State of the Pilipino LGBTQs under Aquino (SOPLA)
State of the Pilipino LGBTQs under Aquino (SOPLA)
(Sopla is street slang word that means “to disprove or repudiate.”)
We the members of the Lesbians for National Democracy (LESBOND) and the Progressive Organization of Gays (ProGay Philippines) issue this joint statement on the State of the Filipino Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Community and the State of the Nation.
We represent the marginalized and disempowered classes and sectors in the LGBTQ Filipino population here in the Philippines and in migrant communities worldwide. Although we are in diverse situations and localities, we share common oppressions that bind us to centuries-old problems of social, political and economic dimensions not only because of our sexual orientations and gender identities (SOGI) but more so because of our class and national and racial origins.
This statement is our analysis of the situation of the LGBTQ Filipino community to let the people know where we are now on the beginning of the second year of the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III. We do not count on any of the promises made by Aquino particular to our sector, yet we still hold this administration accountable to the sins of commission and ommision that resulted in the violations of our dignity and human rights.
We begin by stating that overall, the Aquino administration continued the neoliberal policies of Arroyo and past administrations that continue to destroy the jobs, livelihoods and financial security of our families and communities. So-called novel concepts such as the Public-Private Partnerships and business outsourcing are but repackaged ploys of past client regimes of foreign powers that sell off our patrimony to local-foreign investors.
Farmlands, public hospitals, mineral deposits and fishing grounds have been even made more palatable for hostile takeovers, pushing working families into greater poverty, providing the poor with temporary contractual jobs with zero benefits, or charity alms in the form of the conditional cash transfers. Organizing for labor rights has been systematically repressed. The Aquino administration allowed prices of oil, food and basic goods to inflate while depressing real wages.
Many of the LGBTQs in the Philippines suffer in multiple ways from these economic mismanagement programs. We are already suffering from extreme workplace discrimination based of our sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI-based discrimination). Historically, Filipino LGBTQs are rendered undesirable for hiring, pushing the vast majority of LGBTQs into the margins of the service economy. SOGI-based discrimination created the LGBTQ underclass of salon workers, sex industry freelancers, security guards, food servers, health care workers, entertainers – virtually all subcontractual, with no legal labor protections, paid below the legal wage ceilings and expose us to all sorts of occupational hazards such as violence, and HIV/AIDS infections.
As livelihoods further erode under the Aquino administration, LGBTQs are further marginalized. Because many transgender and gay beauty workers and entertainers depend on the salaried workforce for our incomes, job losses and wage cuts among non-LGBTQ workers translate into even more depravity in our salons, bars and eateries. In the slums, many of our transgender and gay youth are trafficked into the exploitative online porn industry just to support our families and meet rising tuition fees in the rapidly deregulating education system.
Pushed into overseas markets, LGBTQs suffer further human rights violations. Openly homosexual and transgender Filipinos are now being banned from conservative middle east job markets. Workers caught cross-dressed while entertaining are severely punished by the morality police. Migrant Filipinos in the United States, including Shirley Tan and Jose Antonio Vargas, face deportation risks because of unjust immigration laws. Migrant LGBTQ workers are now also threatened with massive deportations as host countries such as Saudi Arabia implement nationalization of their work forces. Yet the Aquino government forgets its campaign promise of creating jobs at home and conveniently proposes redeployment to other countries as the easy way out.
The government of the Philippines publicly proclaims the country as a tolerant culture with neglibible SOGI-based discrimination. Government agencies are boasting of starting initiatives to include SOGI as a protected status. Yet recent events and realities prove otherwise and marks off the Aquino administration as maliciously negligent of LGBTQ rights.
In the House of Representatives, Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño filed House Bill 1483 or the Anti-Discrimination Act of 2010 last year. This important legislation would significantly reduce SOGI-based discrimination and make the State accountable for acts that are committed yet go unpunished. Unfortunately, the bill has been languishing in the congressional committees controlled by Aquino’s ruling coalition. The administration chose to put all its energies cooking up a population control bill disguised as a reproductive health measure while slashing budgets for government-owned hospitals and the national health insurance system.
Hate-motivated actions, such as crimes against persons and property, hate speech, and bullying are on the rise in the past year. As reported by the advocacy group Hate Crime Watch, 26 murders were cited from media sources in 2010 as Aquino was campaiging and being sworn in as president. This first half of the year, 27 murders were added to the gruesome list of more than 150 crime reports collected since 1996. Yet the executive agencies refuse to investigate homophobia behind the crimes even as Rep. Casiño filed House Resolution 1432 for Congress to launch inquiry into the cause of these gruesome murders.
In response to increasing visibility and pride of LGBTQs in asserting our human rights, local governments and private parties are joining forces to start suppressing the rights and freedom of expression, religion and free association of LGBTQs. After holding Pride events and private commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples, the LGBTQ communities in Baguio City were viciously slandered and attacked as having violated state laws and morality. Fundamentalist religious movements began preaching the evils of homosexuality and demanded state action against LGBTQs. Instead of actively defending LGBTQ rights, the local city mayor and some members of the city council even proposed to prosecute and persecute the Baguio LGBTQs with legal actions and ordinances banning private and public community celebrations.
SOGI-based discrimination in schools remain rampant prompting Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino to file House Resolution 1333 which seeks to root out prejudicial, discriminatory, and unjust practices and policies against LGBTQs that stunt equal educational opportunities for the sector. Homophobic public school officials tolerate and even encourage humiliation of LGBTQs by classmates, fraternities, teachers and personnel; expulsion of LGBTQs who cross dress and impose arbitrary “masculinity” tests to weed out tomboys and bakla students.
Lesbond and ProGay recognize that SOGI-based discrimination comes from both deeply rooted traditional homophobia and abetted by the forces of globalization and its neoliberal policy mix. Homophobia and discrimination will not abate from mere invocations of international human rights conventions or empty celebrations of state support. Yet the Aquino administration’s own record of even token support for LGBTQ rights is terribly wanting. Despite pleas from advocacy groups, the Aquino foreign affairs policy ignored the appeals for support of statements and resolutions in the United Nations that would protect LGBTQs from extrajudicial killings, discrimination and violence.
The wanton disregard of international human rights policy is not surprising, given Aquino’s glaring record of human rights violations that continued from its predecesor President Gloria Arroyo. The refusal to implement human rights protections under conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is manifested in the State’s refusal to prevent discrimination in Baguio, to facilitate the passage of House Bill 1483 in Congress, and to act on reported hate crimes against LGBTQs.
The sector of marginalized LGBTQs declares in summary that the Aquino administration after a year in power has made life worse for LGBTQ Filipinos in the country and in migrant communities.
We join the oppressed classes and sectors of Philippine society in mobilizing here and abroad on the day of the reopening of Congress for the State of the Nation Address. While Aquino and his minions paint a glowing picture of progress, the oppressed LGBTQ citizens clamor with peasants, workers, youth, women and other movements at the gates of Congress, to deliver our own State of the LGBTQs. We reiterate that LGBTQs experienced greater poverty and joblessness, worsened inequality, and growing violence.
We join our fellow social movements in calling for the establishment of a just and pro-people government that will implement National Industrialization and Genuine Redistributive Land Reform to address the long term problems of Philippine society. Only progressive local industries and equitable farm policies can ensure a stable economy that will provide stable and well-paying jobs for the LGBTQs and not the unsafe, low-paid, and unjust temp jobs of the failed neoliberal economic growth model pushed by Aquino.
We have many demands for Congress to table daring and pro-people legislation and congressional actions that include:
1. Pass the Anti-Discrimination Act of 2010 the Anti-Discriminaiton Bill and draft an equivalent measure in the Senate;
2. Pass House Bill 4635, declaring every 17th of May as the “National Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia” or NADAHO;
3. Table inquiries on discrimination against LGBTQ students as called for by House Resolution 1333 directing Congress to investigate prejudicial, discriminatory, and unjust practices and policies against LGBTQs in schools;
4. Table inquiries on the murders of LGBTQs as called for by House Resolution 1432 directing the House Committee on Human Rights to investigate the killings and hate crimes against LGBTQs;
5. Rewrite and pass the Comprehensive Reproductive Health Bill to remove its population control bias, focus on genuine reproductive health for the masses and include provisions for the promotion of health among LGBTQs;
6. Legislate the 125-peso wage hike, repeal the Oil Deregulation Law, pass the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill and oppose the pro-contractualization “security of tenure bill.”
7. Stop the privatization of state colleges and universities, halt tuition fee hikes and increase budget for education;
8. Stop the privatization of government-owned hospitals and increase the budget for health care.
Lesbians for National Democracy
Progressive Organization of Gays Philippines