Perhaps mere words aren’t truly enough to describe the true battle that the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community is fighting every day—the fight for equal rights, the fight against discrimination, the fight against the stigma—just for being true to themselves.
Here are some numbers about the LGBTQ community in the Philippines as presented by the USAID and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in its 2014 report entitled “Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippines Country Report.” It is “a Participatory Review and Analysis of the Legal and Social Environment for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Individuals and Civil Society.”
The USAID-UNDP report was held in June 2013 and was based on the Third Philippine National LGBT Community Dialogue, where 50 LGBT organizations were gathered “to discuss the human rights of LGBT people under eight themes: education, health, employment, family affairs, community, religion, media and politics.”
After the Dialogue, there were 51 “specific recommendations” given to address certain issues raised by the LGBT organizations. The recommendations included “sub-recommendations and action points” regarding the eight themes mentioned above.
In Pew Research Center’s religiosity scale where a score of “3” is considered as “the most religious,” the Philippines got a whopping 2.5. Yes, it’s extremely high, but it’s not really a surprise. We were taught even in elementary school that the Philippines is the only Christian country in Asia. Which is why the next value you’ll be reading about is somewhat surprising…
According to the survey conducted by the Pew Research Center from March to May 2013 with 37,653 respondents from 39 countries, “73% of the Filipino respondents said that homosexuality should be accepted by society.”
That’s a really high percentage if you think about it. But does this percentage reflect the reality in the Philippines even today—three years after the survey was conducted?
Republic Act (RA) 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 is just one of the laws that are “reportedly… used by unscrupulous law enforcers to extort from and harass LGBT people,” according to the USAID-UNDP report. RA 9208, as well as Article 200 of the Revised Penal Code, has a prohibition which includes “grave scandal.” Some enforcers of the law threaten LGBT members using this “grave scandal” prohibition in order to extort money from them. Many of these LGBT victims often resort to paying these officers of the law because of “fear of being ‘outed’ to peers and family members.
Of course there are also laws that are pro-LGBT, but somehow these laws seem to “contradict other policies.” Take for instance RA 8551 of the Philippine National Police Reform and Reorganization Act of 1998, where it states that the goal of this policy is to “formulate a gender sensitivity program… to include but not [be] limited to the establishment of equal opportunities for women in the PNP, the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace, and the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.”
This is all well and good, until NAPOLCOM released Memorandum Circular No. 2005-002 seven years later. According to the USAID-UNDP report, the NAPOLCOM 2005 memorandum states that members of the police force can be discharged due to “sexual perversion, including latent and overt sexuality” and placed “homosexuality under neurological and psychiatric disorders.”
(Note: This writer tried looking for said NAPOLCOM Memorandum Circular 2005-002, but cannot seem to find it in the NAPOLCOM database available online at www.napolcom.gov.ph.)
In an effort to level the playing field, the local government of Quezon City passed a City Ordinance (C.O. SP-1309) which prohibits “all discriminatory acts against homosexuals in the matter of hiring, treatment, promotion, or dismissal in any office in Quezon City, whether in the government or private sector.”
Anyone proven to have violated the city ordinance will be slapped with a six-month jail term and/or a penalty of Php5,000 (roughly US$107.00).
Despite having laws in place, it is appalling what some people could do to LGBT people, even if they are their own flesh and blood.
According to the USAID-UNDP report, a gay teenager “suffered severe burns when his father poured boiling water on him because of his sexuality.”
This grave abuse happened in their own home despite having RA 7610 in place. RA 7610 is also known as the Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.
I understand I am barely scratching the surface with these values. We could write all the numbers we know that are related to LGBT issues and concerns, but until we actually take these numbers to heart and do something about these concerns, we’ll still be stuck in the same situation. And our LGBT brothers and sisters will be forever fighting the arduous battle all their lives.
We still have a long way to go in the fight for equality but intelligent discourse—free of biases and judgment—is one sure way of moving forward.
PHP-USD exchange rate as of March 16, 2016.
By CHING DEE