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#TalkOnTW: LGBTQI+ Community in PH

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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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Editorial

Are you standing behind the right line?

Our heroes died fighting for our freedom. But Rodrigo Duterte kills our freedom by drowning out the critical voices of the media through its relentless attacks against the freedom of the press—and even going as far as weaponizing the law.

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Art by Jessica Lopez

Jose Rizal died fighting for our freedom. Andres Bonifacio died fighting for our freedom. Our heroes died fighting for our freedom. But Rodrigo Duterte kills our freedom by drowning out the critical voices of the media through its relentless attacks against the freedom of the press—and even going as far as weaponizing the law.

Ripping off from Marcos’ playbook, Duterte drowns the independent and critical voices who can destabilize his kingdom of bones and blood.

The online news site, Rappler, has been very critical of the administration, noting the brutal bloodshed in the name of  War on Drugs, the dominance of internet trolls, and his anti-poor projects such as the TRAIN Law to name of a few of his list of sins.

And just last week, an arrest warrant has been issued against Rappler’s CEO, Maria Ressa for cyber libel charges pertaining to an article they published way back in May 2012. The complainant, Wilfredo Keng, has been allegedly linked with the late Chief Justice Renato Corona who was undergoing an impeachment trial during that time. However, the cyber libel law was not yet in effect until October of that same year. And in addition to that, Keng had only filed the complaint on October 2017 which was five years too late. Yet despite the discrepancies of the case, an arrest warrant was given to Ressa, and was forced to post bail amounting to P100,000 the next day. At least eight charges has been filed against the online news site ever since last year, and was forced to bail for six times already.

With the State using the law to its advantage, they flaunt their powers to silence the critical. Their oppression trickled down to various university and college publications, who are now on the verge of shutdown due to censorship, and even alternative media who openly lambasts his bloody regime.

This is not just a battle between the warring factions of the DDS Army and the Dilawans, this is a battle under the banner of the three stars and the sun. The enemy does not lie with us, it sleeps inside the grand facade of the Palace. This regime knows that the people hold the true power—and it terrifies them greatly that they try to divide us by spreading distrust and false propaganda.

We are one in holding the line. And we will hold it until we taste the freedom our heroes have died for.

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Editorial

The Rape of Philippine Press

Senate President Vicente Sotto III is a rapist of the press, an oppressor; an ignorant Filipino of his own culture, and plagiarist. He, along with Vic Sotto, Joey de Leon and Richie Reyes, killed the innocent Pepsi Paloma, and, with Duterte’s ardent admirers on his side, is now killing the Philippine media.

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Artwork by Jessica Lopez.

After its continuous attacks on the Philippine media, the Duterte administration, an ever-growing faction of sycophantic allies of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos reincarnate, has nowhere left to hide its real objectives: to oppress and to suppress the Filipinos.

Earlier this year, the Securities and Exchange Commission revoked online news site Rappler’s registration for allegedly violating constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership and control of mass media entities—a move which would have effectively ended Rappler’s operations. Not only that but, due to his “lack of trust” and “irritation,” President Duterte himself denied the entry of Rappler journalist and accredited Malacañang correspondent Pia Ranada on arrival at the Palace to cover an event. These, following the President’s blasts as well against news corporations ABS-CBN and Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), along with Rappler, on his second State of the Nation Address.

What the administration has shown, if it is not obvious enough, are mere fears on the potent ability of the media and blatant assaults on press freedom, a clear abuse of their (administration) power. Before the privileged and unapologetically despotic ones sitting in the Palace go berserk and deny such claims again, it is to note that the 2018 World Media Freedom Index released by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reported that the country has slid six spots down the rank, after being branded by the watchdog itself in its last year’s year-end report as one of the deadliest countries for journalists. RSF, meanwhile, also pointed out that the administration “developed several methods for pressuring and silencing journalists who criticize [Duterte’s] notorious war on drugs.” To add, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines have recorded killings of nine journalists in the first 23 months of Duterte in the office, with 85 more cases of attacks and threats.

It is clearly a sad time for Philippine journalism and will continue to be so under Duterte’s reign.

Just when people think the attacks are declining, if not absolutely over, one of the President’s lapdogs came scooting in on the throne of Senate presidency—tongue out and skin all muddy from the dirt he accumulated from stealing food-for-thoughts and drinks of ignorance—ordering Inquirer.net, the online counterpart of PDI, to take down its articles that were insinuating he whitewashed the rape case of late actress Pepsi Paloma in 1982. As of yesterday, the said articles, written by U.S.-based columnist Rodel Rodis and Totel de Jesus, can no longer be accessed by the public and are “under review.” The Senate President seemed pleased about it as he even “thanked” Inquirer, according to a Rappler report, on its apparent take-down of the written works.

This is, beyond question, censorship of the media, the bridge between the public and the government. Any effort to burn that connection and repress the press is an effort to oppress the people. We should not cave in but stand for and with the Filipino people in this fight for rights that gravely affect decision-making processes in life and will safeguard the people; and that the government is solely enjoying and denying the public. The administration is singling out the purveyors of truth—something of which they are obviously inhibiting the people they promised to serve, secure and protect in the first place—and we should not stand idly by. In these trying times wherein the true nature of the government is slowly being revealed, we should not be muffled. In this path gearing toward the death of democracy, we should remain unwavered with our pens and our unsilenced voices.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III is a rapist of the press, an oppressor; an ignorant Filipino of his own culture, and plagiarist. He, along with Vic Sotto, Joey de Leon and Richie Reyes, killed the innocent Pepsi Paloma, and, with Duterte’s ardent admirers on his side, is now killing the Philippine media.

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Opinion

The Philippine National Anthem of Silence

Tito Sotto is now about to strum the final note of our farewell to freedom, and we are all happily singing along. The country is singing the prelude to its silence but many seem to forget that this is not some karaoke that every drunk uncles enjoy, this is our homeland—our freedom—and sadly, we still remain on the sidelines.

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Ever since we started our education, we are taught to take Lupang Hinirang deep into our hearts, even if we cannot fully comprehend its message when we were just 6 years old.

Now that I am 19 and have finally understood the hymn of the Filipinos, I’m terrified—for the freedom we sing proudly of is slowly slipping away from our grasp.

On the morning of 18th of June, my Twitter feed was peppered by the disgusted reactions of my peers because Senate President Tito Sotto has sent a letter to the Philippine Daily Inquirer where he “requests” the publication to take down Tito Sotto denies whitewashing of Pepsi Paloma rape case, The rape of Pepsi Paloma, and Was Pepsi Paloma murdered?

“I believe there was malicious imputation of a crime against me….These kinds of unverified articles have been negatively affecting my reputation for the longest time,” Sotto said.  

The articles in-question allegedly point to Sotto as the one who whitewashed the crime committed by the three comedy giants, Vic Sotto, Joey De Leon, and Richie D Horsie. Yet even after the publication of the articles, he remained docile.

Everything changed when Tito Sotto claimed his post last 21st of May. Only a week after his appointment, he sent the controversial letter to Inquirer.

It seems that more power comes with more privilege; and responsibility is quickly erased from the equation.

“You mean if I say that the people who are maligning me were paid to do so, that is freedom of the press? No. Original fake news,” Sotto said, instigating that he did not trample on the freedom of the media and that he filed the amendment of Republic Act No. 53 in support of the journalists.

However, why, in his long tenure in serving as a legislator, did he still let the propagators of “fake news” roam around the grand Malacañang halls? Why didn’t the incumbent Senate President ask Communications Assistant Secretary Margaux “Mocha” Uson to take down her post slandering the minor students of St. Scholastica who rallied against Marcos Burial? Why isn’t he condemning Presidential Speaker Harry Roque for invalidating the spread of fake news as mere “marketplace of ideas?” There’s already a list of fake news sites in the Philippines released by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines in case he wants to check.

Disinformation and abuse of power combined is the favorite song the government likes to sing, and they are forcing the Filipinos to join its chorus. With the President conducting the melody with its frequent tirades against the media, wherein he demonizes the essence of the press—to inform the people—he and his blind followers are about to lead us back into the darkness, into oppression.

You may ask, how come a person like Sotto, who can’t even write his own speech and know the title of his country’s own national anthem, can force us into silence?

Because it is us who gave them the power. We are the ones who put them in that seat. And we need to stop putting the blame on the system because we are also to blame for we are part of the system, we propagated this injustice to plague our ailing country down to its core.

Tito Sotto is now about to strum the final note of our farewell to freedom, and we are all happily singing along. The country is singing the prelude to its silence but many seem to forget that this is not some karaoke that every drunk uncles enjoy, this is our homeland—our freedom—and sadly, we still remain on the sidelines.

Our ancestors spilt blood so we can sing Lupang Hinirang in liberty. Select your next song wisely.

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