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‘Have we really achieved acceptance?’—gender lawyer

Twenty years into the fight for an anti-discrimination legislation, gender equality and human rights lawyers stressed the need for a law that would protect the LGBTQI+ community from sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE) discrimination.

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Screengrab from #PrideHangouts 02: Tuloy ang Laban para sa SOGIE Equality webinar

Twenty years into the fight for an anti-discrimination legislation, gender equality and human rights lawyers stressed the need for a law that would protect the LGBTQI+ community from sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE) discrimination. 

“[J]ust last year, Metro Manila Pride recorded 70,000 attendees. For the most part we thought that it’s a sign of society’s increased support for the community…[b]ut have we really achieved acceptance?” Atty. Claire de Leon said yesterday, June 27. 

The Gretchen Diez incident last year, according to Atty. De Leon, “drastically” shifted the perception of the public toward the LGBTQI+ community and the ongoing fight for the SOGIE Equality bill. 

Misconceptions surfaced after the incident that was followed by a “massive” misinformation campaign against the bill. 

“[N]akakalungkot na marami ding nagbabangga ng mga karapatan natin sa karapatan ng ibang sector. Nakakalungkot na ang ibang tao iniisip nila na this bill would take away rights from heterosexuals or cisgender persons,” Atty. De Leon said. 

However, she stressed that protecting the rights of a marginalized sector does not take away the rights of another.

“[I]f you think that allowing a sector to exercise their rights would take away the rights of others, [then] we must rethink how we see rights [and] how we understand rights,” she said. 

Anti-discrimination ordinances in LGUs

The lack of SOGIE-based national laws pushed LGBTQI+ groups to fight for anti-discrimination ordinances (ADO) within the local government units. 

Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro announced last year, June 29, the passage of the city’s ADO during the Metro Manila Pride March. 

Quezon City on the other hand passed on November 28, 2014 the Gender Fair Ordinance, which was authored by Councilor Mayen Juico and was signed by the then-mayor Herbert Bautista.

Despite having implementing rules and regulations (IRRs) and ordinances, Atty. De Leon said that the process is not entirely implemented and effective. 

“May council [at] may members of the council pero walang office…[N]a-highlight lang nito na hindi natatapos ang lobbying, hindi natatapos ang laban natin sa pagpasa ng ordinance,” De Leon said. 

“Kailangan nating ma-push na meron IRRs at also kailangan nating ma-make sure na nai-implement talaga ang mga ordinances na ‘to,” she added. 

De Leon said that laws and initiatives against anti-discrimination, whether from the national government, LGUs, or private sectors, are necessary to build a more inclusive community.

“Discrimination still occurs and as long as discrimination under the basis of SOGIE persists, we need a law that would give us protection…[p]rotection must be available and accessible to each of us regardless of our SOGIE,” she said. 

SOGIE and Anti-terror bills

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According to Atty. Eljay Bernardo, the “vagueness” of the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Bill can directly affect the LGBTQI+ community as a marginalized sector fighting for SOGIE bill. 

“If we request government, demand government of our rights, it could be construed as terrorism, as destabilization,” Atty. Bernardo said.

The imprisonment of the Pride20, according to him, uncovered how the law can be “twisted” against freedom of speech and assembly. 

Last Friday, June 26, 10 members of LGBTQI+ rights group Bahaghari along with eight from other progressive groups, and two drivers were detained at the Manila Police District. 

They were being charged with disobedience of persons in authority in relation to Republic Act 11332, or the Law on Reporting of Communicable Disease and Batas Pambansa 880, or the Public Assembly Act.

Atty. Bernardo said that the bill could put burden in LGBTQI+ groups, which could be an excuse to put the members of these groups under the surveillance of an anti-terrorism council. 

According to Atty. De Leon, the Anti-Terror bill could “silence all of us,” especially the marginalized sector. 

“[F]or us when activism is the only way of asserting our narratives, this can further render us voiceless. It seems like wala naman siyang direct effect, pero the dangers of it ay nararamdaman na natin ngayon,” she said. 

The webinar #PrideHangouts 02: Tuloy ang Laban para sa SOGIE Equality was hosted by Pat Bringas and was organized by Metro Manila Pride.

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Red-tagging ‘license to kill’ for law enforcers—solon

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago denounced the continuing red-tagging of activists and academic institutions, emphasizing it endangers the youth and others who are being subjected to the “deadly” practice.

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Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago during the online discussion on campus press freedom yesterday, March 10.

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago denounced the continuing red-tagging of activists and academic institutions, emphasizing it endangers the youth and others who are being subjected to the “deadly” practice. 

“Hindi pwedeng trial by publicity, part of public opinion, o sa social media na hinuhusgahan ‘yung mga organizations [at] list of personalities dahil tila ‘yung red-tagging [ay] nagiging license to kill ng mga law enforcement and other rogue elements in our society,” Elago said in an online discussion with campus publications on Wednesday, March 10. 

Elago stressed that the recent tagging of 38 colleges and universities in the country as “recruitment havens” of the New People’s Army violates their right to due process, which deprives them of the chance to defend themselves.

“[R]ed-baiting discredits those who were being targeted, undermine the work they do, and sensationalizes lives […] just to scandalize critics, opposition, and all those who are reporting the trust,” she said. 

According to College Editors Guild of the Philippines National Secretariat Anton Narciso, red-tagging is one of the issues campus journalists continue to face, citing recent attacks on student publications in the University of the Philippines and in other regions. 

“Bagamat nakakatakot po talaga ang red-tagging, kinakailangan na collectively labanan […] dahil wala tayong ibang panghahawakan at wala tayong ibang sasaligan kundi ang ating kolektibong pakikipaglaban,” Narciso said. 

This mirrors the call of various student publications to repeal R.A. 7079 or the Campus Journalism Act of 1991, and instead, pass a bill that will uphold genuine campus press freedom. 

“It’s high time na meron na tayong solid protection for student journalists, considering that these publications don’t do anything but report the truth,”  Tinig ng Plaridel Editor-in-Chief Cristina Chi said. 

Chi revealed that her publication received death threats, labelling them as “terrorist reporters” through text messages. 

“[T]hey just release stories about the community tapos biglang may red-tagging nang nagaganap,” Chi said.

“At its core, these red-tagging or [similar] actions have no place in our society,” she added.

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Youth most vulnerable to anti-terror law—solon, youth groups

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago, along with several youth groups and student councils, condemned the passage of the Anti-Terror Law (ATL), emphasizing it endangers human rights of Filipinos, especially the youth.

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Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago (left) and UST Senior High School Student Council (SHS-SC) representative AJ dela Cruz (right) during an online press conference streamed via Student Christian Movement of the Philippines official Facebook page.

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago, along with several youth groups and student councils, condemned the passage of the Anti-Terror Law (ATL), emphasizing it endangers human rights of Filipinos, especially the youth. 

“[N]akasalalay dito ang pagpantay ng kinabukasan ng mga kabataang pilipino at ng ating buong bayan, kung kaya’t kinakailangan na tiyakin natin na ang mga kabataan, kasama ng […] sambayanang pilipino, ay nagkakaisa karapatan,” Elago said in an online conference yesterday, Jan. 16. 

Elago stressed that the country is not only in the state of public health emergency, but also in a “state of human rights emergency,” which is why she denounced the controversial ATL. 

“[I]to ay direkta sa House of Representatives na napakarami pang hindi nareresolba na mga kaso ng pamamaslang sa drug war at sa mga human rights violations na natala,” she said. 

Elago reminded the government to prioritize the health sector through free mass testing, intensified contact tracing, and stronger essential health service; and to continue extending help to the citizens who lost their jobs and source of income in this pandemic.


Youth red-tagging

Among the youth groups and student councils who called out the detrimental effects of ATL is the UST Senior High School Student Council (SHS-SC). 

SHS-SC representative AJ dela Cruz said that with the passage of ATL, many students are vulnerable to being red-tagged even if they are just doing their job. 

“[A]ng bagong Anti-Terrorism Law [ay] maaring magtag sa ating mga [student leader] bilang mga terorista kahit ginagawa lang naman natin ang ating mga trabaho,” dela Cruz said.

“[P]atunay ito na ang kalagayan ng mga kabataan na estudyante sa loob ng mga classroom ay hindi hiwalay sa kalagayan ng buong bansa,” he added.

Dela Cruz stressed that student leaders are not just mere event organizers. It is also their responsibility to “amplify issues” such as ATL to the student body. 

“Nakikita natin kung paano tayo nanunumbalik sa ating mga roots bilang mga [student leader] na nanguna sa paglaban kina Marcos at Erap, kung paano natin ginagampanan ang konstitusyonal na mandato bilang nation builders,” dela Cruz said. 

The press conference was streamed virtually in the official Facebook page of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines. 

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Include youth in climate measures, environmental activists say

Environmental activists demanded the government Friday, Sept. 25, for the inclusion of youth participation in measures against the climate injustices in the country. 

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Environmental activists demanded the government Friday, Sept. 25, for the inclusion of youth participation in measures against the climate injustices in the country. 

“[A]dapt the youth agenda. You need to designate spaces for us. Co-power us and include us in plans and decision making,” Greenpeace Philippines campaigner Kisha Muana said. 

Muana stressed the need for a formal youth representation in local and national policies, citing the absence of policy actions concerning the youth’s needs in the government executive recovery plan.

According to Philippine Youth Climate Movement Director Ruzzel Morales, the youth can significantly contribute in provoking the system to generate changes. 

Morales called on the National Youth Commission to “genuinely advocate” the Filipino youth in the government. 

“Enough of your lip service. We want action and we want it now,” she said. 

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago urged Congress to take a stand on the environmental affairs of the country.

“Kailangan natin na patuloy ipadinig ang boses na naghuhumiyaw at naninindigan para sa pananagutan sa mga tao sa kinauukulan at para sa tungkulin ng bawat isang lingkod bayan na paglingkuran ang sambayanang Pilipino,” Elago said.

According to Elago, there are seven environment-related bills that are already in the period of debate in the Congress and Senate, while 13 have passed the third reading. 

The “Para sa Klimabukasan Global Day of Climate Action” digital strike and forum was co-organized by Youth Strike 4 Climate Philippines, Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development, I am Hampaslupa Inc., Living Laudato Si Philippines, Pangasinan Youth for Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, STEP Philippines, SUSG Environment Committee, and We the Future PH inspired by climate activist Greta Thunberg. Wendell Adrian Quijado

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