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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.
READ:  13th PNCA calls for stakeholders to review, re-commit to their roles in HIV prevention & TCS

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.”

READ:  Deal with drug issue, yes; but deal with HIV issue sensitively - Rep. Kaka Bag-ao

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.

READ:  My gayness does not deprive conservatives of their religious freedom...

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."

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.

READ:  In the Philippines, policy failures fuel HIV epidemic, says HRW

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.”

READ:  As a lesbian, am I still at risk for HIV infection?

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.

READ:  Maling akala

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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Op-Ed

Tulungan ang bawat isa na magmulat at mas mamulat pa

Pastor Carleen Nomorosa: “Tulungan natin ang bawat isa na magmulat at mas mamulat pa. Huwag tayong mapako sa mga sarili lamang nating pagdurusa, magsama-sama tayo at magtulungan. Huwag din tayong malunod sa mga pribilehiyong tinatamasa dahil marami padin ang hindi ligtas.”

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By Carleen Nomorosa
Program Coordinator, National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP)

Isa sa mahal ko sa buhay, na-rape. Ng paulit-ulit.

Sabi ng isang ahensya ng gobyerno noon sa amin nung nagpapatulong kami: Mabuti nga at nakauwi pa ng buhay ang nanay mo.”

Wala pa akong sampung taong gulang noon, seven years old pa lang ako, panganay. Probinsyana. Walang alam sa siyudad. Litong-lito ako bakit ganoon.

Kaya umuwi na kami, at sinubukang hilumin ang lahat ng pait na pinagdanan, hindi lamang ng aking ina, kundi ng buong pamilya.

Ang lupit ng lipunang ito, sa mga mahihirap at walang kakayanan.

Sana tulungan nyo ang mga katulad namin, para lumaban at makapag patuloy sa paglaban.

Tulungan natin ang mga magulang nila Eileen at Allan, hindi lang para panatilihin ang sentensya ni Antonio Sanchez.

Kundi imulat din ang henerasyong ito sa kalagayan ng bayan. Huwag nating hayaang gawin tayong manhid sa lahat ng pagpatay sa mga dukha at maralita. Huwag nating hayaang magdiwang ang mga panginoong maylupa na nagpapahirap sa magsasaka. Huwag nating hayaan na manatiling kontrakwal ang mga ordinaryong manggagawa. Huwag nating hayaang may inaaping sektor dahil minorya sila. Huwag nating hayaang marami ang nagkakasakit ngunit hindi makapag pa-ospital.

Tulungan natin ang bawat isa na magmulat at mas mamulat pa. Huwag tayong mapako sa mga sarili lamang nating pagdurusa, magsama-sama tayo at magtulungan. Huwag din tayong malunod sa mga pribilehiyong tinatamasa dahil marami padin ang hindi ligtas.

Wala na tayong ibang aatrasan, kundi ang paglaban. Sana bukas wala ng rape. Wala ng papatayin. Wala ng gutom. Magtulungan tayo.

Ang pananampalatayang napapako na lamang sa pag-pikit, pagluhod o pagtaas ng kamay sa pananalangin ay hindi makakabangon sa ikatlong araw. Walang resureksyon and ganitong pananampalataya.

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From the Editor

3 HIV-related questions (plus sub-questions) to ask re the PhilHealth scam

Every PLHIV is allocated P30,000 per year. As of April 2019, 37,091 PLHIVs are on treatment. Multiply that by P30,000 per person (per OHAT Package/coverage), and the amount involved here is P1,112,730,000. Too much money involved for us not to ask how the money is getting spent.

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Here are the facts:

  • As early as last year, two former employees of WellMed Dialysis Center already reported that it has been forging signatures of patients who have long died to file claims from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) from 2016-2018.
  • Typical in the Philippines (e.g. think of Napoles, PDAF, fertilizer scandal, et cetera), this was soon “forgotten” (or at least not as widely covered anymore particularly by mainstream media, so not gaining traction with the public). That is, until June, when the Philippine Daily Inquirer detailed the scam (again) via an investigative report.
  • Still in June, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would “reorganize” PhilHealth after the agency lost some P154 billion to “ghost” patients and deliveries.
  • WellMed Dialysis Center’s accreditation was (finally) withdrawn in June. But in a privilege speech, Sen. Panfilo Lacson alleged that PhilHealth continued to pay WellMed Dialysis Center even after its accreditation was suspended because of its involvement in a scam.
  • A hearing was started by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee (chaired by Richard Gordon) to look at the allegations of corruption in the Department of Health (DoH), and – yes – PhilHealth.

Now why is this issue important to PLHIVs and those in the HIV advocacy in the Philippines?

Aside from the fact that there may be LGBTQIA Filipinos who may also be needing dialysis, the money that actually pays for the “free” treatment and antiretroviral medicines of Filipinos living with HIV come from PhilHealth.

No, darling, you don’t get “free” meds; a PLHIV is expected to enroll in PhilHealth before he/she can access the treatment. Meaning, YOU are paying for your treatment via your P2,400 (if voluntary) PhilHealth contribution. Anyone who tells you the meds are “free” is hiding the truth from you, or is outright lying to you.

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And so the talk about stealing P154 billion should be an issue to PLHIVs and those serving them; particularly since it is not rare to encounter service providers who say that they can only offer shitty (and often lacking) TCS (treatment, care and support) services because there’s no money available (DUH!).

Every PLHIV is allocated P30,000 per year. As of April 2019, 37,091 PLHIVs are on treatment. Multiply that by P30,000 per person (per OHAT Package/coverage), and the amount involved here is P1,112,730,000.

Now off my head, here are a few questions that should also be asked as we tackle the PhilHealth scam (and questions that particularly touch on HIV in the Philippines).

1. Does PhilHealth monitor the use of the OHAT package, or they solely rely on reports that can – apparently, as the case of WellMed Dialysis Center highlighted – be faked/made up? Can individuals access the individual reports filed for them (on the use of their OHAT package)? If there’s none, why not? If these can be accessed, are there mechanisms to question the same?

These questions have to do with whether a PLHIV actually uses his/her allocation.

The Outpatient HIV/AIDS Treatment (OHAT) Package covers: drugs and medications; laboratory examinations based on the specific treatment guideline including Cluster of Differentiation 4 (CD4) level determination test, viral load (if warranted), and test for monitoring anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs toxicity; and professional fees of providers.

But in 2015, when interviewed by Outrage Magazine, PhilHealth’s Medical Specialist III and Millennium Development Goals Benefit Products Team Head Dr. Mary Antoinette Remonte said that “it has come to our attention that some treatment hubs charge for some laboratory tests, even after the release of the OHAT Package circular.” And so while the circular may specifically mention covered items, the same circular should not be taken too literally.

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For instance, VL is not included in the circular, but if a PLHIV needs “viral load, if it’s really needed, they can still charge it on the OHAT package. Any laboratory tests related to ART treatment, they can use the OHAT Package for it.” For Remonte, “even if viral load testing was not written in the first circular, it was already included in the coverage.”

2. The baseline tests are still not specified in the circular/OHAT Package. This is why many PLHIVs are lost to TCS – i.e. they are told to pay for their own tests (e.g. chest X-ray, CBC) before they can get their hands on the life-saving meds (the ARVs). Why is this idiotically still not included in the OHAT Package, and even knowing that (many) PLHIVs won’t end up consuming the P30,000 allocated them anyway?

3. Do they also withdraw the accreditation of treatment hubs/clinics/satellite clinics that claim the P30,000 even if they did not actually use the entire amount for the use of the PLHIV? Has there ever been a service provider that lost its accreditation because of non-delivery of services?

We have spoken with PLHIVs who were told to get lab tests outside of their treatment hubs (e.g. chest X-ray, VL, CD4 count); they were told to pay for the same. No, they may NOT use their OHAT Package for the same, a handful of them were told. They have to shell out their OWN money.

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The thing is, if these are already supposedly covered by PhilHealth, why the additional expenses? Who then benefits from the OHAT Package? The service providers not offering the services and yet getting the money? Isn’t this theft? And if one thinks so, what are the mechanisms for complaining? Are there any at all?

Let’s be blunt here: If these are not answered, here’s another avenue where profiteering is happening via PhilHealth, and at the expense of PLHIVs.

To end, let me state this to stress this: Every PLHIV is allocated P30,000 per year. As of April 2019, 37,091 PLHIVs are on treatment. Multiply that by P30,000 per person (per OHAT Package/coverage), and the amount involved here is P1,112,730,000.

Too much money involved and yet service providers still often saying “there’s no money” to help PLHIVs…

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Op-Ed

Looking beyond the ‘banyo’

With Gretchen Diez – after only a few days in the limelight – now claiming to be the “face of the LGBT movement”, Posit Bo says her narrative needs to be revisited. Particularly since, while there were procedural lapses, verbal abuse and negligence, he asks: Was there really discrimination if we try to look into the facts?

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Photo by @curology from Unsplash.com

In Toledo v. Hydenu (652 PHIL 70), the court stated that: He who comes into equity must come with a clean hands.

You have heard the word “discrimination” this week more than you may usually have heard it, at least in the previous months; that is, if  you fortunately haven’t experienced being discriminated. But what do  you know about discrimination?

The term is not exclusive to a particular: race, gender, religion, nor age. It is all encompassing. Discrimination does not discriminate. This is the very reason that necessitates the legislation of a more specific Anti-Discrimination Policy. A policy that should look and go beyond how it is being highlighted today, an issue of restroom usage.

When one person is rejected for employment by reason of SOGIE, that is discrimination in the workplace. When one is barred from enjoying a service by reason of SOGIE, that is discrimination in providing goods or rendering services. When one is prohibited from learning in a nonsectarian academic institution, that is discrimination in education. But when one is barred by reason of SOGIE in entering the female restroom, that is a multifaceted discussion.

While, every single public hearings and consultations can be attributed to the banyo incident, the debates have been constrained in the hallowed halls of Farmers Plaza restroom. There are more pressing issues related to SOGIE Equality Bill that is negligently missed amidst this discussion.

In using a specific individual as the face of SOGIE Equality Bill, the discussion hasn’t been substantiated by the pivotal provisions of the proposed law. The ‘star’ has been branded as your “Banyo Queen” since day one; but that’s on her, as she herself failed to elevate the discourse by repetitively echoing inequality in bathroom usage.

Be that as it may, let us thoroughly consider the facts of the matter, whether or not the banyo incident can be “the face of the LGBTQIA+ movement”.

You may see that this is a clear case of discrimination based on SOGIE in consideration of the given narrative by the complainant. Yes, there was a violation of the Gender Fair Ordinance of Quezon City as admitted by Farmers Plaza Management. The violation being their failure to provide a gender neutral restroom as required by the City Ordinance.

READ:  Where’s the fire?

But was there a discrimination based on SOGIE by verbal, nonverbal ridicule, and vilification or in rendering services?

First, the janitress is employed by an independent contractor and not by Farmers Plaza. There exist no relationship between the janitress and Farmers Plaza. Thus, the janitress is personally accountable for her actions;

Second, the janitress acted upon an aggression which was made and documented by the complainant herself but later deleted to better fit her narrative of an outright discrimination by the janitress. In the now deleted first Facebook live video, the complainant was nicely asked by the janitress to do two things, namely: (a) to use the male restroom instead of the female restroom acting upon an alleged complaint of female customers of Farmers Plaza, and (2)  to cease from the unauthorized recording of the janitress in doing her job in assisting mall clients on queue towards the restroom;

Third, the Facebook live videos while taken in plain sight of the public, it was still taken inside a privately owned vicinity which could be well regulated by policies of the owner and management e.g. video recording private individuals in the performance of their private employment; and

Fourth; in the deleted first Facebook live, the complainant voluntarily heeded by saying “ahh hmmm okay” in going to the security office with the janitress upon prior warning that she’ll be brought in the office for refusal to cease from the unauthorized documentation.

The complainant was brought into the security office not by reason of her SOGIE. She was escorted to the security office for failure to cease from her unauthorized recording. The verbal abuse as seen on the viral Facebook live was a retaliatory attack by the janitress after the complainant pried into the privacy of the former. Yes, the attack made by the janitress is inexcusable, but this wasn’t said and done on the basis of the complainant’s SOGIE.

If there wasn’t anything to hide, why was there a first Facebook live video deliberately deleted by the complainant? Why did the complainant only retain two videos that would fit her narrative of SOGIE-related discrimination? Why, Miss Complainant?

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The apprehension of the complainant by police officers from QCPD station 7 was an arrest made based on their knowledge of a crime which has been committed by the complainant. The complaint charged and that was latter dropped was unjust vexation against the janitress. Again, the arrest was not by reason of the complainant’s SOGIE but by her actions after she was reprimanded by the janitress outside the CR. This does not, however, excuse the police officers from their failure to take the complainant’s statements immediately after her apprehension.

When the community came to rescue Miss Complainant from being locked behind bars, the charges for unjust vexation against her were dropped by the janitress; because at that time, she had an instantaneous realization that her actions were inexcusable. A settlement was made, that was what they said. But three days later, on the day Miss Complainant filed her case against Farmers Plaza, she mentioned about the possible filing of appropriate charges against the janitress. Apparently, the settlement was onerous for the janitress rather than being reciprocal for both parties. This scenario speak volumes of the status quo of our human rights in the Philippines.

Certainly, there were procedural lapses, verbal abuse, and negligence; but there wasn’t any form of discrimination, only if we try to look into the matter of facts. The complainant, janitress, and QCPD Station 7 are all accountable for their action or inaction. This is a story which must be appreciated fully by examining all the possible sides without favoring one over another because of our personal biases. This must be a learning experience for all the parties that are involved. But must not be used to advance one interest at the expense of another.

Posit Bo: “The LGBTQIA+ community does not need a face that epitomizes lack of knowledge and understanding of the cause. The community does not need to represented by an individual who anchors her cause in magnifying her story alone; because this movement is more than one story, that transcends from one generation to another.”

After the incident, you have seen traditional politicians rallying behind the complainant, as she declares, LGBTQIA+ rights as human rights. The public had to unconsciously endure the pain of seeing supporters of a human rights violator rally behind Miss Complainant. LGBTQIA+ rights and human rights are not mutually exclusive. While supporting LGBTQIA+ rights as human rights, these politicians should know that they must concede in supporting the call against the lowering of criminal liability and the re-imposition of death penalty; because, these two issues are also human rights-related.

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There are other mechanisms that will advance and promote the discussion of SOGIE in the country without the need of being used by different organizations and political parties. This is a nonpolitical issue that needs to be dealt through an appropriate social legislation rather than by politicking. Using the LGBTQIA+ community in politicizing our own cause must, at all cost, end now! This community is more than your number of votes that you use at your convenience. The LGBTQIA+ community should refuse being treated as dispensables, simply because we are not!

The LGBTQIA+ community does not need a face that epitomizes lack of knowledge and understanding of the cause. The community does not need to represented by an individual who anchors her cause in magnifying her story alone; because this movement is more than one story, that transcends from one generation to another.

The true face of the LGBTQIA+ community is more than one individual; because, you are not alone. No, not one individual and organization can take credit of the cause. After-all, this is the LGBTQIA+ COMMUNITY, no one should be left behind neither should anyone be one step ahead of everyone. There may be several groups with different perspective; but bound by a single community sharing a communal interest that is the SOGIE Equality Bill.

People should start learning how to dissociate their self-vested interest from the advocacy. While one voice can be used to uproar the passing of SOGIE Equality Bill, the voice must also be admonished if it doesn’t reflect the majority of the community. The voice must be silenced when it still continues to purvey false advocacy. If this is not done, the noble cause will be tainted. SOGIE Equality Bill must not in anyway be used to place one person on the spotlight for all the wrong reasons; let us not tolerate.

While the discussion has been fueled by the banyo incident, this urgently needs to get out of the banyo before it even stinks and splatters at the expense of the LGBTQIA+ advocacy. It is time that we hear the genuine and unheard stories of SOGIE-based discrimination.

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Op-Ed

Your discomfort over our human rights?

Naomi Fontanos tackles the othering of members of the LGBTQIA community, often justified with making prejudiced/bigoted people more “comfortable”.

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Photo by Cody Chan from Unsplash.com

By Naomi Fontanos

Ang ipilit na ang di pagiging komportable ng mga kababaihan (o kalalakihan man) sa presensya ng mga trans woman sa loob ng pampublikong palikuran para sa babae ang kailangang manaig sa usapin na ito ay isang uri ng diskriminasyon.

Lahat ng uri ng diskriminasyon ay nag-uugat sa ganitong pag-iisip: di-komportable ang mga puti sa mga itim o kayumanggi ang balat, kaya’t ang karapatan ay para lamang sa mga puti; di-komportable ang mga walang kapansanan sa mga may kapansanan, kaya’t ang karapatan ay para lamang sa mga walang kapansanan; di-komportable ang mga mayayaman sa mahihirap, kaya’t ang karapatan ay para lamang sa mga mayayaman; di-komportable ang mga kristiyano sa mga di-kristiyano, kaya’t ang karapatan ay para lamang sa mga kristiyano, at noong sinaunang panahaon, di-komportable ang mga lalaki sa mga babae, kaya’t ang mga karapatan ay para lamang sa mga lalaki.

Nguni’t nagbabago ang lipunan kasama ng pag-uunawa ng tao na hindi wasto na sabihing di tayo komportable kaya’t tama lang na walang karapatan ang mga di puti ang balat, mga may kapansanan, mahihirap, di-kristiyano at kababaihan.

Sa gitna ng usaping ito ay ang prehudisyo/prehuwisyo o ang di-makatwirang paniniwala tungkol sa mga taong LGBTIQ+ na nag-dudulot ng sistematiko at istruktural na pang-iiba at pang-mamata at di-pantay na pagtrato sa atin.

Ang akusahan ang mga trans woman na manyak, namboboso, nambabastos, at gagawa ng karahasang sekswal laban sa mga kababaihan sa loob ng palikuran ay manipestasyon ng prehuwisyong ito.

At ito ang dapat nating tutulan at i-wasto bilang basehan ng pampublikong patakaran o ng pakikitungo natin sa isa’t isa bilang tao.

Naomi Fontanos heads Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) FIlipinas, a human rights organization that promotes the dignity and equality of transgender people in the Philippines and beyond.

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