What if? What if we could spend Christmas thanking the God of caring and compassion that we have a new Reproductive Health Law in the Philippines? Thank you, God. Thank you, bold legislators. It was not a battle against the Roman Catholic Church. Lord, it was a move toward Your justice, Your Love, Your compassion.
And Senator Soto is obstructing the Conference Committee to reconcile the passed Senate and House bills. What if?
If we look around, what do we see? What if we look honestly at the cold, hard, uncaring, uncompassionate milieu of our world, notwithstanding the world-wide and impressive outpouring of support for the people of Newtown? What if we open our eyes to the injustice sprayed from invisible and visible automatic weapons around the world?
The emotion that President Aquino and President Obama expressed after the Connecticut massacre was admirable and thought-provoking.
What if they would recognize and be moved by and make pledges in behalf of the killings of 265 transgender people in 2012 alone (plus all the other years before)?
Where were they in November when the friends of transgender people mourned the 265 transgender victims of 2012?
The “Memorial Booklet” of GANDA Filipinas, the transgender advocates, lists the 265 “names” and recounts the grisly stories of their deaths – guns, guns, guns and burning, hanging, stoning, slashing, stabbing, throat cutting, strangling, beating, cutting the body into pieces, drowning, decapitation, buried alive.
“Each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgender people…[yet] even now deaths based on violence based on anti-transgender hatred or prejudice are largely ignored.”
My friend, what if? What if the world would mourn and act upon the senseless brutal slaughter of 265 innocent transgender people – as they so rightfully did for the insane killings of 20 innocent children and their hero teachers in Connecticut?
What if? What if President Aquino and President Obama would have attended the November “Day of Remembrance” …”which publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through this vigil we express our love and respect for our people in the face of [inter]national indifference and hatred, [remembering] that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends, and lovers…memorializing those of us who have died by anti-transgender violence.”
Similarly what if they would have been awakened by the senseless murder of my friend Ito?
Now surely it is time to look at gun control. But what about “violence control”? Is mourning our brutally killed loved ones enough? What about action?
One action that has been languishing in the Congress longer than the RH Bill is the Anti-Discrimination Bill that penalizes behavior that discriminates against LGBT people.
All these years the members of the Congress have been shaking in their boots, quivering in fear of retaliation from those who hate condoms and would rather see people suffer and die.
Lord, thank you, I pray, that a majority of our legislators got the guts to give the people more importance than a church’s hatred of condoms. It’s so ironic, Lord — a church which claims to be Your church, which preaches love and practices prejudice and violence toward women and LGBT people.
Yes, deplorably, that’s what they do to LGBT people every day, every decade. Fr. John McNeil (SJ) tried to combat the prejudice from within. They rewarded him with expulsion. Jesus said, “Love.” Yet they influence people like Pacquiao to say, “Let them die.”
Yes, the Philippines is a non-violent culture. But today’s editorial in the Inquirer says something like, “slow down. Don’t forget the Ampatuan mass slaughter which is having such a slow trial now.”
What about more “subtle” violence in our culture? What about the religious violence, the societal violence, the cuddling, the promoting of a culture of hate and violence toward LGBT people?
What if? What if the president, the congress and the people –- is it unimaginable? – what if they would love and respect women who love women and men who love men? And stop the violence? What if? Would it stop or slow down the suicides, murders, firings, evictions, senseless hate and hate crimes?
If the murders of 265 transgender people will not bring a tear to the world,
— what will?
The ecumenical church service that President Obama attended in Newtown was wonderful. We saw arm in arm, literally, Catholic and Muslim ministers, Protestant, Jewish, Anglican, B’Hai, Methodist, – arm in arm – praying and mourning together. It was impressive.
What if? What if they would unite for love and justice for LGBT people?
In the meantime in the Philippines we have five Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) and Catholic Diocese of One Spirit who preach and practice, not only ecumenical unity, but who follow and teach Jesus’ example of love and justice for all.
And that is especially for the marginalized, like Jesus did. He loved to make the marginalized, the hated Samaritans, heroes of his stories, such as the “Good Samaritan.” YET, that was in direct contradiction to the cultural practice of His “church” at the time.
Thank you, lawmakers who voted “yes.” You followed the example of Jesus – who put justice and the “right” first rather “wrong” practiced by His “church.”
What if? What if society would follow the example of the Way of Jesus – rather than the way of hate and prejudice?
Our society could happily take a look at the way of Jesus with regard to another marginalized people in our society.
What if? What if you and I, our neighbors, our friends, and yes, our church, our whole society would stop chasing to the underground (a hidden life) people who have a certain virus.
My God, what did Jesus consistently do about the “sick” people in his life? The lame, the blind, the lepers? And what does our society do to people who have HIV? Stigma!!! Internet paints this picture:
Social stigma is the extreme disapproval of, or discontent with, a person on the grounds of characteristics that distinguish them from other members of a society. Stigma may attach to a person, who differs from social or cultural norms.
Social stigma can result from the perception or attribution, rightly or wrongly, of mental illness, physical disabilities, diseases such as leprosy (see leprosy stigma), illegitimacy, sexual orientation, gender identity skin tone, nationality, ethnicity, religion (or lack of religion) or criminality. Attributes associated with social stigma often vary depending on the geopolitical and corresponding sociopolitical contexts in different parts of the world.”
Society does THAT to LGBT people every day. God forbid that LGBT people would join society in doing THAT to persons with HIV!
I even heard of a cemetery that refused to bury a person with HIV so as “not to contaminate the cemetery.” My God, science has told us that we can drink from the same cup, eat from the same fork? Why does this hate, stigma, fear, and nonsense continue. Why does it drive so many to close the doors of their homes and their hearts?
What if? What if society would follow the authentic example of the Love of Jesus (instead of inventing pseudo ways of hate and prejudice which are a mockery of Jesus by those pretending to follow His way)? Would an authentic follower of Jesus really practice “selective justice” or “selective caring” or “selective compassion”? Some get it; some don’t.
A step has been made in the fearless passage of the RH Law. The hate churches surely will intensify their campaign to prevent any more laws which are pleasing to Jesus, but opposed by the church.
Speaker Belmonte has already announced the next arena. The Philippines and the Vatican are the only countries in the world which refuse their people the right to divorce. The Vatican is dominated by celibate priests, monsignors, bishops, cardinals and popes. They don’t have a problem with divorce for themselves – only divorce for people who need it. The people who need it are human beings who are human and have got stuck in a painful, shattering, perhaps destructive, unworkable marriage.
Every country recognizes that need except the Vatican and those who say “Opo” to the Vatican, that is, of course, the Philippine government in obedience to the Vatican’s bishops.
But what if?
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.
#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).
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.
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.”
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.
“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!)
Worsening #ARVshortage in the Phl?
On Jan. 9, the Philippines gained a new HIV and AIDS law that is supposed to better the lives of Filipinos living with HIV. But many in the HIV community mark this day with distress, largely because of the worsening ARV shortage.
In September 2018, Xander (not his real name; anonymity requested), a Filipino living with HIV, claimed that he was told by the person working in the pharmacy of his hub to “consume already-expired medicines (the three-in-one tablet of Lamivudine/Tenofovir/Efavirenz)”, and that “it is “still good for three months after the expiration date.”
Since dealing with ARV-related issue is not new to him (it happened to him in the last quarter of 2013), he complained and was given newer meds. Noticeably, “those who didn’t complain – like I did – ended up using the expired meds,” he said.
Xander can only recall how he earlier lamented – again in 2013 – that the ARV shortage will happen again, particularly considering the continuing denial of the Department of Health (DOH) about this issue.
The 9th of January is supposed to be a happy day particularly for Filipinos living with HIV and their advocates. On that day, the newly-signed Republic Act 11166 or the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act was released after it was signed into law by Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte. By replacing the 20-year-old Republic Act 8504 or the Philippine National AIDS and Control Act of 1998, this new law is supposed to boost the government’s response to HIV and AIDS by making health services for HIV and AIDS more accessible to Filipinos.
But many in the HIV community mark this day with distress, largely because of the worsening ARV shortage, which is not helped by the denial of the issue by various heads of offices – including government officials, as well as those helming treatment hubs/facilities and even select non-government organizations (NGOs).
In an unsigned statement (as if so that no one can be “chased” to be held accountable for the same statement), the DOH seemed to belittle the issue by outright claiming that there’s an ‘alleged’ shortage of ARVs; even as it also stated that they take the issue of HIV infection in the country seriously. Part of this is to take “great steps to ensure that access for HIV treatments are available for those who are diagnosed with HIV.”
The DOH statement added:
“As of October 2018, we have enrolled 32,224 persons living with HIV for treatment with ARV such as Nevirapine, Lamivudine/Tenofovir. The DOH has been providing free ARV to Filipinos living with HIV through our HIV treatment hubs.
“Based on our records, there are 3,200 registered PLHIV who are on Nevirapine and 1,791 PLHIV on Lamivudine/Tenofovir, as of December last year.
That just about half of the total PLHIVs in the Philippines use ARVs is worth noting, even if it’s another issue altogether.
But the mention of these two meds/cocktails is important because the complaints reaching – among others – Outrage Magazine, Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center) other and HIV-related community-based organizations/non-government organizations particularly currently mention these.
In Quezon City, for instance, at least eight PLHIVs alleged that they have been given incomplete medications – i.e. they were supplied with either Lamivudine/Tenofovir or Lamivudine/Zidovudine, but they have not been receiving Nevirapine because this is not available. These people are, therefore, taking incomplete meds.
Pinoy Plus’s hotline, PRC, has received similar allegations of non-delivery of Nevirapine.
In Cavite (Imus, Bacoor and Dasmariñas), at least three clients surfaced to allege about the same issue. PLHIVs are now “borrowing” each others’ Nevirapine supply just so they don’t miss their required dosage because their hub does not have supplies from the DOH.
There are similar allegations in Cagayan de Oro City, Davao City and Zamboanga City.
And in Alabang, the pharmacy of a treatment hub even posted on January 8, 2019 an announcement that “due to the shortage and delay of the deliveries at DOH, only one bottle will be dispensed of the following medicines: Nevirapine (200mg tablet); Lamivudine (150mg)/Zidovudine (300mg tablet); and Lamivudine (300mg)/Tenofovir (300mg tablet).” The same hub is telling its clients to “wait for further announcement on stock availability.”
Note that the RITM-AIDS Research Group’s pharmacy is putting the blame on the DOH.
The same DOH statement stressed that “the latest data, as of January 4, confirms that Nevirapine has already been delivered to the 16 treatment hubs to meet the requirements for February-April 2019. For Lamivudine/Tenofovir, a month’s supply has also been delivered to Regions X, VI and I. The rest of the regions will expect deliveries within this week.”
Noticeably, the DOH statement responds to issues only this January, even if this concern has been circulating in the PLHIV community since 2018, and only peaked now.
There are fewer ARV refills now. If, in the past, the usual practice is for hubs to give PLHIVs three bottles of ARV to last them for three months, a growing number are now complaining about the supply being cut to one month in numerous hubs – e.g. there’s that post in RITM’s pharmacy. Some allege that they are even supplied ARVs just for a week or even just for three days.
Due to the ARV shortage that the DOH is not outright confronting, expired medicines are allegedly being given to PLHIVs – as in the case of Xander.
Also due to the ARV shortage, the medication of a number of PLHIVs are allegedly being changed not because it’s medically sound, but because their usual medicines are not readily available. In Mandaluyong City, there are PLHIVs who claimed to have been told to use Lamivudine/Tenofovir/Efavirenz because it’s the only available ARV. If they refuse to do so, then they will have to stop taking their usual medications until such time when the delivery of supplies are normalized again.
To allow the DOH to respond to these claims, Outrage Magazine repeatedly reached out to the government body. Upon calling the media relations unit (at +63 2 651-7800 loc. 1126), we were turned over to the office of Dr. Gerard Belimac (+63 2 651-7800 locs. 2355, 2352, 2354). Five attempts were made to speak with Belimac or any other authority in his office, but he has been unavailable at those five times; and even after leaving requests for a statement from him on the ARV shortage, as of press time, the publication has not heard back.
As this is a continuing story, coordination will continue to – eventually hopefully – extensively hear from the DOH on this issue.
The DOH statement also stated that it is “working closely with our suppliers to ensure that there are no gaps in our supply chain. In fact, we are waiting for deliveries of an additional 12,375 bottles of Nevirapine good for another three months and 7,024 bottles of Lamivudine/Tenofovir good for another two months.”
The DOH also claimed that it is continuing to explore “for more partners in providing excellent support for Filipinos living with HIV-AIDS and in ending the deadly disease.”
As if wanting to pacify the complaining PLHIVs, the DOH statement transferred to responsibility to “HIV doctors to explore possible options”, or visit Facebook page (PLHIV Response Center) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Note the use of a gmail account for a body with millions in budget.
No investigations on where the errors in the supply chain is happening so that these can be fixed is forthcoming. No one being held accountable here.
THE NEED TO GO BEYOND LIP SERVICE
Incidentally, Article V, Sec. 33 of the newly signed HIV law states: “The DOH shall establish a program that will provide free and accessible ART and medication for opportunistic infections to all PLHIVs who are enrolled in the program… A manual of procedures for management of PLHIV shall be developed by the DOH.”
The IRR is not even there yet, but this mandate to provide life-saving meds is now already cast in doubt.
Xander – who only had a refill of his ARVs – said that many like him who posted about this issue online were told to stop doing so “because we are supposedly creating panic among PLHIVs.”
He now says that people who cover up this issue are “as worse as those paid to work on this issue. Because if you go to the HIV community, we’ve long lived with worrying that our meds may not be given us at any moment. If some people think complaining about this is wrong, then they shouldn’t be in HIV advocacy, but work as PR people of those failing to do their jobs.”
In the end, “this needs to be resolved fast. Enough with discussing semantics on what we’re having is a shortage or a stockout; the fact remains that there are PLHIVs not getting their supplies. Lives are at stake. So supply the ARVs; now.”
Work doesn’t stop for the rainbow warriors
The Rainbow Collective launched a daily journal called “I Want the World to Know”, which aims to educate LGBTQIA persons and the general public about issues facing the community, and what they can do to promote acceptance.
By Sandy Miguel
More pressure should fall on the Senate to expedite the passage of the SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity or Expression) Equality Bill, but even sans this (or perhaps exactly because this is not getting traction), new LGBTQIA-centered organizations are coming to the forefront to clamor for more visibility and acceptance for the community.
One of these new organizations, The Rainbow Collective (TRC), launched a daily journal called I Want the World to Know, which aims to educate LGBTQIA persons and the general public about issues facing the community, and what they can do to promote acceptance.
“There’s (still) this mindset that you’re a lesser person just because you are LGBT,” TRC founder Lady Allyson Dulnuan said. “It may be a long road to acceptance, but it is possible by properly educating people and correcting their misconceptions and biases about the community.”
Acceptance, obviously, continues to be an elusive concept in society for LGBTQIA individuals.
The Philippines was hailed as one the most “tolerant” in Asia-Pacific region towards the LGBTQIA community based on a 2013 Pew Research Center report that found over 70% of Filipinos believe that homosexuality “should be accepted by society,” the Huffington Post reported in 2015.
But this preceded by the brutal murder of transwoman Jennifer Laude in her Olongapo hometown by a US marine. Just as sadly, two more deaths believed to also be LGBTQIA-related hate crimes followed just weeks after Laude was killed.
These hate crimes bring attention to the reality that LGBTQIA discrimination is still an epidemic in the country.
Elsewhere in the Philippines, discrimination happens to LGBTQIA individuals on a day-to-day basis; from extreme bullying to hearing “light-hearted,” passive-aggressive jokes, LGBTQ persons experience some form of prejudice daily at their place of work, in public or even at home. Lesbians, for instance, can most likely cite an incidence when they were teased to get themselves a man to “correct” their gender identity. Many, if not all, of these incidences of gender biases go unreported.
Incidences also occur because of the lack of anti-discriminatory policies in various jurisdictions. In 2018, for instance, comedian Jervi Li, also known as Kaladkaren Davila, was barred from entering H&J Sports Bar in Makati. The club bouncer said they don’t let gay people in, and that it was a policy created by the management. The interaction was recorded in a video, which Li posted on her Facebook page.
TRC’s planner, I Want the World to Know, contains resources on sexual and gender differences, LGBTQIA adoption and family life, as well as facts on homophobia and how they would benefit from having the SOGIE Equality Bill passed. It also arms individuals with information on how to identify LGBT issues and how they can effectively cope up in the society. The planner similarly has works and art from a handful of artists and writers who support the LGBTQIA community.
But work doesn’t stop – not for TRC, nor should it for everyone.
TRC is now in front of the planning board for its next project, Project Halipan, which zeroes in on domestic abuse and rehabilitating abusers in an LGBTQIA relationships.
The Rainbow Collective’s LGBT Planner 2019 is still available at https://bit.ly/TRC2019LGBTPlanner for P699.00. Message TRC’s Facebook page to order. Proceeds from the planner’s sales will go to Project Halipan.
Hear ye, hear ye! Pageant ‘pundits’ against trans people
Your gay identity or your “I love my LGBT friends” proclamation mean absolutely nothing to the struggles of trans folks when you follow it with transphobic statements.
Way back when I came out to my mom, I remember assuring her that I would not be dating boyish, manly, butch girls. In my ignorant mind at that time, I regarded non-feminine lesbians as a “disgrace” to the lesbian identity. I did not want to be associated with that image of a woman.
WhenI started dating, I had my concerns about being in a relationship with a bisexual woman. My unfounded fears involved thoughts like, “What if she cheats on me with a guy? That would look pretty bad on me as a lesbian.”, “What if we break up and her next relationship would be with a guy? Would people think that she grew sick of me just because I’m not?”, “If she wants kids, then I might not be the most viable partner for her.” or “Would she ever miss dick or having sex with a guy in the long-run?”. I’ve never actually heard of a research or an actual experience that a bisexual woman would always choose a guy over a girl eventually. I also did not receive any warnings about the added emotional and future risks of dating a bisexual. But due to this ever-heteronormative society-and I’m sure a lot of lesbians bear the same feelings- I just felt like the chance that a bisexual would end up with a straight relationship is much higher since it has widespread acceptance, thus, less struggles. The thought of being one-upped by heteronormativity, again, can be an unappetizing thought.
Fortunately, after learning more about the human spectrum that is SOGIE, I’ve done away with those insecurities and misconceptions. In light of recent altercations among viewers about Ms. Spain’s participation in the Miss Universe pageant, it is obvious that a lot of people are also in need of much enlightenment.
But, alas, I am not about to educate people on SOGIE. I believe if they are truly open to understanding the complexity that is gender and sexuality, they would go find information on their own. But there is one thing that terribly needs to be pointed out. I’ve been seeing a lot of opinions thrown about regarding theUniverse pageantry’s welcoming of Ms. Spain; and I would just like to clarify that below opening remarks do not give credence to anti-trans statements:
- I am gay…
- I am part of the LGBTQ community…
- I love / respect the LGBT community…
- I have gay friends…
Your gay identity or your “I love my LGBT friends” proclamation mean absolutely nothing to the struggles of trans folks when you follow it with transphobic statements. Please, before identifying yourself as a member of the LGBTQ community or claiming that you respect said community, make sure that you’ve thoroughly educated yourself what that community stands for, as well as what each of those letters is actually fighting for.
Otherwise, you’re just a gay person concerned only about your own gay rights, as opposed to wholeheartedly being part of the LGBTQ community. As for those “I-respect-the-LGBT-but..”people, I hope one day you’ll get off your privileged high horse and see how the status quo stymies the human dignity and rights of the community you supposedly respect.
Moments when hashtag activism really worked
Every now and then, a new cause encourages users to send in a flurry of social media posts, all backed by a common tag used to grab the users’ attention to the issue. While some campaigns have backfired, some have really, really worked creating defining moments.
It’s been more than 10 years to the use of this so small and unprepossessing symbol – #. Little did its users know that it would contribute to changing the world. It’s emerged as the prelude to every important online conversation.
The phenomenon of using this symbol is popularly referred to as hashtag activism. Every now and then, a new cause encourages users to send in a flurry of social media posts, all backed by a common tag used to grab the users’ attention to the issue. While some campaigns have backfired, some have really, really worked creating defining moments. Let’s take a look at some of them:
When President Trump was alleged for asking his staff to dress like women, the internet was flooded with suggestions and opinions. Gendered clothing is available everywhere but unlike hashtags, their purpose is to only divide. Some women voiced their preference to dress their best for work while some pointed out how black is the new black. The campaign received extensive female support for obvious reasons.
This UK-based campaign aimed at taking action against the anti-migrant position of several British newspapers. It started somewhere around 2016 and has repeatedly gone viral several times. It has also made some great victories in the process. For instance, Lego ended its agreement with The Daily Mail and now does not offer any promotional giveaways with the newspaper.
The British respond to tragedy with both class and honesty. In fact, the Londoners like hashtag activism because it always keeps to the left. The #YouAintNoMuslimBruv campaign was the reaction to an incident that took place a few weeks before Christmas 2015. A man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia cut the throat of a passenger at a London tube station. The judge denounced the act to be motivated by Islamic extremism and sentenced him to life imprisonment at a high-security psychiatric institution.
However, before the papers went all gaga over Islamophobia, a young man gave the perfect reply to this religious criticism since the culprit was arrested by a Muslim policeman.
Gender equality has been talked about for generations. It affects everyone. The HeForShe campaign is just about that. The UN Women Campaign, supported by Emma Watson and Justin Trudeau, encouraged men and boys to support the women in their lives and actively involve themselves in the struggle that had previously been regarded as a ‘woman’s thing.’
Several countries participated in the campaign with their pledges and commitments to support the cause. Some of the leading countries worth mentioning are Rwanda, the UK, the US, Mexico, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Women’s March in 2017 was a powerful campaign as women across the world united to fight for their status-quo and optimistically change the future. It focused on demanding an equal footing in society. The uniting power of the hashtag proved that women are not alone and can create a euphoric moment that will change history.
Death by inaction and misaction
If the people supposed to serve us are failing to do so, even if they know they can do something if they really, really want to, then I can’t help but be sad… and angry… and speak out.
By Stephen Christian Quilacio
In March 2015 – just over three years ago – playwright, author and longtime gay rights and AIDS activist Larry Kramer gave a blistering speech. Dubbed “Cure!”, he likened HIV to a “genocide inflicted upon gay people.”
To wit, and I quote part of his speech:
“Thirty-four years. HIV/AIDS has been our plague for 34 years. We should have known more about this plague by now. 34 years is a very long time to let people die.
I think more and more about evil. I believe in evil. I believe evil is an act, intentional or not, of inflicting undeserved harm on others. Genocide is such an act. I believe genocide is being inflicted upon gay people.
Genocide is the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or ethnic group. Such as gay people. Such as people of color. To date, around the world, an estimated 78 million people have become infected, 39 million of whom have died. When we first became acquainted with HIV there were 41 cases.”
Then – to stress his point – he (aptly) added:
“I no longer have any doubt that… government is content, via sins of omission or commission, to allow the extermination of my homosexual population to continue unabated.”
I am bringing this up now, though this time to highlight what it’s like to be HIV-positive in the Philippines.
See… I am a Filipino living with HIV. I’ve been HIV-positive since 2013. And though hailing from Northern Mindanao, I have since moved to Metro Manila; and I am now based in Taguig City.
My life as a Filipino with HIV – from the start until now – continues to be extremely challenging. And in many instances, this is due to the inaction and misaction of service providers, including (if not particularly) the government.
Take for instance the continuous running out of supply of antiretroviral (ARV) meds in the country.
This has been an ongoing issue, first loudly raised in 2013 and then “denied” by the Department of Health (DOH) in 2014.
At that time, Dr. Rossana Ditangco, research chief at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine-AIDS Research Group (RITM-ARG), one of the treatment hubs in the country, said that the limited ARV supply was “because of the delay in the delivery of (ARVs) to the Department of Health (DOH).”
This was belied by Dr. Jose Gerard Belimac, head of DOH’s National AIDS/STI Prevention and Control Program, who claimed then that there is no delay in the procurement of ARVs, just as there is no “official pronouncement from the DOH to the treatment hubs to control (the distribution of ARVs) because of a delay in the procurement (of ARVs),” he said in an exclusive interview by Outrage Magazine. Belimac stressed then that “for now, all the ARVs that we promised to provide to the patients are available.”
The denial makes one angry though, because – while still in Cagayan de Oro City at that time – we who were accessing meds were not getting our steady ARV supply. We had to “borrow” meds from other PLHIVs just so none of us would skip our dosage; though ending missing meds all together when the supplies didn’t arrive.
It was as if we were being told we were lying (by claiming there’s a shortage) by the very body that is covering up its erroneous system/s.
And then just a few weeks ago, I was informed by my doctor (this time in Metro Manila) that my meds may have to be changed because there is no supply of Nevirapine (what I have been taking). Apparently, I ain’t the first (and perhaps not the last) whose meds may be changed NOT because it’s necessary but because… the DOH’s supply system is problematic.
Looking back, I also remember not even knowing of viral load (VL) for years while in Mindanao. The hub I used to go to only offered CD4 count (not VL); and – come to think of it – this wasn’t even regularly done because the CD4 machine may not have been working or there was no reagent or… other such reasons were given to us.
To date, many PLHIVs from outside Metro Manila (and even those here) do not know their VL or CD4 count.
And this is even if the amount we paid PhilHealth was the same as everybody else; and the services we were supposed to be getting (based in the OHAT package) was supposed to include this.
I am not sure if there is reconsideration of DOH accreditation being done… but non-offering of paid-for services is, for many of us, an “accepted norm.” We actually pay for services that we don’t use.
Last July, 30 people died from AIDS-related complications in the country. And since January 1984 (when the first case was documented in the Philippines) to July 2018, a total of 2,735 deaths were already reported in the country. Ninety percent (2,462) were male.
Since we already have 57,134 reported cases (as of July 2018), the number of deaths seem… small. But – of course – this is ONLY those that were reported; I am certain that many more were unreported.
But note that even now, approximately only half of the number of Filipinos with HIV have access to life-saving meds. And – as repeatedly stressed – access isn’t even regular because of problems with the supply.
There comes a point when we have to say enough’s enough.
I write this piece not because I want to, but because I need to.
Because people continue to suffer and even die, and your efforts continue to be wanting.
Part of Kramer’s closure for his lament reads:
“Allowing people to die is evil and genocidal. Yes, I believe in evil. 78 million people have become infected, 39 million have died…”
I may sound melodramatic, so call me “drama queen” if you want.
But if the people supposed to serve us are failing to do so, even if they know they can do something if they really, really want to, then I can’t help but be sad… and angry… and speak out.
Because at this point, I see where Kramer is coming from.
And to his point, let me add: I know what he’s talking about.