The Metropolitan Community Church – Quezon City (MCCQC) organized a gathering, dubbed Affirming Party, slated on April 8 for GLBTQIA activists who were at (and driven away from) the fourth regional conference of the Asia chapter of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA) in Indonesia.
Earlier, on March 26 in Surabaya, Indonesia, an estimated 50 to 60 members of hardline Indonesian Islamic groups staked out not just the hotel where the participants were staying at, but also the conference venue (Mercure Hotel) to force the participants to leave their accommodation and, thereby, cancel the event. To what is shameful for Indonesia, conservative intolerance triumphed over respect for diversity – ILGA’s gathering was cancelled, and not without drama, with the participants literally chased out of the country.
The April 8 gathering was, in MCCQC’s Rev. Ceejay Agbayani’s words, an “affirmation of our fellow GLBTQIA Filipino activists on their quest for equality and justice.”
To drum up participation, for MCCQC, aside from word-of-mouth, a main mode of information dissemination was through the Internet. Even sans the availability of disposable budget, “the Internet (allows) us to tap (as wide a market as possible),” Agbayani says. The effort boosted by “coordination through SMS messages” made the gathering a “success, exceeding our expectations (as over 60 people attended – in Facebook, only 50 people confirmed attendance).”
That, then, stresses the power of New Media.
And so the GLBTQIA advocacy gets an upgrade.
Outrage Magazine, as the only Web-based publication catering to GLBTQIAs in the Philippines, may well be an ideal study on the utilization of New Media – dominated by the Internet – in reaching target (in this case, i.e. GLBTQIA) markets. According to publisher cum “editor on the loose” Michael David C. Tan, getting an A4-sized magazine of from 60 or more pages printed could easily cost well over P100,000 just for a thousand or so copies – and this does not yet include the money to be allocated for the salary of people involved in the publication (e.g. editors, writer, graphics, administrative staff, et cetera), costs to run the office (e.g. space rental, allotments for utilities, et cetera), and other costs associated with the production of traditional media.
Going online made the move realistic, Tan says – something he stresses is “great because, in the Philippines, GLBTQIAs remain under-represented, (and) we only actually make the (mainstream) news when something (bad) can be said about the group, e.g. when gays are found dead, supposedly killed by sex workers who were not paid properly; when there are raids of cinemas, supposedly because of the ‘immoral’ acts of its gay patrons; et cetera.”
Tan adds: “Outrage Magazine in this sense is a media by and for GLBTQIAs,” he said, adding that “other markets on top of these are, of course, just as welcome.”
It helps, too, that this representation is immediate.
On this, the experience of Sass Rogando Sasot of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) on May 24, 2008 is worth a mention. Visiting Ice Vodka Bar in Greenbelt 3 in Ayala Center, Makati City, she (with other members of STRAP) was refused entry because – put succinctly – she’s a transgender (TGs are often described as “dressed inappropriately”).
In a letter that went viral virtually starting 6.04 A.M. of the next day, May 25, Sasot made the world knew what happened to her – she wrote: “This may not be the proper forum to raise this concern. But is there any reliable legal forum to address this issue? Reality check: There is no antidiscrimination law in this country. And if you’re discriminated, there seems to be a notion that you’re supposed to blame yourself for bringing such an unfortunate event to yourself. So, I’d just stand up through this open letter.”
With other advocates picking up the story, the responses soon followed – first, from Ice Vodka Bar itself, which apologized to Sasot; from Dennis Galimba, operations engineer of Ayala Property Management Corporation, who raised the issue to the Ayala Group of Companies; et cetera.
What the Constitution states (equality for all) but the law enforcers fail to implement, the Internet (somehow) helped to (at least) stress, thereby press for actions to be taken. IMMEDIATELY.
In the US, according to queerty.com in The Gay Revolution Will Be Twittered, while social networks site “Twitter was originally designed to allow people to give short status update, essentially answering the question: ‘What are you doing now?’, in practice, the service has become much more, especially when it comes to news. The immediacy of Twitter, coupled with its ability to deliver messages to a phone or Web-client, means that breaking news is even more, to coin a Colbert-ism, ‘breakier.’”
That people now actively participate in breaking the news adds to the empowerment, as Sasot shows.
For GLBTQIAs, nonetheless, with Twitter (and the Net, as a whole) becoming integrated into daily lives, or at least the lives of the hyper-wired, such social networks have become “not only a source of news, but a way for communities to connect,” states queerty.com. And this way, too – this “community aspect” – has special significance for GLBTQIAs.
During the Holy Week of 2010 – nowadays often seen as a season for decadent holidaying, NOT necessarily church-going – Jethro Cuenca Patalinghug organized the Take the Test, a campaign that wanted to trigger MSMs in Puerto Galera (a popular venue frequented by MSMs from Metro Manila, among others) to get themselves tested for STIs, including HIV and/or AIDS.
It was a “very personal endeavor (for me),” Patalinghug says, considering that “I have lived with HIV positive individuals for years and I saw the kind of emotional struggle that they had to face on a day-to-day basis – I have friends who have either died or are still alive, and yet are suffering from the stigma of HIV and AIDS.”
Due to “our promotion in the Net, there were a lot who expressed (their intent) to partake of the activity/test – in fact, we were able to educate around 200 participants during our activity, 30% of (that number taking) the test.”
Patalinghug believes that “the Net should play a primary role in pushing for GLBTQIA issues. It is the medium that people choose to rely on because participation can be personal and easy; (and) information dissemination is clearly fastest on the Net and I think GLBTQIAs (can do so much with) these potentials. We should definitely exhaust it (the Net).”
Again in the US, Ruth Schneider, writing How Social media is Changing Gay Activism for 365.com, tells the story of Greg Porter, who, as a reaction to one Ricky Joaquin, who tweeted “because we don’t want your fag blood,” wrote in a blog his stance on the “circle of bigotry.” That blog entry was, subsequently, re-tweeted, so that Porter himself has lost count the number of times his views have been accessed and, yes, shared by (generally) like-minded people, people within the GLBTQIA community.
“Between blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, activists are using the power of social media to increase the reach of their advocacy messages,” Schneider states, adding, this time quoting Sree Sreenivasan, a dean at Columbia University’s School of Journalism, that “social media has had a tremendous impact on all advocacy, for better or worse.”
Outrage Magazine’s Tan agrees. “We knew – and subsequently interviewed – Jude Bacalso of Cebu City because of (our social network) connections, giving the GLBTQIA community in the Queen City of the South some voice somehow. Through trails found online, we have been able to develop stories, therefore give information on existing GLBTQIA groups in the Philippines (e.g. Batangas-based Beavers, photography enthusiast KonZepto Productions) – a veritable guide for GLBTQIA Filipinos looking for groups to belong to. Our establishing of contacts, too, is helping existing networks get in touch with each other (to, hopefully, build) a stronger presence (as a unified entity),” Tan says. “The world has, indeed, become smaller.”
Hired by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in the US, Sarah Kennedy, as the interactive media coordinator, is responsible for exchanging tweets daily (with the more than 3,000 followers of the task force’s Twitter account), as well as upload content on the group’s Facebook account (with more than 8,000 Facebook friends). “I believe that is the number one key to social media. That it is social,” she was quoted as saying by queerty.com. After all, if, in the past, “organizations have sent out newsletters to inform them about their work, now there are tweets, posts, blogs and videos to spread the message. And before GLBTQIA groups had social media, there wasn’t always that level of information.”
Tan, though, is first to acknowledge that “we have yet to fully tapped the benefits of New Media – in fact, we have barely scratched the surface, as the cliché goes,” he says.
On January 12, Haiti was ravaged by a 7.0 Mw earthquake on January 12 – and it took relief organizations only five days to collect $11 million through SMS-sent donations (the donations grew further, so that since then, the American Red Cross alone had collected more than $25 million through $10 text donations). And while “the Philippines may have been dubbed as the ‘Texting Capital of the World,’ texting has, thus far, been largely limited to the personal in the country,” Tan says.
Tan believes that, outside of text votes that cost texters from P2.50 per text in support of wannabe celebrities in popularity competitions, “if we could instead raise the money for worthy causes – noting that there are an estimated 400 million text messages sent in the country per day – we can change this country’s direction.”
At least Patalinghug has already somehow tapped this potential.
It took Patalinghug, who also spearheaded the I AM NOT IMMORAL video campaign in response to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) branding GLBTQIAs as immoral (its ground for non-inclusion of GLBTQIA group Ang Ladlad in the partylist system), “less than a month to organize everything,” he says. “We had to gather all the resources and information needed to conduct a (proper) HIV rapid screening, equipped with all the necessary pre- and post test counseling (as required by the law). In other words we had to tap government institutions, such as the National Epidemiology Center or NEC from Department of Health (DOH), Social Hygiene Clinic Manila, Positive Action Foundation Philippines Inc. (PAFPI), and the Global Fund (in a short period of time).”
While the DOH provided some funding, “we had to turn to our friends in the Net, specifically Facebook, and we were able to gather enough funds that covered our (expenses) in Puerto Galera.”
Everything is, obviously, getting integrated – Google Chrome, as an example, attempts to unify all the applications needed online, from email to chatlines to Facebook-like functionalities to YouTube-like tasks. Technology is far from perfect – yet – but “perfectly functional or not, it can already be used for advocacies in ways never done before,” Tan says.
But whether it’s through high-tech strategies or low-tech tools, Sreenivasan is (for now) somewhat cautious. “It’s all about having a plan about new technology rather than jumping down rabbit holes,” he says. “You have to do everything you did before. This is something you need to add into the mix.”
MCCQC’s April 8 Affirming Party was not the first – nor will it be the last – event that the group will mainly promote through New Media. Says Agbayani: “We have been using the Internet even before Facebook,” citing, specifically, the now defunct Guys4Men.com, a social networking site geared towards MSMs, which allowed the group to “pagpapalaganap ng (widely spread) information and invitations (of our events).”
Agbayani, nonetheless, believes that any of the New Media follows much of the same “given” of old practices. “First, (dapat) maganda ang event mo. Malaking add-on ‘yan (First, you should have a worthy event. That’s a big plus),” he says.
“Pangalawa, dapat matiyaga ka talagang mag-promote sa iyong event – mag-message sa inbox nila, mag-personal message sa lahat na nag-confirm, et cetera (Secondly, you should be persistent in promoting your event – send messages to everyone, follow-up those who confirmed, et cetera).”
And thirdly, “make sure sa event, hindi gutom ang tao – may laps dapat lagi [make sure participants do not go hungry – there should always be food (to ensure you look after your guests)].”
All the same, the game, in a manner of speaking, has changed. “Malaki ang role ng New Media (in pushing advocacies to the fore) – maramihan kasi ang naabot niya; lahat na kasi yata ng tao ay involved sa New Media (The role of New Media in pushing advocacies to the fore is substantial – it has wider reach; just about everyone is in it),” Agbayani says.
And with this understanding, MCCQC, among others, enters a braver new world.
The future has truly started.
Inter-Agency Committee on Diversity and Inclusion created via executive order
An executive order intends to create an inter-agency committee on diversity and inclusion, as well as establish the Diversity and Inclusion Program (DIP) that will consolidate efforts and implement laws “towards the identification and adoption of best practices in the promotion of diversity and inclusion.”
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is flexing his supposed anti-discrimination cred with the signing of Executive Order (EO) 100, which focuses on minority sectors, including members of the LGBTQIA community, Indigenous Peoples, youth and persons with disability (PWDs).
The EO – titled “Institutionalizing the diversity and inclusion program, creating an inter-agency committee on diversity and inclusion (IACDI), and for other purposes – intends to create the aforementioned IACDI, as well as establish the Diversity and Inclusion Program (DIP) that will consolidate efforts and implement laws “towards the identification and adoption of best practices in the promotion of diversity and inclusion.”
The order was signed on December 17, prior to Duterte meeting with a politicized organization composed of LGBTQIA Filipinos that eye to win seat in Congress in the next elections via the country’s partylist system; but was only released to the media on December 19.
The to-be-established IACDI will be composed of: Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Budget Management (DBM), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Health (DOH), Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA), and National Youth Commission (NYC).
Worth noting: No LGBTQIA representation is specifically mentioned/included in the committee.
The committee is expected to work with “relevant stakeholders, advocacy groups and NGOs” to develop a DIP; dictate the direction of the DIP; “encourage” local government units to issue ordinances promoting diversity and inclusion; and recommend possible legislation to address gaps in existing laws.
Meanwhile, the to-be-established DIP is supposed to “consolidate efforts and implement existing laws, rules and issuances against the discrimination of persons on the basis of age, disability, national or ethnic origin, language, religious affiliation or belief, political affiliation or belief, health status, physical features, or sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, towards the identification and adoption of best practices in the promotion of diversity and inclusion.”
For trans activist Naomi Fontanos, who helms GANDA Filipinas, there are provisions in the EO that are problematic.
“(It) looks good on paper but has problematic provisions,” Fontanos said.
For example, “the composition of the IACDI excludes key government agencies like the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and Civil Service Commission (CSC). Instead they have consultative status. This is surprising since based on RA No. 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women (MCW), the CHR is the Gender and Development (GAD) Ombud.”
Fontanos noted that with “funding for the implementation of EO No. 100, s. 2019 will either be from sources identified by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) or through Gender and Development (GAD) funds, why then does the GAD Ombud only have consultative status?”
Also excluded from the IACDI is the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, “which is unfortunate since the EO seeks to prohibit discrimination based on religious affiliation or belief,” Fontanos said.
Fontanos similarly questioned the chairmanship of the IACDI by the DILG.
“The DILG’s main function is to ensure peace and order, public safety, and building the capacity of local governments for basic services delivery. Implementing a nationwide DIP better fits the mandate of the DSWD, which is to empower disadvantaged sectors in our country. The DSWD is only the committee’s Vice Chair.”
For Fontanos, “also most telling is that the committee is tasked to consult relevant stakeholders and NGOs to develop the DIP. Given that EO No. 100, s. 2019 was signed during the oath-taking of officers of LGBT Pilipinas Party-List at Malacañang Palace, will they be the default ‘stakeholder’ to be consulted on LGBT issues? If they are running for a congressional seat in 2022, won’t that give them undue advantage given that they will be working with LGUs through the chairmanship of the DILG?”
Following the release of the EO, future steps to be taken have yet to be announced.
Province of Capiz holds first Pride parade
The city of Roxas in the Province of Capiz held its first LGBTQIA Pride parade, a “historic event that was organized for and by the LGBTQIA people of Capiz.”
Pride in Capiz.
The city of Roxas in the Province of Capiz held its first LGBTQIA Pride parade, a “historic event that was organized for and by the LGBTQIA people of Capiz,” said Charmel Delfin Ignacio Catalan, who helmed the organizing of the event via Queens of all Queens and LGBT Community Capiz.
The local LGBTQIA community is not exactly completely “invisible”, admitted Catalan, having participated in the city’s/province’s past gatherings – e.g. last August 12, 2019, when a contingent joined the parade for the International Youth Day. But this Pride is “important – particularly as it is being held as the world observes World AIDS Day – because it highlights what’s solely relevant to our community.”
As is common with non-commercialized Pride events, “the main problem (we encountered) was financial,” Catalan said. This is because “we only relied on donations of generous individuals (to be able to hold this event).” But since “it had the backing of the community… we were able to push through.”
With Catalan in organizing the Pride parade were Atty. Felizardo Demayuga Jr. and Sandro Borce.
For Catalan: “I believe we still need Pride in this day and age to celebrate the unique individuality of the members of the LGBTQIA Community, and – of course – to continue the advocacy of equal rights and mutual respect and the causes that we are fighting for.”
Roxas City, in particular, still records LGBTQIA-related hate crimes. In a 2015 interview with Outrage Magazine, Catalan recalled the bashing of a trans woman na napag-tripan (because some people just felt like it); sex work-related ill-treatment; and even killings.
This is why Catalan said she hopes for (particularly local) LGBTQIA people to attend the gathering as a show of strength that “we’re in this together.”
Catalan, nonetheless, recognizes that many non-LGBTQIA people still detest/discriminate LGBTQIA people. And so to them she said: “To all our bashers/haters, please take note that we have no ill feelings towards you; we love you and you are always in our prayers. Please take note that sticks and stones may break our bones but you won’t see us fall.”
‘We need inclusive responses to HIV’ – Bahaghari Center
For Ms Disney Aguila, board member of Bahaghari Center, “it needs to be emphasized that HIV can only truly be dealt with if everyone is on board.”
In early 2019, Jay (not his real name), a Deaf gay man who lives outside Metro Manila, was encouraged by his friends who knew community-based HIV screening (CBS) to get himself tested. It was, he recalled, “the first time someone offered me this service; so I caved in.”
Jay was reactive; and “my world crumbled,” he said.
Though his friends tried to comfort him, telling him that knowing his status is good, “since at least now I can take steps to get treatment and live a normal, healthy life,” Jay wasn’t assuaged. His friends had to eventually go back to Metro Manila, and he worried that he would be left on his own to “find ways to access treatment.” And the same issue that did not make testing accessible for him – i.e. him being Deaf – is now the same issue he believed would hinder him from getting treatment, care and support (TCS).
Jay’s case, said Ms Disney Aguila, board member of the Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy Inc. (Bahaghari Center), highlights how “numerous sectors continue to be ignored in HIV-related responses.”
Aguila, the concurrent head of the Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, the pioneering organization for Deaf LGBTQIA Filipinos, added that “it needs to be emphasized – particularly today as #WAD2019 – that HIV can only truly be dealt with if everyone is on board.”
WORSENING HIV SITUATION
As reported by the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) of the Department of Health (DOH), the Philippines has 35 new HIV cases every day. The figure has been consistently growing – from only one case every day in 2008, seven cases per day in 2011, 16 cases per day in 2014, and 32 cases per day in 2018.
In July, when HARP released its (delayed) latest figures, there were 1,111 newly confirmed HIV-positive individuals; this was 29% higher compared with the diagnosed cases (859) in the same period last year.
Perhaps what is worth noting, said Aguila, is the “absence in current responses of minority sectors” – e.g. when even data does not segregate people from minority sectors, thus the forced invisibility that used to also affect transgender people who were once lumped under the MSM (men who have sex with men) umbrella term.
For Aguila, this is “detrimental to the overall response re HIV because specific needs are not answered.”
DEAF IN FOCUS
In 2012, Bahaghari Center conducted “Talk to the Hand”, the first-of-its-kind study that looked at the knowledge, attitudes and related practices (KAP) of Deaf LGBT Filipinos on HIV and AIDS. The study had numerous disturbing findings.
To start, majority of the respondents (33 or 54.1%) were within the 19-24 age range at the time of the study, followed by those who are over 25 (21 or 34.3%). Most of them (53 of 61 Deaf respondents) had sex before they reached 18. Many (36.1%) of them also had numerous sexual partners, with some respondents having as many as 20 sex partners in a month.
Only 21 (34.4%) use condoms, and – worryingly – even among those who used condoms, 12 (19.7%) had condom breakage during sex because of improper use.
Perhaps the unsafe sexual practice should not be surprising, considering that not even half (29, 47.5%) of the respondents heard of HIV and AIDS, with even less that number (23, 37.7%) knowing someone who died of HIV or AIDS-related complications. And with not even half of the total respondents (29) familiar with HIV and AIDS, not surprisingly, only 19 (31.1%) considered HIV and AIDS as serious, with more of them considering HIV and AIDS as not serious (20, 32.8%) or maybe serious (22, 36.1%).
The study also noted that the level of general knowledge about HIV and AIDS is low, with 40 (65.6%) of them falling in this category. Only about 1/5 of them (12, 19.7%) had high level of knowledge about HIV and AIDS. Even fewer (9, 14.8%) may be classified as having moderate knowledge level.
For the Deaf community, at least, accessing testing and – if one tested HIV positive – the TCS is challenging because “we’d need Filipino Sign Language (FSL) interpreters who can help make sure we’re getting the right information/treatment/et cetera, Aguila said. And in the Philippines, the numbers of service providers who know FSL remain very limited.
Already there are Deaf Filipinos trained to conduct CBS particularly for other Deaf Filipinos – here in “Stop HIV Together“, a photo campaign stressing the need for inclusion.
INCLUDING OTHER MINORITIES
Aguila stressed that forced invisibility, obviously, does not only affect the minority Deaf community as far as HIV-related responses are concerned – e.g. “other persons with disability continue not to have HIV-related interventions,” she said.
For Aguila: “To truly stop HIV and AIDS, we need to be inclusive.”
Back in the city south of Metro Manila, Jay was forwarded to a counselor who knows FSL so that he can be supported in accessing TCS. Even that was “problematic,” said Jay, because “I was ‘forced’ to come out to someone I didn’t necessarily want to disclose my status only because I had no choice.”
For him, this highlights “how we just have to make do with what’s there; and there really isn’t much that’s there to begin with.”
He feels “lighter” now, however, having started his antiretroviral treatment (ART). But he knows he’s one of the “lucky people with contacts”; and that “not every one has access to the same support I had… and that’s something we need to deal with.”
‘Ang laban ng LGBT ay laban ng mamamayan’
As Baguio City holds its 13th #Pride March, there is emphasis on the de-commercialization of Pride to ficus on issues affecting all minority sectors including the #LGBT community. As stressed by Nico Ponce of Bahaghari-UP Baguio, hopefully other sectors join the fight for human rights for all because “ang laban ng LGBT ay laban ng buong mamamayan.”
The struggle of the LGBTQIA community is the struggle of the people/nation.
So said Nico Ponce, chairperson of the UP-Baguio University Student Council and of Bahaghari-UP Baguio, which helmed Amianan Pride Council (APC), the organizer of the 13th Pride March in Baguio City.
This is why, Ponce added, at least particularly for Pride in Baguio City, there was an intent to veer away from commercializing Pride, to instead focus on the issues of all LGBTQIA people no matter the sector they belong to. There was also an emphasis on intersectionality – i.e. that other minority sectors have a stake in the fight for equal treatment of LGBTQIA people, also a minority sector.
“We are against the commercialization of Pride,” Ponce said, “since naniniwala tayo na ang historic roots of Pride ay… sang protest (we believe in the historic roots of Pride as a protest).” And so, to maintain the militant nature of Pride, we “make calls that… are comprehensive; and that affect not just LGBTQIA people but all Filipinos.”
The position, of course, is relevant considering the seeming (if not eventual) move towards commercialization of Pride events – e.g. cash-dependent Metro Manila’s Pride parade was able to gather over 50,000 participants in this year’s party/gathering; though the same number won’t surface to push for the anti-discrimination bill (ADB) that has been pending in Congress for 19 years now.
“There is still no equity,” said transgender activist Ms Santy Layno, which makes hosting Pride still relevant.
“We still march,” added Rev. Pastor Myke Sotero of MCC-MB, “because even if people say that LGBTQIA people are already tolerated in the Philippines, we continue to suffer discrimination… with our transgender siblings still killed/murdered. We still need to march for Pride… as a form of protest.”
‘We (still) need Pride because of the apparent need of the LGBTQIA community (for acceptance) in all sectors of society,” Ponce added.
Baguio City already has an anti-discrimination ordinance, passed in April 2017, that wants to ensure that “every person… be given equal access to opportunities in all fields of human endeavor and to equitable sharing of social and economic benefits for them to freely exercise the rights to which they are rightfully entitled, free from any prejudice and discrimination.”
But the city also has anti-LGBTQIA history. For instance, in 2011, eight pairs of LGBTQIA people had commitment ceremony there, under MCC-MB. Oppositions were raised by the Catholic Church and a group of pastors from Baguio and Benguet. Bishop Carlito Cenzon of the Baguio-Benguet Vicariate of the Roman Catholic Church, for one, stated that “these unions are an anomaly.”
In the end, said Sotero, Pride is a way to inform society “that we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, so society should accept LGBTQIA people.”
“To people who ridicule/mock us, we’re open to discussions,” said Ponce. “Hindi sila kaaway… kaya sana makiisa kayo dahil ang laban ng LGBTQIA ay laban ng buong mamamayan (We are not enemies… so we hope you join the struggle because the fight for equality of LGBTQIA people is similar to the fight for social justice of the entire nation).” – WITH ALBERT TAN MAGALLANES, JR.
Baguio marks 13th LGBTQIA Pride
The “City of Pines” marked its 13th LGBTQIA Pride March, themed “Diverse but equal” to stress that “despite diversity, everyone remains inherently equally human.” According to Rev. Pastor Myke Sotero of MCC-MB, Pride is a way to inform society “that we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, so society should accept LGBTQIA people.”
Equally diverse; equally human.
The “City of Pines” marked its 13th LGBTQIA Pride March, themed “Diverse but equal” to stress that “despite diversity, everyone remains inherently equally human.”
According to Rev. Pastor Myke Sotero, who helms Metropolitan Community Church-Metro Baguio (MCC-MB), which is part of the Amianan Pride Council (APC), the organizer of the annual event, even now that LGBTQIA issues (continue to) gain traction in mainstream awareness, holding a Pride event remains relevant because “kahit na sinasabi nating tolerated na ang mga LGBTQIA dito sa Pilipinas (even if it is said that LGBTQIA people are already tolerated in the Philippines), we continue to suffer discrimination.”
Sotero noted that, in fact, “patuloy pa din ang pagpatay sa mga kapatid natin na transgender (our transgender siblings are still being murdered/killed).”
Only in September, for instance, the lifeless body of Jessa Remiendo was found on the shore of Patar in Bolinao, Pangasinan – only approximately 94 kilometers away from Baguio City (just over two hours of road trip).
A few weeks before the gruesome murder, LGBTQIA people have been highlighting the need to pass an anti-discrimination law in the Philippines, particularly since the bill that eyes to protect the human rights of sexual minorities have been pending in Congress for 19 years now.
“Kailangan pa ring ipagpatuloy ang pagmamartsa sa Pride bilang sang protesta (Marching for Pride is still needed as a form of protest),” Sotero said.
Sotero added that Pride is also a way to inform society “na andito kami, hindi kami aalis, at dapat i-accept ang mga LGBTQIA people (we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, so society should accept LGBTQIA people).”
Baguio City actually already has an anti-discrimination ordinance, passed in April 2017, and notes that “discrimination is a crucial and serious issue” and it wants to ensure that “every person… be given equal access to opportunities in all fields of human endeavor and to equitable sharing of social and economic benefits for them to freely exercise the rights to which they are rightfully entitled, free from any prejudice and discrimination.”
But the city also has anti-LGBTQIA history – e.g. in 2011, when eight pairs of LGBTQIA people had commitment ceremony there, under MCC-MB, there were oppositions from the Catholic Church and a group of pastors from Baguio and Benguet.
In reaction, Bishop Carlito Cenzon of the Baguio-Benguet Vicariate of the Roman Catholic Church stated at that time that “these unions are an anomaly.” Meanwhile, the Guiding Light Christian Church maintained that “marriage should be between a man and woman only”.
And so for Det Neri, chairperson of Bahaghari-Metro Manila, a multisectoral militant and nationalist LGBTQIA organization based in Metro Manila (and whose arm in UP Baguio healed this year’s gathering), even now, LGBTQIA people are still mocked and “ginagawang katatawanan (made fun of).” And so celebrating Pride is “mahalaga para hindi tayo nawawala sa kasaysayan, hindi tayo mawawala doon sa hinaharap (we aren’t erased in our history, and we aren’t neglected as we head into the future).”
Neri added that Pride’s essence remains militant, and should remain as such. – WITH ALBERT TAN MAGALLANES, JR.
Dumaguete City passes SOGIE equality ordinance
In a victory for members of the LGBTQIA community in the City of Dumaguete, an ordinance was passed in the City Council to ensure non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).
In a victory for members of the LGBTQIA community in the City of Dumaguete, an ordinance was passed in the City Council to ensure non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).
Dumaguete is a 3rd class city in the province of Negros Oriental. According to the 2015 census, it has a population of 131,377 people.
It is the capital and most populous city of the province of Negros Oriental, it has a population of 131,377 people, according to the 2015 census.
Authored by Councilor Rosel Margarette Q. Erames with co-authors Councilors Lei Marie Danielle Tolentino, Bernice Ann Elmaco, Edgar Lentorio Jr., Lilani Ramon and Nelson Patrimonio, the anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO) penalizes actual or perceived SOGIE-based discrimination in the workplace, school and other similar acts that undermines and harms the rights of the LGBTQIA people.
Under the ordinance among the prohibited acts include:
- Actual or perceived SOGIE-related discrimination from employment, training, promotion, remuneration;
- Delaying, refusing or failing to accept a person’s application for admission as a student;
- Expelling or any penalty on the basis of SOGIE;
- Harassment and intimidation committed by teachers, administrators and fellow students;
- Refusing to provide goods or service, or imposing onerous terms and conditions as a prerequisite for such;
- Denying access to health services and facilities;
- Refusing or failing to allow LGBTQIA to avail of services or accommodations;
- Denying application for licenses, clearances, certifications or other documents;
- Vilifying, mocking, slandering or ridiculing LGBTQIA people through words, action and in writing; and
- Executing any activity in public which incites hatred towards or serious contempt for or severe ridicule of LGBTQ and other analogous acts.
The bill didn’t have smooth sailing before it passed. For instance, the Diocesan Commission on the Laity (whose members consist of 42 Parish Pastoral Councils from the different parishes of the Diocese of Dumaguete, covering the provinces of Negros Oriental and Siquijor, with the exception of the municipalities of La Libertad and Vallehermoso, and the cities of Guihulngan and Canlaon), as well as the Diocesan Organization of Renewal Movements & Communities (composed of 14 organizations) expressed their opposition of the ADO.
When the passage of the ADO also made the news, a handful of locals expressed their disapproval, stating – among others – that LGBTQIA people do not face discrimination in Dumaguete (thereby contradicting their own statement), prioritizing other issues of the city, and that protecting the human rights of LGBTQIA people is against the will of God.
But now with the ADO, first time violators will be made to attend a gender sensitivity training. Second time offenders may be jailed for not less than 60 days but not more than one year, or be fined with not less than P2,000 but not more than P 5, 000 (or both at the discretion of the court).
With the ADO, SOGIE-related concerns will be incorporated in the functions of existing Barangay Violence Against Women and Children (VAW) Desk, which will document and report cases of discrimination against LGBTQIA persons.
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