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#TalkOnTW: LGBTQI+ Community in PH

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DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect that of TomasinoWeb, its members, its officers, and the University.

The House of Representatives, voting 197-0, had already approved on third and final reading its version of the bill that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE), which involves provision of equal rights to members of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

However, the measure has yet to face difficulty in the Upper Chamber as some senators remain in the opposition of its passage. To note, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, a staunch Catholic, stated that there is still hope for the SOGIE bill, but only if its “controversial provisions” are resolved.

These controversial provisions for Sotto include the removal of dress codes and allowing members of the LGBT community to dress based on their SOGIE; the use of restrooms on the basis of SOGIE; and the “encroachment into religious and academic practices.”

Christian groups in the country, moreover, strongly condemned the bill’s motion, saying homosexuality is a sin, according to the Bible, and violates the present Constitution. Jesus Is Lord (JIL) founder Brother Eddie Villanueva even affirmed during a JIL-led movement: “Same-sex marriage is an abomination to God. The Bible is so clear about the man marrying another man. This will invite kinds of curses that we cannot contain in our generation.”

Yet, even as denunciation and dissent continue to occur, the recent years of the country saw the rise of concerns toward and battles against LGBT—now LGBTQI+ (Queer and Intersex+)—discrimination: In 2016, the first trans legislator had been elected. Pop culture has now become positively gayer than before. Pride flags splash their colors everywhere. Not only the LGBTQI+ community but its supporters as well now march in solidarity—for equality.

On another note, in 2013, Pope Francis himself had asserted that gay people should not be marginalized but integrated in the society. The Pope expressed: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”

With Pride Month nearing its end and preparations for Pride March are on the works, TomasinoWeb sparked an online discussion regarding the state of the LGBTQI+ community in the country. The following are the thoughts of the students on the issue:

 

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Opinion

Manila Deserves A Cleaner Underpass

This city has elected a mayor who they trust to bring his vision to life. We have seen too much of littered streets and congested passageways. The people are tired and so are you. We understand. I understand. But, I’m going to tell you something else.

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Manila, as part of its “culture”, has its walls decorated by graffiti. It is often commissioned by the passion of the masses. When accompanied by carelessness, it becomes vandalism. The city was almost born with this “birthmark”. It is like a memoir to its people – a diary to the current events today. The city walls have become a witness to the struggles of the masses. From traffic, to contagious diseases, and to the poor public transportation. The roads have seen the struggle of this rocky journey we, Filipinos, have taken. It is unavoidable, almost, due to the neglect of the ones who hold power. Promises were held up only as a false pretense to what the Filipinos wants the future to look like. Up until now, is it still a false pretense? Only the people on the seat could know. What is the answer of the people, then? Most likely, given the disposition Manila holds right now, it might as well be.

As we all know, Isko Moreno Domagoso is the mayor of the City of Manila right now. Isko looks and sounds like the epitome of an ideal leader that Manila was looking for. He is far younger than the previous mayors, all of which are near the age of retirement. Domagoso is a fresh face of hope, as to what we might have expected. In his first few months in office, one cannot deny that he has been a charismatic leader. He has ultimately been dedicated in developing the tourism of the city. Not only that, he also joins in cleaning the streets and as well as giving senior citizens allowance per month to help out with the costs of daily living. It was a beautiful sight, a breath of fresh air, almost. Until the people have started to uncover the mayor’s ulterior moves. 

They were nothing “diabolical” as to how the previous mayor allegedly spent the money of the government for personal leisures but he, however, removed the hope of the Filipino to eat at least once or twice a day. Domagoso was known to remove illegal vendors that sell various goods from general merchandise, fruits, books, clothes, and everything in between. There has been almost no sustainable solution offered to them by his office to get by. Many people here in Manila, especially the marginalized, have resorted to such means to survive. To think that they have been doing this for decades with almost no deviation on improvement, would say a lot about the government. This also speaks how the previous mayors and Domagoso himself has been handling the case. And speaking of the case, there has been a new vandal on the block, right at the newly painted underpass near the city hall.

This has brought much dismay to the mayor. Who would not be angry to see a newly painted wall to see it vandalized? It looked like a fresh face of hope. Isko Moreno happens to be one of them. Disappointed and frustrated, he said in an interview, “Huwag kayong pahuhuli sa akin. Sige, human rights… ‘pag nahuli ko kayo, padidila ko sa inyo ‘to. Buburahin niyo ‘to ng dila niyo”. 

He continued, “Kayo ang nambababoy. Hindi makatwiran ‘yan. We don’t deserve this. The people of Manila don’t deserve this.” 

Isko, you are right. The people of Manila do not deserve a vandalized underpass. A cleaner, more accommodating walkway is much preferable than one that is hot, humid, and dirty. Who would be pleased to walk there? No one, of course. This city has elected a mayor who they trust to bring his vision to life. We have seen too much of littered streets and congested passageways. The people are tired and so are you. We understand. I understand. But, I’m going to tell you something else.

The people of Manila deserve a government where its leaders do not alienate and discriminate them for their social class. It is already difficult to look at the marginalized. What more if you actually experience their day to day life? 

The growth and development of the city does not rely on its aesthetics. It does not rely on the cleanliness and the clear roads paved for its people. Growth and development means that everyone is given equal rights  and proper treatment – especially those who are greatly in need. If one would greatly depend it on the cleanliness of the city, then it is safe to say that Manila has been somehow progressive. But how about the people? Are they given fair compensation for what they work for? Are the people of Manila truly given the right avenue for them to be heard? The easy answer is yes. How so?

It is known that Domagoso is receptive on social media. He is prompt to answer messages immediately, to which many has caught the attention of. It is rare for a government official to be quick on its feet on social media, especially when it comes to hearing the concerns of its people. But if it already has reached to the point of getting the fight on the streets and in the underpass, then it simply indicates that there is something wrong with the system.

Some are quick to dismiss that the fight could only brought up in the streets. It has been said that it is counterproductive. At a certain extent, it is, but why do people resort to that? This is because the means how they could reach out have been exhausted. If the fight has been taken once more to the streets, then it simply is an indicator that the people have been struggling in a system straight-up blames the problems on the poor. You are not progressive if you continuously point fingers as you blind yourself from the root problem of it all.

Manila deserves a government that cares about its people and not only its aesthetics. The mayor is only doing the bare minimum here. There’s literally so much to fix beyond congested streets and vandalized underpasses.

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Editorial

The mockery of Filipinos’ agony

Many actions and policies of the current administration not only fail to respond to the real needs and difficulties of Filipinos, but also reduces their daily agony to mere ‘challenges’ and experiments. 

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Photo by Miguel Yap/TomasinoWeb

The transport crisis in the Metro greatly showed its harsh realities in the past weeks. Aside from the horrendous traffic, the long lines in terminals, and the difficulty of hailing a spacious jeepney, the sudden malfunction of LRT-2 added up to the long list of problems and challenges many commuters have to endure. And yet, we can hear and see apathetic solutions from our leaders which are deemed to be ineffective and lacks the true intention of solving the country’s transit problems. Many actions and policies of the current administration not only fail to respond to the real needs and difficulties of Filipinos, but also reduces their daily agony to mere ‘challenges’ and experiments. 

Last Friday, we have seen Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo took a commute to his work from his home in Marikina to Malacañan. For him, this is to show those who challenged him that there really is no transport crisis. Hence, he said in his presscon that day that Filipinos only need to be creative in the traffic and commute problems in the Metro, and to “be creative” for we are known to be tough amidst difficulties. His creativity in his commute to the Palace took him almost four hours after three jeepney rides, an LRT ride, and a motorcycle ride, a struggle which could have been avoided if only there is a reliable public transport system in the Metro. 

Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe also suggested having exclusive VIP MRT train coaches which will cost around P150-P200 per ride to ‘encourage’ especially upper class people to take public transport. The bill requiring government officials and leaders to take public transport every week has been filed again by Iligan Representative Frederick Siao in the Congress. Instead of providing legitimate solutions to address the transportation crisis, MMDA rides the publicity train by having its spokesperson Celine Pialago to steer the wheel, only to find her suing satirical social media pages instead of representing the struggles of daily Filipino commuters. 

To add to the burden, the current administration also seeks to respond to its traffic problems through neoliberalization of transport system in the country. Among this is the plan to phase out old, traditional jeepneys in 2020 as a response to its traffic problem with modern and eco-friendly ones. Although the proposition sounds good in theory, its effect on public transport and livelihood of jeepney drivers are worse than expected with costs that will surely bury many jeepney drivers and operators in huge debts and loans.

These actions and statements show that the big problem in the country’s transport system. The frequent denial and media publicity will never address these problems effectively but only shows the lack of empathy for the real needs of Filipinos, and mocks the burden they have to endure as a consequence of the selfish acts of many of our leaders.

Commuting from Manila to nearby provinces like Bulacan and Pampanga only takes around one to two hours. Meanwhile, commuting to Fairview in Quezon City, Las Piñas City, or to the nearby City of Antipolo takes a minimum of three hours especially during rush hours. To add to that, commuters have to endure long lines and poor facilities in trains and terminals, and the difficulty of hailing a jeepney or bus ride. As a consequence, many resort to bringing their own cars or using car hailing apps like Grab which only adds to the traffic on the road instead of its one to four passengers joining other commuters in jeepneys, buses or trains which can accommodate a minimum of 20 passengers. These scenarios only show that commuters and public transport is still not the top priority of our government despite other developed countries giving much of its attention to it.

Imagine also the burden of those who have no other option in their daily transport but to take public transport for it is more affordable than getting a taxi, a Grab booking or bringing and having their own car. Many of them are students and workers who experience the terrible transport crisis the most. This problem does not only tire them physically but also affects their performance in their schools and in their jobs, preventing them from reaching their full potential. They are also being deprived of having quality time with their families or with themselves or to manage other responsibilities and jobs they have. In fact, our leaders will not be required to take public transport through a law if only there is a quality, affordable and accessible mass public transport system in the country. Again, all these are the consequence of inefficient policies of our government which should be the one to provide those mentioned basic services and needs to the people it serves. 

Filipinos have long endured the long lines in terminals, hospitals and other governmental institutions. Their true welfare has long been sacrificed and neglected and our leaders seem to be unbothered of the fiasco burdening the country and its people. The government should divert its priority on the real needs of the people it serves and put an end to all its inefficient and elitist policies that only mocks and prolongs the agony of Filipinos.

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Editorial

Of Tragedies and Dictators

For unlike Oedipus and Sisyphus, the masses write the history—and dictators, no matter how often they change their masks, should be put into their place: into the dustbin of history.

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Artwork by Tricia Soto Jardin

Oedipus was said to have been destined to live an awful, tragic life. No matter how much change he makes in his choices, he is bound to do the exact, same routine: to fail, falter, suffer, weep and cry, and back again. The same is with Sisyphus, who is punished to roll a boulder up a hill, only to watch it fall down again but in joy, in Camusian rebellion, out of amor fati.

But the Greeks had it all wrong, slightly; for and however, tragedy is but a mere entertainment for Sophocles and his clique. Faced with recent events and far back, tragedy seemed to have been engraved in the Filipino disposition in the face of dictators and an inhumane structure—this time, not out of destiny, but an effect of a popular, ill-intentioned, and brutal governance.

In the last three years, and even beyond the Duterte administration, we have witnessed the implementation of unjust policies—all imprudently executed out of selfish interests, submissive military mindset, or even out of sheer ignorance of the bigger picture. The last three years is an aggravation, unsurprisingly, of crises endemic in a decadent society which fancies itself in turning values into currencies, people into objects.

The problems that have long burdened the marginalized sectors have now reached and poked the privileged bubbles of the middle-class. From the continuous extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, the shameless rice tariffication law, and the lack of support for anti-discriminatory bill and an end to contractualization, it can be said that those in power are making the people more divided and powerless as a means for them to gain more power—all these done in broad daylight.

Forty-seven years ago, Martial Law was declared. When the “old ways” were not enough to quell the cries of an oppressed people, a strongman boasted with an iron fist, worsening even further a collective cry of justice. Forty- seven years later, as the “new democracy” numbed the Filipino until it shows its true colors, and a cheap dictator comes in in obnoxious cajolery, an echo is slowly shattering its shackles.

Undeniably, the cheap dictator Duterte is using the Marcosian playbook. With Martial Law still in effect in Mindanao, and the de facto Martial Law in effect nationwide through the illicit consolidation of power in the lower and upper houses of Congress, the tightening of grip on the Highest Court, and the junta-like appointments of officers of government departments are all slowly curtailing democracy and the freedom the Filipino People has, and continues to fight for.

Deceitful as it is, the current administration says that its key policies aims to support the Filipino people. But behind the press briefings and media exposures of those projects like the “Build-Build-Build”, those who are truly benefitting from the anti-poor clearing operations, displacement of communities, militarization in the grassroots are the big compradors and landlords who have long been exploiting the potential of the common Filipino. The ironic title of the recently implemented Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion only made the burden for the poor families heavier while the upper class benefited more.

While many of the leaders and wealthy people wrestle for power, the government relentlessly kills the powerless like drug victims, and now, farmers. The administrationʼs Oplan Sauron—a Negros-exclusive version of Oplan Kapanatagan, AFPʼs whole-of-nation counterinsurgency program, is one of Duterteʼs tricks on his sleeves. With a civilian body count of more than 80 and numerous incidents of lawless violence and baseless arrests, what was once considered the “sugar bowl” of the country is now drenched in blood.

Despite the huge number of civilian deaths and the long stretch of kilometers travelled by displaced indigenous people, martial law in Mindanao is repeatedly extended in the guise of “quelling terrorist groups” such as the New Peopleʼs Army and the ISIS-sponsored groups. What Duterte and his cronies donʼt realize is that the Filipino people is not ignorant of the fact that places where injustice and impunity lingers, there goes his platoon of puppets; where the cry for genuine reform is raging, there is counter-resistance. Instead of addressing the root causes of armed conflict, the trigger-happy Duterte hides under the guise of counter- insurgency programs to silence dissidents and just causes.

There is a culture of death and silence in our country. From people spreading hate on the LGBTQIA+ and impeding their basic right in the Sexual Orientation Gender Identity and Expression bill, to many of us not even raising an eyebrow to the thousands of unjust deaths in just three years. We are moving again in a circular motion of tragedy.

Oedipus might not have had control over his fate, but we are not living in the guidance of mythological gods; Sisyphus might have had internalized the famous “resiliency” the Filipino is known for, but one thing is clear: we have a long history of oppression, but we have proven time and again, that dictators have no match against a people collectively fighting for their rights.

For unlike Oedipus and Sisyphus, the masses write the history—and dictators, no matter how often they change their masks, should be put into their place: into the dustbin of history.

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