch, dun na tayo sa moral excellence, mahirap na, balikan niyo prefaratory ko. Baka mabuhay ang patay. Kayo rin?

III) #HIVPOLICYBATASNA but who are the members of PNAC?:
ON LIST OF PNAC MEMBERSHIP

Paramihan interpretasyon, ang maubusan, uwi na lang luhaan! 

Under Sec. 6 of R.A. 11166, it provides that: “The following agencies and CSOs shall be represented in the PNAC xxx” or “Ang mga sumusunod na sangay at CSOs ay magkakaroon ng katawan sa PNAC”

HIV policy failed to clearly state under this provision it’s intent to specify with exclusivity that this is the list PNAC membership. I would have rather stated it as: “THE PNAC shall only be composed of the following agencies and CSOs as members.Specific. Exclusive. Direct

(Note. The term ‘composed’ and ‘represented’ are two different terms, as used. Please see above statements of the law and suggestion.)

Assuming arguendo,that this provision provides the composition of PNAC membership regardless of how it was stated, it is still ambiguous as to exclusivity of enumeration. The law uses the term “shall” without any exclusionary term being added. In Auction In Malinta INC. v. Warren Embes Luyaben, GR NO. 173979, the Court held that: “It must be shown that the stipulation is EXCLUSIVE. In the absence of qualifying or restrictive words such as ‘EXCLUSIVELY xxx SHALL ONLY xxx the stipulation is deemed merely an agreement xxx not as a limit.”

AMP! Sobra na, indefinite break…Balik kung kailan niyo gusto….

While it is true that ‘shall’ connotes mandatory character of a statute; this, however, is not an absolute rule in statutory construction of laws. In Gachon & Guevarra v. Hon. Devera, etc., et al., G.R. No. 116695, the Court held that: “The import of the word ultimately depends upon the consideration of the entire provision, its nature, object, and consequences that would follow from construing it one way or another.” 

Thus, the interpretation of the HIV policy is wanting of a clear stipulation as to PNAC membership under Sec. 6 but what it provides are those agencies who have definite representation in PNAC but not necessarily members of PNAC. (Note: The term ‘composed’ and ‘represented’ are two different terms)

Again, there’s today until the release of the IRR to cure the ambiguities in the principal law.

It’s not you, it’s me; kasi, umuwi akong sugatan, duguan, at yun na nga luhaan. Di naman naubusan, di lang nagka-unawaan. 

IV) #HIVPOLICYBATASNA echoing human rights in the absence of CHR Representation in PNAC:
ON PNAC AND HUMAN RIGHTS PROVISION

Tara! Laro tayo! Taguan…taguan ng kinatawan! Hindi ako anti-CHR nor Presidential fan/follower pero beshties, napa hashtag talaga akong #NasaanKaCHR.

Under Sec. 2 par. 3 of R.A. 11166, the law proudly introduces human rights as an integral part of the HIV Policy, as it states: “The state shall respect, protect, and PROMOTE HUMAN RIGHTS as the cornerstones of an effective response to the country’s HIV and AIDS situation.”

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In Art. 8 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, it provides the right to an effective remedy by competent ‘NATIONAL TRIBUNAL’ for acts violating fundamental rights granted by the Constitution or Law.

Eh anong pakialam niyo sa United Nations Avenue, Malate, Manila?

This generally accepted principle of international law is applicable in our country by virtue of the Doctrine of Incorporation under Sec. 2, Art. II of the 1987 Constitution.

AHHH Parte siya ng Pilipinas. Oh eh ano naman kung parte siya ng Pilipinas?

The importance of the provision fleshed out on the United Nations Declaration of human Rights is highlighted by the term “NATIONAL TRIBUNAL’, through R.A. 11166 a law reconstituting the PNAC could act not as a tribunal but rather the KEY ORGANIZATION to provide immediate and necessary legal action and aid concerning HUMAN RIGHTS in relation to HIV and AIDS through appropriate representation of legal consultants from the Commission on Human Rights with guidance of representatives of CSO PNAC Members as to advocacy aspect.

While it is also true that under Sec. 10 of R.A. 11166, it mentions protection of human rights through PNAC’s COLLABORATION with DOJ and CHR. Collaboration as a term for purposes of advancing human rights in implementation of HIV policy is not the most sustainable action in respecting, protecting, and PROMOTING HUMAN RIGHTS.

Ahh! Kailangan ng specific address kasi di madedeliver ang deliverables pag wala un specific number ng street?

A mere collaboration without a clear mandate imposed against DOJ and CHR in their participation through ‘representation’ in PNAC is  ‘weaker than weak.’

I understand that DOJ was a member of PNAC under the old HIV Law of 1998 (R.A. 8504), it might have few occasions of missing the PNAC meetings; but, our government being as it is, remains – complacent.

Eliminating DOJ’s ‘representation’ in PNAC does not necessarily resolve the problem at hand but it further causes a problem. Collaboration is a discretionary function of DOJ AND CHR under the HIV policy, therefore, there may or maybe no collaboration.

What do we do now in the absence or failure of collaboration between DOJ, CHR, and PNAC? The HIV POLICY says. . . *birds chirping*

If they fail to comply to their mandate perhaps in the IRR, a mechanism to sanction negligence of agencies with representation in PNAC must be included; but this cannot be done with the status quo,  if collaboration is retained without them being included in the representation in PNAC, as there’s no clear accountability for refusal or failure under the HIV policy. Collaboration denotes discretion, absent compelling term for it to qualify as mandatory in order to raise a legal cause of action that falls within the ambit of jurisdiction of the courts.

It is important to note DOJ’s collaboration with PNAC being discretionary in nature on the argument that they may be compelled to act upon such collaboration. Applying the doctrine of qualified political agency, DOJ as an executive organization is an agent of the Chief Executive. Therefore, they may not be compelled to perform discretionary function through judicial action. In the case of Pimentel v. Executive Secretary, G.R. NO. 158088, the Court held that: “The court has no jurisdiction to enjoin the President in the performance of his official or discretionary duties.” 

While, CHR’s exclusion to a representation in PNAC exemplifies an echo of silence. Art. XIII, Sec. 18 (3) of the 1987 Constitution indicates the function of CHR to provide appropriate legal measures for the promotion of human rights. While it is true that CHR, on its own may act upon human rights violation in relation to HIV Policy, PNAC could have included in its functions a recommendatory power to CHR representation in PNAC (should they be included) Again, PNAC in accordance to UDHR could have establish in the principal law or possibly in the IRR to act as a KEY ORGANIZATION in assisting the PLHIV Community with regards to legal matter affecting their human rights in relation to HIV POLICY.

But there’s still hope until the IRR. Perhaps, if stakeholders and legal consultants would consider the inclusion of either or both DOJ and CHR as agencies that shall be represented in PNAC considering that the ‘representation’ under Sec. 6 of R.A. 11166 does not provide exclusivity as earlier discussed. So as to avoid, #NasaanKaCHR?

Nagsimula ang batasan ng laruan kung tawagin ay taguan ng kinatawan, #NASAANSILA? Sumagot si Gloc-9: “walang natira, nag-abroad sila”

V) #HIVPOLICIYBATASNA and its misinformation:
ON MISINFORMATION AS A PROHIBITED ACT

Ignorantia legis non excusat, pero yong batas mismo inignore ka, SEENZONE, BESHIE!

Under the Sec. 22 of R.A. 11166 entitled “MISINFORMATION ON HIV AND AIDS” the provision includes: misleading advertising and claims in any form of media xxx of the promotional marketing of drugs, xxx without approval from DOH and FDA xxx claiming to be a cure or fail-safe prophylactic for HIV infection shall be prohibited.

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BESHIE ANYARE. Misinformation on HIV and AIDS wer na u, dito na me.”

The law prohibits advertising of cure without DOH and FDA approval. In short “besht, bawal ka na magbenta ng pinakulong talbos ng kamote na gamot sa HIV without DOH and FDA approval.

The law neither sanctions the misleading information on HIV transmission nor prohibits purveyors sharing information of HIV transmissions through the following: watermelon to human transmission, coke to human transmission, at ang iba pang makakamandag na transmissions.

Tuloy ang ligaya ng kamag-anakan natin na nagpapakalat ng mga makakamandag na information drive campaign sa Facebook na may itinusok na HIV+ na dugo sa pakwan, mag-ingat, nakakamatay.

Under Sec. 3 (n)(x) of R.A. 11166, the law made it known to the public by legislative notice on what is HIV and how it is transmitted.

The HIV policy is heading towards an HIV-educated and informed society but is it?

Under our Criminal Law, there is the long standing rule of IGNORANTIA LEGIS NON EXCUSAT or ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance. Furthermore, it recognizes Nullum crimen nulla poena sine lege or THERE IS NO CRIME WHEN THERE IS NO LAW THAT DEFINES OR PUNISHES IT.

In Dunlao Sr. v. CA, (G.R. No. 111342) the court held that: Crimes mala prohibita are acts that are made evil because there is a law prohibiting the same.

While it is true that ignorance of HIV and HIV transmission excuses no one from compliance, saying: “Hala kinain mo yong mansanas na may dugo ng HIV+ mahahawaan ka” will continue to horrify us in the PLHIV community. Though violation or mere ignorance of what’s in the HIV policy is a crime mala prohibita, ignorance or the misinformation of HIV AND HIV TRANSMISSION was not included in the HIV policy. Crimes mala prohibita under our criminal law need not be willful or with intent of wrong being done, mere violation of a prohibited act could be penalized as long as the law penalizes it.

HIV policy could have been the pioneer law in penalizing purveyors of FALSE OR MISINFORMATION; but it couldn’t because the law is more inclined in securing DOH AND FDA approval of cure or prophylactic.

HIV policy missed to specify a deterrent against the very “misinformation on HIV and AIDS” considering the multifarious provision on INFORMATION, EDUCATION, and COMMUNICATION. The misinformation on HIV and AIDS suddenly went missing in the prohibited acts.

As a member of the community, I’m disheartened to read misleading advertisement of drugs without DOH and FDA approval. Naamoy ko yong negosyo ng kapitbahay na inihaw na isaw without DOH approval. #BentaKaKulongKa

I also listed several issues on provisions of Confidentiality under Sec. 44 to 48 of R.A. 11166  and provisions on Discrimination under the Sec. 49  of R.A. 11166 but I’m deciding to keep it confidential as it is not an exception for me not to be discriminated by my own community, where discrimination of ideas is a norm.

Loopholes? Maybe or maybe not.

Too technical? BESHIES, batas ang pinag-uusapan natin hindi lang kemerlot sa kanto. Ganyan talaga yan.

Advocacy over legality? It can be reconciled only if there’s willingness; otherwise, yeah, just shake your heads and say: “huwag na” without hearing what is there to be said. If no reconciliation is met, just leave it to the lawyers who are paid by our government to do their job and let’s just wait for what we deserve.

I welcome the HIV and AIDS Policy Act but we could have made it better. Like all other laws, there’s an imperfection as this was drafted also by humans, just like us. But we can still do better. Not perfect, BUT BETTER. The choice is yours: “Willing ba kayo mga besh?”

I fervently hope that the IRR will be able to tighten the HIV policy and seal its loopholes. Our best opportunity to clearly provide an IRR of the HIV policy is not when the circumstances so demands, but TODAY!

We address the legalities; an airtight HIV policy and IRR is what everyone from the community desires.

As a member of the PLHIV community, I hope that we can build bridges in between gaps of ideologies to resolve a legally sound IRR that reflects both the wisdom of LEGALITY and ADVOCACY. Let us not be constrained by our personal advocacies as this are purely intended as a framework for our laws and the IRR.

Lastly, I appeal to the legal consultants sanctioned to create an IRR that genuinely reflects the sentiments of the community within the legal bounds set by existing laws. Create an IRR of the HIV policy with compassion for the PLHIV community and perhaps not just because you are paid to make the draft.

(Author’s note: I wrote this entry for purposes of self-satisfaction without any intent to belittle the efforts already made and that demanded taxing years from those in the advocacy and in the Congress. I recognized my apparent lack of authority for the time being but in God’s perfect time, I’m willing to share more than what I could for the PLHIV community as an individual but not as a part of any organization nor constrained by my personal convictions and advocacies. Mabuhay ang PLHIV Community! a luta continua vitória é certa!)

Posit Bo was "reborn" on the 9th of February 2015, when - after he was diagnosed to be HIV-positive - he said that "a new life and a new persona was created." But Posit Bo remains positive (pun intended) about his condition, which he now employs in his advocacy to educate, inspire, and motivate persons regardless of their status. "I am here to share not the virus but my story and wisdom about my condition," Posit Bo says. "I am HIV-positive, but I am still loved, hence, I won't quit but will continue living the life I want."

LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

It’s 2020, time to teach teens ‘safe’ sexting

This is not about encouraging sexting behaviors, any more than sex education is about encouraging teens to have sex. It simply recognizes the reality that young people are sexually curious, and some will experiment with various behaviors with or without informed guidance, and sexting is no exception.

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Photo by Cristofer Jeschke from Unsplash.com

Preaching sexual abstinence to youth was popular for a number of decades, but research repeatedly found that such educational messages fell short in their intended goals. Simply telling youth not to have sex failed to delay the initiation of sex, prevent pregnancies, or stop the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. Since the advent of photo- and video-sharing via phones, children have received similar fear-based messages to discourage sexting – the sending or receiving of sexually explicit or sexually suggestive images (photos or video) usually via mobile devices. Unfortunately, messages of sexting abstinence don’t seem to be reducing the prevalence of adolescents sharing nudes.

Consequently, in a new paper published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers from Florida Atlantic University and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, say that it is time to teach youth “safe” sexting.

“The truth is that adolescents have always experimented with their sexuality, and some are now doing so via sexting,” said Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., co-author and a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice within FAU’s College for Design and Social Inquiry, and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. “We need to move beyond abstinence-only, fear-based sexting education or, worse yet, no education at all. Instead, we should give students the knowledge they need to make informed decisions when being intimate with others, something even they acknowledge is needed.”

Hinduja and co-author Justin Patchin, Ph.D., a professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, acknowledge that although participating in sexting is never 100 percent “safe” (just like engaging in sex), empowering youth with strategies to reduce possible resultant harm seems prudent.

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Hinduja and Patchin collected (unpublished) data in April 2019 from a national sample of nearly 5,000 youth between the ages of 12 and 17, and found that 14 percent had sent and 23 percent had received sexually explicit images. These figures represent an increase of 13 percent for sending and 22 percent for receiving from what they previously found in 2016.

The authors do want youth to understand that those who sext open themselves up to possible significant and long-term consequences, such as humiliation, extortion, victimization, school sanction, reputational damage, and even criminal charges. But they also want youth who are going to do it anyway to exercise wisdom and discretion to prevent avoidable fallout.

“This is not about encouraging sexting behaviors, any more than sex education is about encouraging teens to have sex,” said Hinduja. “It simply recognizes the reality that young people are sexually curious, and some will experiment with various behaviors with or without informed guidance, and sexting is no exception.”

Simply telling youth not to have sex failed to delay the initiation of sex, prevent pregnancies, or stop the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases.
Photo by Jack Sharp from Unsplash.com

Hinduja and Patchin provide suggested themes encapsulated in 10 specific, actionable messages that adults can share with adolescents in certain formal or informal contexts after weighing their developmental and sexual maturity.

  1. If someone sends you a sext, do not send it to — or show — anyone else. This could be considered nonconsensual sharing of pornography, and there are laws prohibiting it and which outline serious penalties (especially if the image portrays a minor).
  2. If you send someone a sext, make sure you know and fully trust them. “Catfishing”– where someone sets up a fictitious profile or pretends to be someone else to lure you into a fraudulent romantic relationship (and, often, to send sexts) — happens more often than you think. You can, of course, never really know if they will share it with others or post it online, but do not send photos or video to people you do not know well.
  3. Do not send images to someone who you are not certain would like to see it (make sure you receive textual consent that they are interested). Sending unsolicited explicit images to others could also lead to criminal charges.
  4. Consider boudoir pictures. Boudoir is a genre of photography that involves suggestion rather than explicitness. Instead of nudes, send photos that strategically cover the most private of private parts. They can still be intimate and flirty but lack the obvious nudity that could get you in trouble.
  5. Never include your face. Of course, this is so that images are not immediately identifiable as yours but also because certain social media sites have sophisticated facial recognition algorithms that automatically tag you in any pictures you would want to stay private.
  6. Make sure the images do not include tattoos, birthmarks, scars, or other features that could connect them to you. In addition, remove all jewelry before sharing. Also, consider your surroundings. Bedroom pictures could, for example, include wall art or furniture that others recognize.
  7. Turn your device’s location services off for all of your social media apps, make sure your photos are not automatically tagged with your location or username, and delete any meta-data digitally attached to the image.
  8. If you are being pressured or threatened to send nude photos, collect evidence when possible. Having digital evidence (such as screenshots of text messages) of any maliciousness or threats of sextortion will help law enforcement in their investigation and prosecution (if necessary) and social media sites in their flagging and deletion of accounts.
  9. Use apps that provide the capability for sent images to be automatically and securely deleted after a certain amount of time. You can never guarantee that a screenshot was not taken, nor that another device was not used to capture the image without you being notified, but using specialized apps can decrease the chance of distribution.
  10. Be sure to promptly delete any explicit photos or videos from your device. This applies to images you take of yourself and images received from someone else. Having images stored on your device increases the likelihood that someone — a parent, the police, a hacker — will find them. Possessing nude images of minors may have criminal implications. In 2015, for example, a North Carolina teen was charged with possessing child pornography, although the image on his phone was of himself.
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Literary Pieces

Posteng Bato

Elmo Ellezo writes about the apathy of those who have more in life, even if – by choosing to lend a hand – they can help effect changes in other people’s lives.

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Ni Elmo Ellezo

May mga taong umangat lang sa buhay,
parang naging katulad ng bahay na bato ang puso.
Kasing tigas at wala ng pakiramdam sa iba.

Parang bato,
posteng bato na naghihiwalay sa kanilang sa sarili
sa reyalidad ng malawak na mundo.
Bingi sa mga ingay sa labas.
Binulag ng mga bakod at posteng bato,
ayaw tumanaw sa kabilang bahagi ng mundo.

Gwardyado, akala moy kaaway ang mundo,
Ayaw makibahagi oh umambag sa mga walang laman ang kaldero
Ayaw makipagkapwa tao.
Naka-kandado pati ang kanilang mga puso.

Tanging paraan na silay mamulat ay delubyo.
Kapag tinumbahan na ng mga posteng bato.
Kapag binaha na katulad ng mga nakatira sa estero.
Kapag nagutom, namatayan na katulad ng mga ordinaryong tao.

Anong klaseng mundo ang nililikha nitong mga posteng bato.
Mga kaaway ang mahihirap at walang tiwala sa kapwa tao.
Makasariling pag uugali at walang pakialam sa mundo.

Sana maibalik ang aking pagkabata.
Walang mga poste at bakod na naghihiwalay sa sinasabi kong kapwa.
Kung saan ang daigdig ay pinagsasaluhan ng lahat.
May pagkakaugnay ugnay, tiwala at pakikipag kapwa.

Munti kong panalangin ay mawasak ang mga posteng bato.
Mga posteng batong isinasara ng bakal at mga kandado.
Mga posteng batong nagpapamanhid sa kalagayan ng dumadaing na mundo.
Ang posteng batong naglilikha ng taong bato ang puso.

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Op-Ed

Being LGBTQ+ means nothing

Being unaware of and deviant from what that community is intentionally fighting for clearly does not make us a part of it. We have to realize that our identity does not really matter as much as what we actually say, do or stand for.

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Unsplash.com

We’ve heard it all before — a woman who still espouses misogyny, Filipinos who can be insulting towards their own skin color, a devout Christian who has little knowledge about the Bible and the history of Christianity, a gay person who is against the rights of other LGBTQ+ folks. These seemingly self-contradictories show that our identity is nothing but superficiality.

Our identity does not hold the substance of what we’re all about.

Having a certain identity does not follow that we know all there is to understand about it.

More importantly, it does not immediately give us the authority or credibility to speak on behalf of a larger group we supposedly belong to. Otherwise, we only cause much harm and misinformation.

What does a community mean? Fumbling through the dictionary, we would find similar definitions that basically sum up as “a group of people sharing a commonality of interests, attitudes, characteristics, values, goals – even history – and living in a particular location or within a greater area”. Applying this to the so-called LGBTQ+ community, since LGBTQ+ persons obviously do not live in the same quarters or have exactly the same lived experiences (hence the need for the acronym with a plus sign), we need to take only the spirit of the word — that is, a community is a social state of more than skin-deep commonality.

People who label themselves as LGBTQ’s do not see the whole picture if they go against equality and the principle that human rights must be bestowed to all regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, physical appearance and so forth. Such people who proclaim they are “part of the LGBTQ+ community but…” are merely disruptive tumors. They are not part of the community but only a part of the problem, which is compounded by ignorance, indifference, hate and discrimination.

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So before we open our mouths and ascribe to some sort of community or identity, let’s be truly certain first that we know what it’s all about. Being unaware of and deviant from what that community is intentionally fighting for clearly does not make us a part of it. We have to realize that our identity does not really matter as much as what we actually say, do or stand for.

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Literary Pieces

Babae. Lesbiyana.

“Babae po ako. Ngunit babae rin ang gusto ko. Pang-lalake man ang kilos at anyo. Sa babae pa rin naman ako nagbabanyo.”

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Photo by Chris Johnson from Unsplash.com

By Chris Salvatierra

Pilit kong iniisip
Kung inisip ko at pinilit
Kung nagbago ba ang ihip
Ng hangin noong ako’y isang paslit

Ang paghanga sa kapwa babae
Ang kilos, lakad at pananalita
Na animo’y lalake
Na nagsimula noong ako’y bata

Tinanong ako kung ako ba’y humanga
Sa mga guwapo at pogi
At ang sagot ko’y oo nga
Pagtangi ay sa babae lagi

Ni minsa’y hindi kinilig
Kahit na noong panahong
Maliit pa ang mga bisig
Suot ay bestida at hindi lontang maong

Matagal na proseso
Matagal na nilihim
Hindi umasenso
Dahil sa sariling paninimdim

Hanggang ako’y namulat
At seryosong nagkagusto
At sinimulang isulat
Nilahad, ipinusta pati pamato

Wala naman kasing nagturo
Naramdaman na lang
Tapos para akong tuliro
Noong ako’y pitong taong gulang

Kaibigan ko siya
Sa ikalawang baitang
Kapag kasama’y masaya
Kapag naka-akbay ay lutang

Marami nang napusuan
Panahon na ang lumipas
Gusto’y babae pa rin naman
Sa pagkatorpe’y walang kupas

Madalas sakin ay tinatanong
Kahit hanggang opisina
Siguro sila’y hilong talilong
Kung Ma’am o Sir ang itatawag twina

Babae po ako
Ngunit babae rin ang gusto ko
Pang-lalake man ang kilos at anyo
Sa babae pa rin naman ako nagbabanyo

Lesbiyana kung ako’y tawagin
Tomboy sa kanto namin
Ate sa kapatid ko
Tita sa mga pamangkin ko

Eto ang aking SOGIE
Lesbiyana – Sexual Orientation
Babae – Gender Identity
Butch/masculine – Gender Expression

Hindi napipilit ang puso
Kusang tumitibok sa ritmo
Hindi ito parang damit na nakiki-uso
Hindi sinisino kahit amo

Masarap sanang maging malaya magmahal
Malaya sa mga matang mapanghusga
Malimit pang nasasabihan ng hangal
Madalas pang tumanggap ng pang-aalipusta

Pantay-pantay na karapatan
Dinggin sana ang aming hiling
Hindi espesyal ang aming panawagan
Sugat ng diskriminasyo’y laging nasasaling

Lungkot ay aking ramdam
Kapag hindi niyo maintidihan
Sana hindi niyo maranasan
Ang araw-araw naming pinagdadaanan

Kapag maganda o guwapo sa paningin
Sayang ang palaging sinasabi sa amin
Pero bakit sayang ang sasabihin?
Ano bang nasayang sa amin?

Isa po akong babae
Mahigit apat na pung taong gulang na
Mukha lang pong lalake
Isa pong lesbiyana

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Op-Ed

Salvation our God is extending

“With a SOGIE Law enforced, the sensibilities of some (they cannot claim to represent the majority) will be offended as has happened in legislation on women’s rights. But the tradeoff will be LGBTQ+ individuals participating more meaningfully in national development. The Philippines would foster a culture of nonviolence, and I think God would be smiling down on us.”

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By Koko Alviar

The SOGIE Equality Bill is not against religious freedom. If anything, it will help us recapture the diversity of beliefs in our country.

I am Vaughn Alviar, from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, a liberational Church that has interpreted Scripture in light of facts and God’s commissioning for charity and liberation. The Church coopted me some time in 2015 to help the Supreme Council of Bishops articulate a statement that wanted to affirm LGBTIQ+ individuals, “Our Common Humanity, Our Shared Dignity.” It was approved in February 7, 2017.

Incidentally, I am a homosexual cisgender male son of a heterosexual cisgender male priest. I say these belatedly because they have never negatively affected my craft as a writer and my practice as a good Christian, although I will not deny knowledge of my SOGIE has affected the perception of what I am capable of doing.

I am more than my SOGIE; in fact we in the LGBTQ+ community are all more than our SOGIE. Unfortunately, people have seen the physical manifestations of it and felt they could see right through us, judge and discriminate us. My classmates from Day Care in Sanchez Mira, Cagayan, to university in Baguio City had always criticized my being effeminate and emotional, my not being manly. Despite all these, I had the will power to prove my value in my communities and circles. I can’t say the same for many others, whose chances were impaired by abuses far worse than I’ve experienced and who didn’t belong to families that earned well enough to send them to good schools or who disowned them – sometimes because of the faith they profess.

Being LGBTQ+ is a choice, we are told. But, given all the disadvantages laid out before us (per the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, LGBTQ+ people experience more poverty, hunger, joblessness and depression than our heterosexual, cisgender counterparts), what would we benefit from choosing to be minoritized? Having to prove we are good, capable and beneficial workers, or hiding how we express ourselves to conform with straight environments, these are definitely burdens. Our siblings in the faith have claimed that the law sees us equally, but our lived experiences and jurisprudence claim we are not. Thus, vulnerable sectors need the State to help us claim equity, aid us in reminding everyone that we are human too, and enable us to fight back when our rights are abused.

It has also been claimed that a law protecting LGBTQ+ persons against discrimination would negate Christians’ freedom of religion. It is a preposterous claim that insults the very spirit of “freedom of religion”: that individuals will not be force-fed belief systems; and that we are all free to hold beliefs – or not – and to conduct ourselves accordingly, except when we harm others. If anything, many people, driven by their “Christian” beliefs, harmed LGBTIQ+ individuals without provocation.

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While they lift from the Bible, the holy book cannot be seen as a definitive guide to what must be social convention. It has, in fact, been used to stall important laws to end slavery, and to uphold the rights of persons with disability and women.

For example:

I permit no woman to teach or have authority over men; she is to keep silent.” (Timothy 2:11)

Whosoever … hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God. For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or anything superfluous, Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, Or crookback, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken … He shall not go in unto the vail, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries.” (Leviticus 21:17-23)

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” (Ephesians 6:5)

With verses inapplicable in our time, how do we know for sure that verses chastising LGBTIQ+ individuals should still apply? In the laws enacted for women, children, senior citizens, persons with disability, among others, the justification was unequal treatment on the ground, in real life, despite the Constitutional guarantee of equality that our other siblings cite. The drawback was sensibilities getting hurt; the reward has been greater empowerment and participation in society for those sectors. We need our guarantee, too.

Another case in point: If two people are equally passionate about Bible-based beliefs, do we have objective criteria to judge which person is more righteous?

Here is an example: A cisgender man has been a top employee for years. He is the breadwinner for his family, encouraged by 1 Timothy 5:8: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” One day, he comes out as homosexual and discloses he has a boyfriend. The heterosexual cisgender owner, who comes from a conservative background, fires the person, because of Romans 1:26-27: “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.”

“We believe that the best way to fulfill our duty to establish heaven on earth is the full realization of human rights for all – and LGBTQ+ rights are human rights.”

Who’s to say that the business owner holds the right understanding of faith? What if the homosexual man goes to church more often? Doesn’t that make him better? The law must declare that productivity trumps sexual orientation.

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One thing I’ve observed among people of faith who decide not to support the SOGIE Bill is self-righteousness – a confidence that they are to be seen as authoritative, the voice of a majority. In doing so, they downplay other peoples’ faith, among these that which LGBTQ+ individuals have forged from their lived experiences of discrimination and resilience.

While some traditions will scoff at the justness of the ordained going to protests, the Aglipayan faith believes it is a legitimate expression of Christian witness. We believe that the best way to fulfill our duty to establish heaven on earth is the full realization of human rights for all – and LGBTQ+ rights are human rights. Thus, the crusade for equality on the basis of SOGIE falls within our fight for equity, along with our advocacy for peace talks, economic equity, genuine land reform and more.

Another Christian community is the Metropolitan Community Church, which has a presence in the Philippines. It casts more importance on love, genuine relationships and nondiscrimination than on punishment and fear. Many of their members are victims of SOGIE-based discrimination even in their own Christian homes, or are people living with HIV who have the added burden of stigma. One member told me that her family attends a Church that has a ministry helping LGBTQ+ individuals possessed by the devil – she worships with her family in the morning, is occasionally prayed for; she worships at MCC in the afternoon, is welcomed fully as a gender-nonconforming woman. There has to be a policy to guard LGBTQ+ lives against torturous conversion rituals if and when they occur. The SOGIE Bill has that.

The above instances illustrate that a single religion on its own has variations and pluralities. But, if regardless of this, lawmakers side with the more conservative Christian belief that tends to put LGBTQ+ lives in the way of harm and indignity, what compels the State other than to reward the conservatives and, thus, violate the Church-State separation?

As faithful Christians, too, we stand on the passage of the SOGIE Law because we believe God wants us to exist in a community of love, and because it will permeate our lives beyond Church. “We love the sinner not the sin,” some anti-SOGIE Christians say, in an attempt to deem the law irrelevant. If we do love the sinner, however, shouldn’t we recognize the person of that sinner who has the secular, universal right to a job, education and healthcare, among others. None of these are about “the homosexual act.”

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It is a shame that some religious have led crusades based on falsehoods: from alleging we do not need the SOGIE Equality Bill because the law already pronounces equality; to criticizing our advocacy as an issue of restrooms and third spaces only; to misleading people that the SOGIE Equality Bill will allow same-sex marriage; to stretching religious freedom – weaponizing it to homogenize the nation when the measure actually protects diversity.

The “definition of terms” in the proposed bills says that bad behavior – discrimination, stigma, hate crime and marginalization – will warrant punishment. Some religious are worried that LGBTIQ+ individuals will be empowered to file cases of discrimination simply because we “felt discriminated.” But suing should be within our rights as citizens, and with wisdom the courts should be able to decide which ones are nuisance and which ones bear sense.

In IFI, the statement has affirmed and validated the faithfulness of LGBTQ+ members, some of whom serve as ordained ministers. Through it, the faithful have been oriented on SOGIE and SOGIE-based discrimination; began to openly discuss sexuality, mental health and sexual harassment; and revisited the situation of women as part of the greater gender minority in a patriarchal society. We are now more equipped to counsel LGBTQ+ individuals and people living with HIV. The Church became more inclusive.

At the end of “Our Common Humanity, Our Shared Dignity,” the SCB stated a hope that our small act could spark bigger changes leading to greater inclusion for outcasts. The more accepting parents, you will note, express worry for their LGBTQ+ children based not on the worldview of conservative Churches but on the question: “How will you be in this world that is harsh on LGBTQ+ individuals?”

While some LGBTQ+ people are born to parents who are unequipped and would abandon their children, some are born to parents who are ready to understand and nurture them, and would worry that the world at large is not hospitable. Let’s lessen the legitimate fears by enacting a safeguard.

While the SOGIE Bill languishes, men could be raping homosexual and bisexual women to “convert them,” gay guys could be looking for their next boxing match or Miss Gay (for visibility and extra income), brilliant transgender individuals could be flying out to find career advancement elsewhere.

With the SOGIE Law enforced, the sensibilities of some (they cannot claim to represent the majority) will be offended as has happened in legislation on women’s rights, but the tradeoff will be LGBTQ+ individuals participating more meaningfully in national development. With the SOGIE Law, there will be no special LGBT bonuses or leaves, just jobs and schools and communities that value us as humans, and that hone and harness our skills as citizens.

The Philippines would foster a culture of nonviolence, and I think God would be smiling down on us.

On social media, there’s a viral post saying SOGIE means “Satanic Organization of Godless people who are Inspired of Evil”, which is so grammatically wrong. To me, it means “Salvation Our God Is Extending” – and I should enjoy a Constitutional guarantee to claim you can’t tell me I’m wrong. That is freedom of religion for you.

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Op-Ed

‘Members of LGBTQIA community should be afforded the same protection that others enjoy’

An open letter to Bro. Eddie Villanueva, now a politician, who continues to claim he supports equality but is fighting against the protection of LGBTQIA people from discrimination.

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Photo by Harry Quan from Unsplash.com

Sir, I am Posit Bo, a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ and PLHIV community in the Philippines. I was once a follower of your faith; I am still a believer of the Almighty God but no longer of your faith.

This letter is made as rebuttal of your privilege speech against the SOGIE Equality Bill. This is not intended to convince you and your group to vote for the proposed law; but rather, a letter that aims to see a future where there can be mutual respect.

You raised two constitutionally supported arguments against the SOGIE Equality Bill, to wit: (a) it imperils academic freedom, and (b) it endangers freedom of speech and religion.

I) ON ACADEMIC FREEDOM

You cited Article XIV, Section 5, par (2), of the 1987 Constitution, which states that: “Academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning.” This provision’s meaning can be viewed from two perspectives, namely: (a) Freedom of a Faculty member, and (b) Freedom of an academic institution of higher learning.

Certainly, faculty members have the freedom to discuss subjects with the responsibility not to discuss matters not related to the subject matter and with respect to the opinions of others. In the same manner, the academic institutions per se are given the freedom to decide what is the best manner to attain its aims and objectives.

You seem to fear that religious academic institutions being compelled to accept LGBTQIA+ students or employees, against the institution’s dogma on gender.

Under Section 5(c) of Senate Bill 159, it has two portions, to wit: (a) it declares discriminatory when educational or training institution refuses admission by reason of SOGIE, and (b) the right of educational and training institutions in determining qualifications for admission shall be duly upheld.

It is clear under the second portion of the aforementioned provision that religious institution’s right to determine qualification for admission shall be duly upheld. Compulsion to admit against dogma on gender by religious institutions cannot be feared when in the Bill itself it is protected, not to mention, in our very own Constitution as you cited, Sir.

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The bill cannot obviously be made to circumvent the Constitutional guarantees as it echoes the very essence of this Constitution that is – Equality. Moreover, I would like to believe that in proposing this law, the case of Ateneo de Manila v. Capulong, was taken into consideration, wherein the Court beautifully fleshed out the concept of academic freedom. The Court held that: “Academic institutions are free to determine for itself on academic grounds who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught, and who may be admitted to study.”  The Court further held in Isabelo Jr. v. Perpetual Help College of Rizal that: a school of higher learning has the discretion to admit or not to admit students. The Court further stated that: Admission is not a right but merely a privilege.

No, Sir. Religious academic institutions cannot be compelled to admit LGBTQIA+ students or employees. As these juridical entities are protected under our Constitution based on the very law you cited. But the likes of KJ T. Lorenzana and the students of Bulacan State University are not protected against discrimination based on SOGIE in a secular educational institution; no, they are not protected for this particular kind of discrimination, not even by the Constitution. While sectarian institutions enjoy protection under our Constitution, what about the protection of the LGBTQIA+ students and employees who have been and still are being discriminated in secular educational institutions.

“The SOGIE Equality Bill cannot obviously be made to circumvent the Constitutional guarantees as it echoes the very essence of this Constitution that is – Equality.”

The LGBTQIA+ community, more than the letters, consists of individuals, of humans who should be afforded an equivalent amount of reasonable protection that you enjoy in professing your religious beliefs, protection against any form of discrimination without engendering violation of constitutional guarantees.

II) ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION

There are three principal parts of the Constitutional provision for Religious freedom under Article III, Section 5 of the 1987 Constitution.

First, the NON-ESTABLISHMENT Clause: No law shall be made respecting the establishment, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

The SOGIE Equality Bill does not establish LGBTQIA+ community as a religion, neither does SOGIE Awareness prohibit the free exercise of any religion, including yours. Hence, the proposed law does not violate the non-establishment clause.

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Second, the FREE EXERCISE Clause: The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed.

The SOGIE Equality Bill is in fact adherent to religious sensitivities that despite of it being both a secular and social legislation, the proponents had the basic human decency to hear sectarian opinion on issues of a marginalized community on account of being exposed to daily discrimination of all forms.

There are two aspects of religious freedom, which are as follows: (a) Freedom to believe; and (b) freedom to act on one’s belief. The freedom to believe is absolute but the freedom to act on one’s belief is not absolute. The freedom to act may be regulated if its actualization clashes with accepted norms of social behavior and established order of decency.

Therefore, you can absolutely believe that being an LGBTQIA+ is a sin in view of your religion as a part of your freedom. But to act upon it by spreading or imposing such belief upon nonbelievers or believers of a different sect may be regulated.

Status quo dictates that freedom to exercise can be regulated; unfortunately, even if it could be regulated, Christians have continuously condemned this community. Our community has been continuously ridiculed for no reason, discriminated for being diverse, and hated for merely loving; we, suffer all these, based on your religious beliefs. While we suffer, you continuously enjoy being guarded by your religious freedom.

This is the saddest part of our reality: Family and friends who exercises christian faith act upon their religious belief on gender through: sharing hate messages; treating us indifferently; laughing at our struggles; and being considered as an abomination. While you are guarded by your religious freedom, why does it have to be at our expense? When you speak of equality it must be uttered in fairness to everyone and not at the expense of others.

The SOGIE Equality Bill does not force upon people to become a member of the LGBTQIA+ community neither does it influence people to change dogma on gender; but this merely seeks to spread awareness and understanding of an existing community, which should neither be treated differently but your fair equal.

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Lastly, Sir, finally now that you are elected, as a member of the House of Representatives of the 18th Congress, I would like to congratulate you. You are indeed an inspiration to the LGBTQIA+ community, just like you did, no matter how long and how many failed attempts there may be, we will never say it’s over ‘til it is done.

In James Imbong etc. v. Hon. Paquito Ochoa, Jr. et al., the court held that: the state cannot meddle in the internal affairs of the church. On the other hand, the church cannot impose its beliefs and convictions on the state and the rest of the citizenry. It cannot demand that the nation follow its beliefs, even if it sincerely believes that they are good for the country.

Sir, there would be no confusion even if you both act for both the state and the church by simply applying the time-honored State policy under Article II Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution, that the separation of church and state shall be inviolable. Inside your church, you are your peoples Pastor. You don’t preach to them matters of legislation; but instead your bible. While in the House of Representatives, you are to act as a legislator not as a Pastor. Sir, in your privilege speech you interjected a biblical passage. I would like to humbly remind you that you now belong in a Secular institution. Inside the very ‘august chamber’ to where you belong, are muslims; agnostic;  and heck may be even atheist congress(wo)man, who are being alienated by your interjection. Sir, you do not merely answer to your representation but to the entire secular electorate.

“Our community has been continuously ridiculed for no reason, discriminated for being diverse, and hated for merely loving; we, suffer all these, based on your religious beliefs. While we suffer, you continuously enjoy being guarded by your religious freedom.”

I could not still imagine a day where we can live harmoniously even in diversity, when there’s no willingness to reach a compromise, taking into consideration: fairness and respect for everyone regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity, color or religion. Religious freedom is a fundamental right under our constitution, it will forever be guarded and no legislation can circumvent this constitutional guarantee. You have exemplified in your privilege speech, that in the exercise of your religious freedom, there can be three options: (a) purvey discrimination based on scriptures; (b) exhaust available laws without state intervention in protecting a minority and marginalized group; and (c) when there is no law available, blame it on our SOGIE.

It was once said that we cannot normalize the culture of LGBTQIA+ despite its historical precedent being a cultural norm pre-colonial year of the Philippines; therefore, this being the case, incidents of discrimination by reason of SOGIE in the workplace and educational institutions may rise in the absence of any law that prohibits it. This is the very reason why an anti-discrimination policy should be enacted not by reason of entitlement but by reason of being exposed in an everyday struggle to surpass all forms of SOGIE-related discrimination.

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