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UNAIDS report indicates new HIV infections in Phl have doubled in past 6 years

The Philippines now has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Asia and the Pacific.



A UNAIDS report on the global HIV epidemic states that the number of new infections in the Philippines has more than doubled in the past six years from an estimated 4,300 in 2010 to an estimated 10,500 in 2016 (140% increase).  The Philippines has become the country with the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Asia and the Pacific, and has become one of eight countries that account for more than 90% of new HIV infections in the region.

While the country has the fastest growing epidemic in terms of percentage increase, the number of new infections is not as high as several countries in the region which are estimated to have tens of thousands of new infections annually.

“The Philippines has a small window of opportunity to act now and stop a major HIV epidemic from taking hold,” said Eamonn Murphy, director of UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia-Pacific. “If HIV programming is re-directed to focus on the people most at risk and where they are located, I’m sure the country can not only return to a stable situation but even end the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030.”

While the Philippines has controlled the HIV epidemic among female sex workers, the country noted a shift in the epidemic in 2007, and has therefore scaled-up services tailored to other key risk populations since that time. The Philippine data showed that in 2016, 83% of newly reported HIV cases occurred among males who have sex with males (MSM) and transgender women who have sex with males (TGW).  The majority of the new infections are occurring among 15 to 24 year old MSM and TGW.

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In 2015, only 35% of 15 to 24 year old MSM and TGW had correct knowledge on HIV transmission and prevention.  Condom use among MSM and TGW has increased from 36% in 2011 to 50% in 2015.  The percentage of MSM and TGW who knew their HIV status by getting tested increased from 5% in 2011 to 16% in 2015; however this still remains low.

The Philippines is said to have retooled its program to expand HIV services for males who have sex with males and transgender women and has opened clinics that cater specifically to their needs in urban areas, where the risk of HIV is higher.  The strategy is to focus on 117 cities where 80% of the new infections have been reported and to open in each such city at least one HIV clinic which has convenient evening hours for working people, and is a one-stop shop that provide prevention, counseling, laboratory work-up, and treatment services. The government has also taken measures towards enabling rapid HIV screening and delivery of test results.

According to the Department of Health, it is currently providing antiretroviral (ARV) medicine for “free” to anyone who tests positive for HIV, as well as other out-patient services to a maximum of P30,000 ($600) a year per person.  Between 2013 and 2015, the government increased funding for the HIV program, and now shoulders 70% of all financing for its response. (As used here, however, “free” is subjective since only those who pay PhilHealth are able to mainly access ARVs – Ed)

There are also local governments that stepped up their efforts by providing resources and implementing innovative HIV prevention services appropriate for their locales. For example, Quezon City opened three sundown clinics which provide rapid HIV testing and counseling for MSM and TGW, as well as HIV treatment.  The city increased its funding for such initiatives since 2012.

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“HIV is one of the top health priorities for the government of the Philippines,” said Dr. Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial, the Secretary of the Department of Health.  “We (are) determined and committed to halt the increase in the number of cases and start reversing the trend of the epidemic in five years.”


City of Manila co-opts LGBTQIA pride; to hold tourism-centric event

In the City of Manila, where there is still no anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO) protecting the human rights of members of the LGBTQIA community, the local government is slated to hold its tourism-centric “Manila Summer Pride” celebration at Burnham Green at the Quirino Grandstand on April 19.



Screencap from the Facebook page of the Department of Tourism, Culture and Arts of Manila

Tone-deaf event for tourists using the LGBTQIA community as lure?

In the City of Manila, where there is still no anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO) protecting the human rights of members of the LGBTQIA community, the local government (LGU) under the leadership of former actor and product endorser Mayor Isko Moreno is slated to hold its first “Manila Summer Pride” celebration at Burnham Green at the Quirino Grandstand on April 19.

Themed “Awra Na,” the event – done through the city’s Department of Tourism, Culture and Arts of Manila (DTCAM) – is said to “showcase ang diversity sa Lungsod ng Maynila.” DTCAM also stated that the event is the LGU’s way of expressing its support to the LGBTQIA community.

According to DTCAM, “the Manila Summer Pride will be the first pride celebration organized by the City Government of Manila and we are honored to host this historical event.” But earlier, DTCAM stressed that the event is open even to those who are not LGBTQIA to include allies, and that it’s for people who “support love and equality, no matter what gender.”

Since pride celebrations are usually done in June, marking the Stonewall Inn Riots that happened in New York in 1969, largely considered as the impetus of the modern LGBTQIA movement, the LGU’s decision to hold its version of pride in April is because it believes that pride should be celebrated “anywhere and anytime of the year.”

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“Pride… in June are known all across the world and we understand that this also signifies unity among the LGBTQIA community members globally. However, times are changing and even in other countries and places in the Philippines, Pride (events) are now being conducted in different months and we believe that as a movement, it is due to be celebrated anywhere and anytime of the year,” DTCAM stated.

According to Michael David C. Tan, editor of Outrage Magazine and concurrent executive director of Manila City-based Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center), the LGU’s version of pride is problematic on many sides.

“No one will question efforts that eye to give attention to minority sectors – such as the LGBTQIA community – that continue to experience hardships,” Tan said. However, “when an effort that claims to be for a certain sector does not even know what that sector really needs, then there’s an issue.”

Manila’s LGU may be accused of “co-opting” the LGBTQIA struggle, Tan said, by focusing on “just selling it as a for-tourism event, particularly since the city still does not have an ADO.”

For Tan, “partying is cool; but we need rights”. So if Moreno is “really serious about wanting to support the LGBTQIA community, he should focus on passing an ADO, which will longer-lasting, life-changing effects on his LGBTQIA constituents’ lives.”

Tan added that the decision to hold the gathering in April solely because the organizers see pride as a celebration that can be done anytime, anywhere is therefore “tone deaf” because “for as long as LGBTQIA people are treated as less than their heterosexual counterparts, then pride remains a protest, a struggle” and “not mere celebration.”

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PNP should stop all forms of profiling – Sen. Binay

Sen. Nancy Binay urged the Philippine National Police (PNP) to end all kinds of profiling that target specific individuals or groups based on appearance, political beliefs, religion, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation.



Screencap from the Twitter page of Sen. Nancy Binay

Philippine Sen. Nancy Binay urged the Philippine National Police (PNP) to end all kinds of profiling that target specific individuals or groups based on appearance, political beliefs, religion, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation.

Binay issued the call for a “standing policy banning operations with a gender or political bias” after a transgender woman claimed she was “profiled” by Makati cops under “Oplan X-Men.”

For Binay, police profiling “borders on grave abuse”, particularly since even innocent law-abiding citizens have been wrongly arrested or accused of crimes.

In a statement, Binay said: “Pipilitin kang sumama sa presinto at kukunin ang personal na impormasyon mo na wala namang malinaw o legal na dahilan. Bakit, may kaso ba? May complaint ba? May krimen bang nagawa? Warrantless arrest ba ito? (Cops force you to come to their police station and get your personal information without clear and legal reasons. Why? Do you have a case? Is there a complaint? Did you commit a crime? Is this a warrantless arrest?)”

Binay questioned gender profiling, red- or prostitute-tagging and the propriety of arresting people on the basis of observed characteristics or behavior.

For Binay, “dahil sa mali-maling profiling, people’s rights have been trampled. Sana huwag nang pamarisan pa ang pangyayaring ito ng ibang local police (because of wrong profiling, people’s rights have been trampled. I hope other local police don’t follow suit).”

Binay added that “police should be accountable for abusive practices.”

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The senator is urging to the PNP and other law enforcement agencies to have a “clear and enforceable policy” ending bigotry, particularly institutionalized homophobia and transphobia, in their organizations. She suggested that cops undergo gender awareness and sensitivity training to avoid further malicious and unsubstantiated arrests.

Earlier, Makati City police chief Rogelio Simon said that profiling operations are not wrong per se; but because of the ruckus created by Operation X-Men, the two cops involved in an incident wherein a transgender woman was wrongfully almost forced to be profiled were fired.

As per an report, too, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas said that the agency will continue its profiling operations as this was the directive of the PNP chief.

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Same-sex wedding held in British Embassy Manila

British Ambassador Daniel Pruce officiated a same-sex wedding in the British embassy in Manila, marking not only Valentine’s Day but the 87th same-sex marriage conducted in the premises.



Screencap from the British Embassy Manila FB page


British Ambassador Daniel Pruce officiated a same-sex wedding in the British embassy in Manila, marking not only Valentine’s Day but the 87th same-sex marriage conducted in the premises.

In a Facebook post, British Embassy Manila claimed: “Love is in the air! Congratulations to Mark and Richard who were married by Ambassador Daniel Pruce on #ValentinesDay. We wish you a lifetime of love and happiness.”

It is worth noting that while same-sex marriage is not outright banned by the Philippine Constitution, the country’s Family Code limits marriage as a sacrament between one man and one woman.

However, foreign embassies are given extraterritorial privileges under the Geneva Convention. These include immunity from intrusion, damage and disturbance by the host countries.

Same-sex marriage was legalized in Great Britain in 2014; and so the embassy said the UK “continues to champion the rights and equal treatment of all regardless of gender.”

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Makati City police now – apparently – profiling members of LGBTQIA community

The practice of profiling members of the LGBTQIA community is – apparently – actually already part of the implemented practices of Makati City’s police via its “Operation X-Men.”



Screencap from Makati City police's SCADS

On February 14, transgender woman Anne Pelos was walking along Makati Ave. in Makati City, when she was stopped by a police officer who wanted her to go with him to the police station. Asked why, Pelos was told Makati police was instructed to to bring in transgender people (in this case in particular, transgender women) “for profiling.”

Though Pelos – who works in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry – was able to walk away from the traumatizing incident with her friends documenting/recording what transpired, the practice of profiling members of the LGBTQIA community is – apparently – actually already part of the implemented practices of Makati City’s police via its “Operation X-Men.”

In January, in an earlier post in Facebook, Makati police’s Station Community Affairs and Development Section (SCADS) stated that “Oplan X-Men is an intensified operation that aims to rescue ladyboys (sic) from exploitation and human trafficking in ill-repute areas.”

On January 22, at 11:52 PM, for that matter, the city’s police “invited” 67 individuals to the Makati City Police Station, with those invited coming from “illegal settlers inside Manila South Cemetery” and as a result of “Oplan X-Men at Burgos, Poblacion, Makati City.”

As reported, the rounding up of people was “conducted through the combined efforts of Station Operations, Women’s Desk, Station Intelligence and Station and Drug Enforcement Unit.”

According to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), which has started investigating “Oplan X-Men”, the CHR recognizes incidents in which the police may “invite” individuals to their headquarters. However, “the public should exercise caution, as these may be used to effect warrantless arrests,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia was quoted as saying by

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De Guia added that “this recent incident further highlights the violence and harassment experienced every day by the LGBTQI community because of their sexual orientation and gender identity (and expression).”

On her Facebook recollection of the incident, Pelos surmised that she was targeted because of what she was wearing (i.e. a white tube dress, which may be stereotypically associated with what sex workers in the area also wear).

But Pelos said that “I have an honest and decent job…” adding that “you should not just judge all trans people and drag them to the police precinct.”

On February 17, following the ruckus caused by the profiling, the two cops (Patrolman Timmy Paez and Police Corporal Juliel Atal) who invited Pelos to their headquarters after accosting her as she was walking home along Makati Avenue were supposedly fired.

Also, surprisingly, even after SCAD’s earlier mention of the same, Makati City police chief Rogelio Simon also told news outlet Rappler that Oplan X-Men was not a part of any police activity in Makati.

This is not the first ill-conceived attempt to profile members of the LGBTQIA community.

In 2017, former Quezon City mayor Herbert Bautista issued a memorandum to task the heads of the local government unit’s various offices to profile “all employees who belong to the (LGBTQIA community)… regardless of the employment agreement.”

Incidentally, Nazi Germany also profiled members of the LGBTQIA community; and under the Third Reich, it is estimated that approximately 100,000 men were arrested for homosexuality, of which around 5,000-15,000 were sent to concentration camps.

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For CHR’s De Guia, the incident stresses “the need to pass the SOGIE Equality Bill to penalize all forms of discrimination.”

The proposed bill that eyes to protect the human rights of members of the LGBTQIA community continues to languish in Congress after two decades.

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Women in leadership positions face more sexual harassment

Power in the workplace does not stop women’s exposure to sexual harassment. On the contrary, women with supervisory positions are harassed more than women employees.



Photo by Isabella Mariana from

Power in the workplace does not stop women’s exposure to sexual harassment. On the contrary, women with supervisory positions are harassed more than women employees. These are the results from a new study from the Swedish Institute for Social Research at Stockholm University, which examined the conditions in Sweden, USA and Japan.

Written by Folke, O., Rickne, J., Tanaka, S., & Tateishi, Y., Sexual Harassment of Women Leaders appeared in Daedalus.

By analyzing the responses from three surveys, researchers at the Swedish Institute for Social Research, SOFI, at Stockholm University, together with fellow American and Japanese researchers, have studied the prevalence of sexual harassment across the organizational hierarchy. The study shows that women with supervisory positions experienced between 30 and 100 per cent more sexual harassment than other women employees. This was true across the United States, Japan, and Sweden, three countries with different gender norms and levels of gender equality in the labour market. Comparing levels of leadership, exposure to harassment was greatest at lower levels of leadership, but remained substantial and similar to the level of harassment for the highest positions.

“When we first started to study sexual harassment, we expected a higher exposure for women with less power in the workplace. Instead we found the contrary. When you think about it, there are logical explanations: a supervisor is exposed to new groups of potential perpetrators. She can be harassed both from her subordinates and from higher-level management within the company. More harassment from these two groups is also what we saw when we asked the women who had harassed them,” says Johanna Rickne, Professor of Economics at SOFI.

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In all three countries, women with supervisory positions were subject to more harassment when their subordinates consisted of mostly men.

“Sexual harassment means that women’s career advancement comes at a higher cost than men’s, especially in male-dominated industries and firms. Additional survey data from the United States and Japan showed that harassment of supervisors was not only more common than for employees, but was also followed by more negative professional and social consequences. This included getting a reputation of being a ‘trouble maker’ and missing out on promotions or training,” says Olle Folke, affiliated researcher at SOFI and associate professor at Uppsala University.

The study addressed the risk of measurement error from different awareness of sexual harassment among supervisors and employees. Questions on whether or not particular behaviours should, or should not, be defined as harassment showed similar answers in the two groups. This makes it unlikely that the results derive from different perceptions of work interactions, rather than different treatment in those interactions.

The study used two different measurement tools. The surveys in the United States and Japan included the Sexual Experiences Questionnaire, a survey instrument with a list of behaviours, developed for studies in the US military. All three countries were also surveyed with subjective questions about whether the person had been exposed to sexual harassment. The time span for all questions was the previous 12 months.

The Swedish results come from five waves of the Swedish Work Environment Survey, a nationally representative dataset collected biannually by Statistics Sweden (1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2007) and with a total of 23,994 female respondents. In the United States and Japan, the research team collected new survey material during 2019. The US sample included 1,573 employed female citizens, whereof 62 per cent had supervisory positions, while the Japanese sample included 1,573 respondents, of which 17 per cent of the women were in supervisory positions. Apart from questions about sexual harassments, respondents were asked about perpetrators, how they reacted to the harassment, and what social and professional consequences followed the victimization.

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Transfer of Pemberton to Bilibid sought after VFA termination

The killer of transgender woman Jennifer Laude, US serviceman Joseph Scott Pemberton, should be transferred to the New Bilibid Prison following the termination of the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US.



Stop the special treatment.

The killer of transgender woman Jennifer Laude, US serviceman Joseph Scott Pemberton, should be transferred to the New Bilibid Prison following the termination of the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US.

This is the call made by Atty. Harry Roque, who served as the legal counsel of the Laude family, at CNN Philippines’ The Source.

“I hope after the six month period, and the VFA has finally been terminated, that he will be finally moved to Muntinlupa where he belongs — together with the Ampatuans and other killers,” Roque was quoted as saying.

Pemberton was sentenced to six to 12 years in prison after he was found guilty in the 2014 murder of Laude, who was found lifeless in an Olongapo City motel room after a night out with Pemberton in October of that year. With her neck blackened with strangulation marks, Laude was found with her head rammed into a toilet.

To date, the American soldier is detained at the custodial center in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. And for Roque, even if this is pursuant to provisions of the 1998 military deal, this is a copout since the space is a “golden cage”.

Now with the notice of VFA termination on the table, Roque said Pemberton’s move to the state penitentiary should now be pursued.

“The only reason why he’s being kept in that golden cage is because of the VFA. Without the VFA, he should be treated like all other prisoners, convicted felons, and sent to Muntinlupa,” Roque said.

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According to Ms Kate Montecarlo Cordova or the Association of Transgender People in the Philippines (ATP), “it does not bother me if he will be transferred to Bilibid after the cancellation of VFA if that is the right thing to do. Doing what is the right thing through legal means is upholding justice and righteousness. It is serving what is due both to the victim and to the perpetrator.”

And in a statement provided to Outrage Magazine, Toni Gee Fernandez of the Mujer LGBT Organization, Inc. in Zamboanga in Mindanao said that they “commend… our national government for taking on the courage and strong political will to make a stand in terminating the VFA.”

But “this historic decision by the government gives rise to two very crucial questions (also affecting) the LGBTQIA community”: 1) Due to the termination, can the Philippines… finally exercise jurisdiction over any and all US military personnel for crimes committed within our territory? 2) If so, does this mean that Pemberton, the US military personnel convicted for the brutal murder of Jennifer Laude in 2014, be finally moved to the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City to continue serving the remainder of his sentence?

For Mujer LGBT Organization, Inc.: “It is high time that we let our laws take over those who deserve to be punished for what they did to our countrymen.”

Meanwhile, Ms Naomi Fontanos of GANDA Filipinas said that “we definitely welcome the abrogation of VFA in spite of the suspicious circumstances this has happened. If President (Rodrigo) Duterte is terminating the VFA just because his friend, Sen. Bato dela Rosa’s US visa was cancelled, then that is not an evidence-based policy decision. It is saddening that instead of prioritizing our country’s sovereignty, the decision to terminate the VFA is borne out of padrini politics, in which the highest leader of the land is cancelling a military agreement out of pique or being slighted by his friend’s US visa cancellation and not the negative effects of the policy of militarization of this government.”

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Fontanos added that “it is also worrying that in its place, a VFA with China is being proposed, which is highly problematic given the West Philippine Sea dispute with China.It seems that Pres. Duterte is taking every possible opportunity to allow Chinese imperialism in our country. So he’s just simply replacing one imperialist power with another.”

In the end, for Fontanos, “of course we welcome the transfer of Pemberto to Bilibid if ever, but I doubt if that will ever happen. I hope the Jennifer Laude case will not be used as a bargaining chip in ironing our the creases of macho patriarchal geopolitical conflict.”

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