Friday, December 31, 2010

Stopping hate (2)

The pink community, after closely examining hatred brought about by the inherent characteristics of the economic and social status of an individual, another major breeding ground for hatred to flourish is the cultural and political institutions, both are superstructures that rest upon an economic base that defines beyond the so-called gender and sexual identity hate. They are not just breeding grounds; they are attachment to and part of an entire web of a single system that continues to destroy the essence of an individual and society.

Such institutions not only institute hatred, but stigma and discrimination in all its forms just so a system so exploitative can still be maintained at the expense of the pink community, including those deprived of their day-to-day right to survive.

Despite its macho pronouncements claiming that the members of the pink community can join the armed forces, the military as an institution aimed at maintaining a status quo that breeds stigma and discrimination cannot claim to represent in all its glory the right to accommodate members of the pink community in its ranks.

It should be noted that the current stronger armed institution is meant to destroy any force that advocates a progressive view and alternative system that is friendly to the pink community. While laudable at face value promoting “equality” among its armed forces, the pink community once enlisted in the reactionary armed forces will be used to destroy its class origin, trained to become traitor and thus becomes a representative of a deplorable system that encourages and breeds hate, stigma and discrimination.

Positioned as a major propagator and defender of a social and economic system, religion is an institution not only encourages hate, stigma and discrimination but an instrument to enable the oppressed and exploited people (including the pink community) to be contented being exploited and oppressed. And for the pink community to be contented being maimed and hated, discriminated and demonized, anyway the supposedly Kingdom of Heaven is reserved for those who experience the brutality of a brutal system. Acting that way, it solidifies an individual to be forever hated and exploited.

Educational institutions, too, are not just there to teach us how to read, write and count, but how to defend the stigma, hate, and discrimination. A banking concept of education run that way will surely encourages more hatred and bias, like what the pink community experienced in sectarian and non-sectarian schools.

So don’t expect that stigma, hate and discrimination will be eliminated overnight like a contest involving hapless individuals eager to earn the right to fame even just a blink of an eye. Such is the case of a selective, onerous and one-sided campaign to end or stop hate anchored solely on gender and sexual identity.

Stopping hate (1)

An illustrious campaign is in the offing and is going on with no end in sight – yet. It is a campaign to threat each other fairly, equally and justly, a campaign to look at each other as children of God, a campaign for oneness, a just and morally upright cause to stop hate.

So what is hate? Why are some people, institutions and states going to kill or hate other people on the basis of their sexual orientation? And why should hate, in fact beyond gender identity and sexual orientation, be stop?

Just recently, with the prodding of the US, anti-hate advocates the world over succeeded in eliminating a UN General Assembly's human rights committee approved an Arab and African proposal to cut the reference to killings due to sexual orientation from a resolution on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions

It was a victory for all. I was a victory for common sense. But the proponents of the now hated UN General Assembly’s human rights committee proposal cried pink.

"We will not have it foisted on us," said Zimbabwe's UN ambassador Chitsaka Chipaziwa slammed the US amendment, added, “there was no need to refer explicitly to sexual orientation.”

The inclusion of killings due to sexual orientation should be banned in all walks of life. We asked, given the advancement of human understanding, why should countries adopt such a policy killing people by virtue of their sexual orientation which they did not in fact decide on?

Killing people due to their gender identity is actually a product of the current socio-economic system eliminating individuals whose existence deviate from their imposed male dominance. Still, the deciding factor, no matter what their sexual category is their hold to power and influence.

For until now, we may succeed in eliminating sexual and gender hate in world’s statutes and laws, but so long as the people, most of them are deprived in their day-to-day struggle to survive, remains subject to massive economic exploitation, a much deeper hate remains. In fact, a significant portion of the pink community are actually oppressed and exploited.

How we are going to eliminate a deeply rooted socio-economic and political hatred which divided people since the beginning of countries and states is a challenge even to the pink community.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Credible witness, corrupt judgment

Perennially accused for passing unlawful judgment to the victims of the Philippines’ judicial system, the Supreme Court recently declared that mental retardate can be credible as witness. The decision penned by Associate Justice Jose Perez of the tribunal’s First Division, gives justice to the human rights of individuals no matter what their status in life.

It is a different story how the state ensures that persons with physical (mental) disabilities are provided and given a more humane and suitable life. Without that, they will continue to experience the injustice befall upon them.

Putting a more humane context and perspective to the decision, Associate Justice Perez said, “While it is true that the credibility of one who is a mental retardate may be difficult to determine, still, it can be ascertained by deducing from the manner she testifies in court as to the surrounding facts of the crime committed. For as long as her testimony is straightforward, candid and unflawed by inconsistencies or contradictions in its material points, and her demeanor is consistent with one who has been a victim of rape, bolsters her credibility with the verity born out of human nature and experience, thus, must be given full faith and credit.”

The decision of the First Division, added, “Moreover, mental retardation per se does not affect credibility. A mentally retarded may be a credible witness. The acceptance of her testimony depends on the quality of her perceptions and the manner she can make them known to the court.”

Qualified justly and correctly, I must say.

I am glad decisions like that happened even in the face of a court tainted with historical corruption, partisan politics whose judgment always delivered lethal blows to the oppressed and exploited people. I need not mention judgments favorable to the poor, for the poor cannot even afford huge court fees just so the cases they are involved with will proceed. Or if given a slim chance of litigation, another obstacle is to have a favorable decision, if ever decisions are made.

Now that the court has given a green signal for the credibility of individuals with mental disabilities, they remain incomplete and ignored members of our society given by the fact that the existing state cannot even give or provide the most basic of their need. Just examine our hospitals and medical institutions catering to people like them. Or do we have a program that will ensure a lifelong respect for people with mental disabilities?

Beyond making them credible witness in court litigation, we, as a people should also be a credible witness to their suffering, and the government, has the credibility to ensure their rights are protected, their mental problem medically examined and the entire community of people are well taken care of.

Going by the decisions of the Supreme Court lately favoring dishonored accused because of their economic and political connections in life proved that even a truthful “mental retardate” is an obstacle for coming out with a just and rightful decision.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Web log

“Utilize the blog while it is free,” said an editor of a local newspaper a few years back.

I learned to blog almost half a decade ago. First as a depository of my old and not-so-good articles published in some student publications, Voice of Talamban (VOT) and Today’s Carolinian (TC), during my university days on the early and late 1990s.

(I served as editor of VOT, official student publication of the University of San Carlos (USC) College of Engineering and TC, official publication of USC students.)

Now dead, both campus papers demised were also the time of the popularity of web log and online journalism.

Writing for campus paper then was the only visible and effective means for aspiring writers and critical thinkers to propagate their influences, prior to the advent of web log. It could have been different if blog was visible during those days.

Second, as the public figure of several progressive organizations (i.e., Anakbayan) during the late 1990s until the middle of the decade of the first decade of the current century, I wrote the progressive stand of the organization and submitted it to local newspapers for publishing.

So, I needed an online space to ensure a wider audience as well as a depository of published opinion pieces. Hence, the birth of binignitogchopsuey.

Until I realized web log is beyond depository of old and assorted ideas.

Though not often, I write some of my most important commentaries here. Since my exposure and social practice derived from the fact as a political and social activist, most of the articles here are a complete expression of the dialectical relations of economic, political and cultural analysis to issues as complex as societal change and as “shallow” as vacation and traveling.

I am writing this because, lately, I was able to take a look and awed by the elements of blogger.com which I found interactive and provided self-fulfillment.

For example, I found “Stats” as an important tool of my web log to monitor my audience, posts and traffic sources.

Surprised, my audience are scattered in ten countries. Still counting, topping the list is the Philippines with 658 audiences, following the colonial connection the US ranks second with 137. Counting countries instead of individual audience, my blog is present in European countries with Germany - 43, Turkey - 31, Russia - 18, and France and Italy with 15 each.

Latin America is represented by Colombia and Mexico, 20 and 13 audiences respectively. Surprisingly, the presence of China ranks last with 9 audiences. I wonder where my South East Asian readers are.

Most read posts are also included. Page views by Browsers and Operating Systems used provided a detailed statistics.

Like any “lazy” writer, I rarely re-write. I just write in a way that comes naturally, perhaps a glaring limitation of my blog. Not to mention some grammatical, sentence structure and language problems.

Beyond syntax, blogging is serious – dead serious. A blogger should use it to propagate not just the whims and caprices of individuals, but also our collective desires for a truly free and democratic society (and cyberspace) – while it is still “free.”

Sunday, December 19, 2010

(Red)efining the Pink Community and the Elements of Genuine Pride

December 20, 2010, Message to the Pink Community - Baguio City on the occasion of its First General Assembly


Dinuyogan sa walay kabutangan nga kalipay, akong ipaabot ang among hul-os nga panaghi-usa sa inyong Unang Heneral nga Assembliya sa ProGay Metro Baguio nga gihi-usa sa panawagan ug tema, “Strengthen our unity, empower the gay community.” Ang inyong panag-hiusa karon nagtukmod kanamo nga mas-maglig-on pa atubangan sa tibuok bahin nga mga kapakyasan ug kadaugan.



Your call to strengthen your unity is timely and relevant. It emphasizes the urgent need to collectively dare for a more firm and committed pink community. Though late, indeed what better time to strengthen your unity than these days of deepening economic crisis, decaying political structure and the culture becoming more irrelevant, materialistic and mystified idealism – making our current socio-economic conditions worst, and our gender and sexual orientation threatened.

Furthermore, your longing to empower our community is both a tactical and strategic aspiration for the eventual fulfillment of a truly consolidated pink community. You cannot empower the pink community without first strengthening the ties that bind us internally. But that is an incomplete “unity.” Truth is, that is no unity at all. Unity means uniting with other oppressed and exploited sectors in our society. Making them understand beyond our gender and sexual orientation.

Beyond such “gender and sexual orientation” unity, we should develop a more precise and scientific unity, our class unity with other sectors of society. This involves understanding our common economic, political and cultural conditions and making ourselves fully aware of our past. Drawing important lessons from yesterdays in order to adjust to the present and confront the future with full of vigor and hope in a militant and progressive way. This is the greatest unity of all.

However, I would like to re-emphasize that the strength of the gay community is useless so long as the gay community is limited only to itself. We should link firmly with the basic masses equally for all of us are victims of the current social system. We cannot strengthen and empower our community if we will only work for our sector. Doing so is isolationism and elitism and will brought unparalleled catastrophe and consequences within our ranks and to the society. If that will happen, we cannot claim to be empowered nor united.


The Pink-market and Globalization

I always believe, in order for us to truly understand and comprehend our current conditions and woes, and sometimes to adjust to the western “imposed” labels and definitions (which I will discuss later) we are in dire need to study the positive and negative impact of globalization and its implication to our community and to the society as a whole.

In the course of unlimited knowledge courtesy of a globalized and wired world, we are being buried with a galaxy of data and information never before seen in the history of the world’s peoples’. This enables us to take a cursory look for informations which is beneficial to us, network with organizations friendly and supportive to our cause on mutually acceptable terms, and join protests actions simultaneously.

Join protests actions simultaneously? Yes! Like I said before, we now live in an era of unparalleled and deepening economic crisis on a global scale. The collapse of the financial centers of the world and the massive unemployment of the world’s peoples’ (including our community) is a clear sign of monopoly capitalism’s dying days. Our organizing efforts should adjust to that condition and ask ourselves why and what are we organizing for and where are we going.

Recent round of incidents in Europe and the USA point to the fact that the people’s of the world are clamoring and fighting for social justice and peace within the context of their current unfathomable misery. In the United States of America, unemployment is still at an all time high and the marginalized Americans are fighting for their life and limb. Again, our community included.

In Europe for example, the British and French students are fighting against education budget cut and in support to their parents other concerns. Such organized efforts involving young people offers light at the end of the tunnel. We can always count on how many young gay people in these protests actions joined. And we can always count them among the multitude of the entire community of oppressed and exploited people.

The abovementioned struggles of the world’s people’s should never pacify us to just organize for organize sake. Our organizing efforts are a seed that will make a strong and deeply rooted forest of pink community determined to pursue the historical mission of the oppressed and exploited people.

The deepening economic crisis also resulted in an all-round development of homophobia, stigma and discrimination towards the pink community. It is unfortunate that too many young gay people in the West are committing suicides at a very young age. Homophobia, stigma and discrimination are cultural malice attached to the current capitalist system. It is the system’s way of cutting the throats of the unjustly labeled “weaker-sex” as compared to the stronger sex of, well, straight men.

The industrialized worlds are inflicting its macho and patriarchal culture in order to maintain a system doomed to collapse while at the same time encouraging the so-called “weaker-sex” to participate in the exploitation process. It holds true with the women sector. And much visible among us, the people belong to the margin.

Adding salt to our already wounded soul, the current economic system has given a “free-space” for us in order to consume our entirety and drive us to their eternal foothold by providing a “space-and-a-name” for our community to further our exploitation. Hence, the name pink market and pink community as a new market for slavery and exploitation, haven’t you wondered the emerging of metrosexuals? They did not just expand and wage unjust war to the people of the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba and North Korea. While we are being bullied and demonized, they take advantage of our community as a new market for surplus products and capital.

Thus there is a crying need for a more objective and conspicuous study of the emerging conditions and trends that we can take advantage of while maintaining our progressive stand, viewpoint and method.


Between Red and White, the Local Pink

The past few years, the local pink community has been out of the closet, albeit in a dimly lit room. Perhaps it is due to the fact that in 1994 the First Gay Pride in Asia organized by ProGay Philippines succeeded in breaking an insurmountable cliché. It was a historic and happy occasion breaking new grounds for unparalleled growth in the years that passed by.

It is also worth mentioning, although unsuccessful for the second time, Ang Ladlad Party-list attempt to be the first mouth-piece of the pink community in the House of Representatives.

All these excites us all, where are we going from where?

The bottom line is, the local pink community has emerged even before ProGay launched its First Gay Pride in Asia or even before Ang Ladlad will claim a seat in the party-list election. Careful examination in far-flung areas, mostly in the rural mountains and countryside, you will notice groups of gay men and, although rarely women with their own organizations anchored on their desire to make their presence felt in the most feudal of all conditions – highly exploitative, backward, pre-industrial and agrarian.

To top it all, your launching today of your First General Assembly, though late is a welcome respite in this miserable times. It consolidated the historic and determined efforts of those ahead of us several decades fold. It gives recognition to those who discreetly organized their own pink community. It gives honor to efforts unnoticed. It gives justice to our (gay)story.

The past several years, several foreign entities entered our shores to spruce-up “our” understanding (and identity?) of the local pink community. In fact, an on-going study by the Health Action Information Network (HAIN) funded by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) aimed at determining the Risks and Vulnerabilities of the Men-having-Sex-with-Men (MSM) and Transgender (TG) in three major cities in the Philippines (Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao) is also noteworthy to follow.

Depending on which lens we are using, the outcome of the research will bridge the gap between our local initiatives and understanding of the sub-populations of the pink community vis-à-vis the outcome of the nationally conducted research.

So here we are now, perhaps painful to academics but we are living with it: determining and understanding the sub-populations in our midst. I believe the sub-populations are a product of abject poverty. I encourage our pink community in Baguio City to conduct its own social investigation and class (and gender) analysis to the different sub-populations we encountered and lived as we open the closet in a dimly lit room. This will encourage more closets opened and more rooms lighted.

Because academics, though not all, are not living with the pink community daily, did not experienced the brutality of the semi-feudal system, may be on the wrong track of labeling us, or may be right. No one knows except the validation of the local community.

Thus I encourage you to deepen your understanding of the terms like “sexual minorities,” “men-having-sex-with-men,” “lesbians-gay-bisexual-transgender-queer-inter-sex,” and others that adds confusion instead of clearing the dust in the closet.

The Elements of Genuine Pride

1. Human rights advocacy and support for the peace talks
As a political organization of the pink community in Metro Baguio, we should always remind ourselves the need to fully understand the class context of human rights. It is not always safe and helpful if our understanding of human rights is limited only to our understanding of our gender and sexual orientation.

On the other hand, we should also work on improving our human rights documentation to the violated rights of our community. We should also be visible in fact-finding missions, help in the documentation of human rights (HR) cases and assist in whatever way on the basis of our capacity.

We should also support the peace process between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to emphasize to them our deep commitment for social justice and peace.

2. Reproductive Health Bill and Anti-discrimination Bill
We should initiate efforts and form alliances and networks in our communities to support the rights-based and Comprehensive Reproductive Health Bill and the Anti-Discrimination Bill now being filed in the House of Representatives. Fully aware that the current social system dominated by a macho-feudal and patriarchal culture is a threat in itself, only a strong mass movement of people will ensure the passage of both bills.

3. Confronting Morality and Religious Bias
We can only claim to be morally upright if we are in support of and in cadence with the struggle of the marginalize peasants and workers. Let our voices be heard on the standard issues of the day because that is the most moral thing to do.

4. Understanding the social context of HIV/AIDS, beyond biological
We should develop a program that will not just limit to the prevention of the disease but also its social and economic prevention. The epidemic is a social disease that needs to be confronted holistically.

5. Fight for genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization
We should remember, a significant portion of our population belong to the peasantry followed by the working class. Therefore, it follows that a significant portion of the community are scattered in that order. We support and fight for genuine agrarian reform on the basis of its economic, political and cultural significance in our struggle for gender equality. Because, before a member of the community cries pink, he/she will look for security in his/her livelihood and respect for his/her innate human rights.

Only through militant struggle can the brightest pink emerged. Only through resolute and determined efforts can we gain respect and admiration in a bias and exploitative society.

In between red and white, lies pink! Long live the pink community in Baguio City!

About the author: Former chair of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines – Cebu (1998-2000), Founding Vice-President for the Visayas – Anakbayan and Chair of Anakbayan – Cebu (2000-2002) and Founding President – BisdakPRIDE 2005 – present. He has been a community organizer in peasant areas, urban poor communities and workers. But exposed first and found material- passion organizing the youth and students during his engineering days at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

“Promoting Human Rights in the Context of HIV/AIDS”

(Below is the power point presentation I prepared for the series of forums for Southwestern University and University of San Carlos. I expanded the one I presented at Salazar College of Science and Institute of Technology)

I. Understanding the principles of human rights

HUMAN DIGNITY
Human dignity is the notion that all individuals, regardless of age, culture, religion, ethnic origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, language, disability or social condition deserve to be respected and esteemed.

EQUALITY
The equality concept expresses the notion of respect for the inherent dignity of all human beings. As specified in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is the basis of human rights: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."

NON-DISCRIMINATION
Non-discrimination is an integral part of the concept of equality. It ensures that no one is denied the protection of his or her human rights based on visible factors.

UNIVERSALITY
Certain moral and ethical values are shared in all regions of the world, and governments and communities should recognize and uphold them. The universality of rights does not mean, however, that they cannot change or that they are experienced in the same manner by all people. The principle of universality is often paired with inalienability of rights. Both principles mean that rights apply to all people and they cannot be given up or taken away.

INALIENABILITY
A person’s human rights cannot be taken away, surrendered, or transferred. The principle of inalienability is often paired with universality of rights. Both principles mean that rights apply to all people and they cannot be given up or taken away.

INDIVISIBILITY
Human rights should be addressed as an indivisible body. That means that all rights, whether civil, political, social, economic, cultural, or collective rights have equal status. The principle of indivisibility is often paired with interdependency of rights. Both principles mean that all rights be seen as having equal importance and are related to each other

INDIVISIBILITY
Human rights should be addressed as an indivisible body. That means that all rights, whether civil, political, social, economic, cultural, or collective rights have equal status. The principle of indivisibility is often paired with interdependency of rights. Both principles mean that all rights be seen as having equal importance and are related to each other

INTERDEPENDENCY
Human rights concerns appear in all spheres of life — home, school, workplace, courts, and markets— everywhere! Human rights violations are interconnected; loss of one right detracts from other rights. Similarly, promotion of human rights in one area supports other human rights. The principle of interdependency is often paired with indivisibility of rights. Both principles mean that all rights be seen as having equal importance and are related to each other.

ACCOUNTABILITY:
Human rights are not gifts bestowed at the pleasure of governments. Nor should governments withhold them or apply them to some people but not to others. When they do so, they must be held accountable. The government is duty-bound to promote, protect and uphold the rights of their citizens

RESPONSIBILITY

INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY:
Every individual has a responsibility to teach human rights, to respect human rights, and to challenge institutions and individuals that abuse them.

OTHER RESPONSIBLE ENTITIES:
Every organ of society, including corporations, nongovernmental organizations, foundations and educational institutions also shares responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights.

II. Principles of Human Rights in the Context of HIV / AIDS

HIV/AIDS and Human Rights

HIV and AIDS impacts not only physical health of individuals but also their identity and condition. It could cause personal suffering and loss of dignity for people with HIV/AIDS.

Human rights are denied when…
1. There is inadequate information
2. There is lack of accessible and affordable medicines to protect their right to
life and health
3. There is discrimination and denial of the right to employment
4. There is lack of privacy, confidentiality and loss of dignity

Promoting human rights in the context of HIV / AIDS
1. Prevent discrimination and stigma
2. Prevent further infection
3. Reduce vulnerability to infection
4. Empower individuals and communities
5. Lessen the impact on those infected and affected

Rights-based approach is important in HIV/AIDS The incidence and spread of HIV/AIDS is disproportionately high among groups that already suffer from lack of human rights protection and from discrimination, or marginalized by their legal status.

HIV/AIDS is also affected by issues of:
Globalization
Migration
Gender violence and discrimination
Inequality (access to treatment, education, justice, etc)
Poverty
War and conflict

HIV / AIDS as a development issue
HIV/AIDS and development is a two-way process, where lack of development increases susceptibility and vulnerability to HIV/AIDS while the disease negatively impacts on development

Social and macro-economic effects
1. Increased expenditures needed for HIV /AIDS
2. Government funds on social services are very limited
3. The prevalence of HIV increase among the local labor force will result to an increase in absenteeism, exacerbating underemployment in the country, which may result in a reduction of economic growth
4. With the returning HIV-positive OFWs, stress would be placed on the resources of the country’s health care system

Effect on the health care system
1. Many PLWHAs (People living with HIV/AIDS) do not have access to basic drugs to treat HIV related infections and other conditions
2. High price of other related drugs, especially anti-retroviral drugs

Effects on Families and Individuals
1. Its impact on households, families and communities threaten social cohesion and solidarity among families and communities
2. A family with an afflicted member suffers increased financial, social, and psychological stress
3. Suffers possible job loss

HIV/AIDS and the Charter for Health HIV/AIDS should be looked at in the context of public health and human rights, with political-economic and socio-cultural angles. It is not just a biological issue.

THE LANGUAGE of HIV

“Person with HIV”, not “person with AIDS” – unless it is used to describe the medical condition.

“People living with HIV infection”, not “HIV infected” or “HIV or virus carriers” because the emphasis should be on people and not the virus or the infection.

“People living with AIDS,” not “dying of AIDS” or “AIDS sufferers” – because the emphasis should be on the people and not the medical condition. Furthermore, the terms “victim and sufferer” suggest powerlessness.

“Living with AIDS,” not “dying of AIDS” as it stresses the fact a person continues to participate in life’s activities.

“Men who have sex with men,” not “homosexual.” “bisexual,” or “gay” because many who have sex with men do not identify themselves as homosexual, etc. It is also inappropriate to label people by virtue of their sexual orientation.

“Women who have sex with women,” not “lesbians” because many women who have sex with women do not identify themselves as lesbians. It is also inappropriate to label people by virtue of their sexual orientation.

“Commercial sex worker,” not “prostitute” as this is a term used by women who do this work. The nature of “prostitution” differs from country to country and culture to culture. The term “sex worker” is inadequate because some sex workers operate for money and some “non-commercial sex workers” operate for security.

“Person with hemophilia,” not “hemophiliac” because a person should not be identified by his/her disease.

“Us” not “them” as all of us are living within the epidemic.

Daghang Salamat!

For more information about us, please visit:
http://bisdakpride.multiply.com/
Facebook : Bisdak Pride
Tweet us : @bisdakpride
Skype: bisdakpride


References:
“Decade to overcome violence (DOV) 2005”, published by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP)

“HIV/ AIDS in the Philippines,” Dr. Delen P. de la Paz, Coordinator PHM – Philippines, Executive Director, Health Action Information Network.

Nancy Flowers (2005), The Human Rights Education Handbook: Effective Practices for Learning, Action and Change, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Human Rights Resource Center

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Coming out

Few days before the entire Christianity will reflect on Jesus Christ passion and resurrection, Ricky Martin, a native of deeply Catholic Mexico, confirmed the long time rumor that he is gay. The world did not lose a nanosecond of standstill. It was a confirmation of a decade-old gossip that he is, in fact, a proud homosexual.

Ah, rumor. Such is a lousy business.

Carefully crafted with full of honesty, he divulged in his website: "Today is my day, this is my time, and this is my moment. These years in silence and reflection made me stronger and reminded me that acceptance has to come from within and that this kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn't even know existed ... I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am."

I don’t know if the acceptance is part of a series of press releases for his memoirs to be published soon to gain popular followers and earned tremendous profit in the process. Whatever the objective of his “coming-out”, it was a testament of bravery and honesty. To move on and be happy, one should sincerely and honestly accept the pain of believing in oneself. Not necessarily to the extent of letting other people salivate on it. Giving in to their pressures, is giving in to their wishes and gender discrimination deepens. It adds salt to the already wounded heart and soul.

Saying that her questioning may have ended his career, Barbara Walters interviewed Ricky Martin almost a decade ago and regretted trying to force (or coerced?) Martin to open up about his sexuality. A month ago, she said: "In 2000, I pushed Ricky Martin very hard to admit if he was gay or not, and the way he refused to do it made everyone decide that he was," she told The Toronto Star. "A lot of people say that destroyed his career, and when I think back on it now, I feel it was an inappropriate question."

And, perhaps in a sighed of disbelief, Walters tells him, "You know, you could stop these rumors. You could say, as many artists have, 'Yes I am gay,' or you could say, 'No I'm not,' or you could leave it, as you are, ambiguous. I don't want to put you on the spot, but it's in your power to do it."

Adel Tamano, a Filipino Muslim and candidate for senator was asked by my favorite anchorwoman about his sexuality. Live on television, my favorite anchorwoman cross-examined the poor Adel like a guilty suspect of a crime he never dreamed of committing, and politely he answered about the gender inquest. The anchorwoman should heed Barbara Walters regretting what she did to Martin.

I doubt if the anchorwoman will do the same thing to Noynoy, a candidate for president, given the fact that Adel is happily married while Noynoy is still a bachelor in his waning years. I haven’t heard anyone suspect Noynoy’s gender orientation just because he doesn’t look like one? It adds discrimination by means of one’s appearance. You don’t appear like one, you are not gay. You appear like one, even if you are not, you are a poor boy.

Typical of being honest, Ricky Martin or Adel Tamano could have asked those who interviewed them if they really are heterosexuals. But they did not. Such is a gift of human kindness and respect towards other people anchored on the basis that we are all one and the same. Equal.

In fact, if they are not cross-examined in public interviews, they are being portrayed as hapless human beings capable of entertaining the crowd in movies and television. What a poor way of self-preservation!

I know for a fact that even discreet individuals are proud of who they are. Who aren’t? Let’s take it from them and let us leave it that way. That is the kind of existence they wish to enjoy and that is the kind of respect they deserved. As long as they did not cross the thin red-line of human-to-human exploitation in all its forms then by all means embrace them like a new born child, incapable of inflicting wounds against anyone.

But the respect that should be showered (accorded is quite masculine, I might as well use the word ‘showered’) to them should be observed. For no one, not even one-self, can force himself/herself to believe that he/she is not, well, a heterosexual or a homosexual.

But the world that we are in is deeply feudal and macho that anything outside of it is exploited.

Gender and sexuality marginalization, discrimination and isolation in whatever form will continue as long as the fundamental and basic unit of its existence will prevail in our day to day life. In order for us to confront gender and sexual discrimination objectively, it is correct to fight gender discrimination on the basis of deeply rooted economic liberation hand in hand with other oppressed and exploited sectors and classes. For it will not only liberate an individual from the clutches of economic slavery, it will provide an all round cultural and political advancement and acceptance. Without that, no homosexual can claim to be happy in this world, save perhaps the likes of Ricky Martin.

Western academics call it heteronormativity or the superiority of heterosexuals against any other gender. It actually stigmatizes other forms of gender and sexuality as deviants and consequently confirms that self-expression is dangerous as long as it does not conform to the so-called ‘norm’. Thus it is utterly dangerous like ideological, political, race, religion, physical or even age discrimination.

But a heterosexual man or woman cannot claim to be superior on the basis of his gender or sexual orientation alone. Political and economic power moved the heterosexual man or woman to be supremely powerful and dangerous over all other heterosexuals and homosexuals.

On the other hand, I do not find it appropriate for one to divulge his gender orientation whether in public or privately not because there are heteronormative out there but because it vibrates indiscriminately to the already subjective society. For doing so is accepting the pressures of a biased society to give in to their wishes, pin down someone and isolate him/her in the process.

Is it really acceptance that we want while forcing someone to admit?

The current socio-economic and cultural set-up prohibits someone to divulge his/her gender orientation. For coming out, the brave ones are further discriminated. Such is the case even within the gay community or now aptly called the sexual minorities. You are only ‘in’ if you are discreet or scandalously straight acting. With that, I give honor to the effeminate, the transvestites, the transgenders and the newly formed group called baklita for they are the tsunamis in the eye of the storm.

Before you look at someone, or before that someone look at to him/herself as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, labyboy, queer, nilatch, paminta, bayot, baklita or whatever term coined in the process of gender isolation and discrimination, we must look at them, and they must look at themselves as human beings first and foremost. For no major consideration can guarantee gender isolation by looking at someone as your own image and likeness. The good Lord has a word for it: He created us in His own image and likeness. Others who studied God’s gospel consciously overlook a simple message.

We are all equal on the basis of our existence we can’t go any deeper than that.

Needless to say, economic, political and social considerations matters deeply on gender and sexuality question. For a poor homosexual is totally different from a rich one. Take it from Ricky Martin’s words, “I am a fortunate homosexual.” His economic and social status defines it and takes cue and shape from it. His stature in the world stage as gay musician will never be diminished because he has wealth to defend it and has status to prolong it – and influence us.

And such wealth and status will prohibit others to minutely alter his new found moment.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Postscript of an absent faith (in between Earth Hour)

My pace was destructed.

My faith altered.

And they arrived bearing the white envelope; a uniformed Roman Catholic lay faithful assisted by two faithful uniform less vocals or are they the assistants? Whatever.

Short prayer and a song. Holy water sprinkled and the dogs bark at their best. I moved out, leaving the family in prayers and me sprinkling outside.

I am faithful to my faith.

But I prefer to wash my hands with alcohol after taking a pee and water the plants. Today is actually Vendetta sa Lukay diay, I was reminded of their presence in our home.

Earth hour?

It seems we are enjoying the one-hour Earth Hour?

Yesterday, around 7:30 in the evening, I was about to finish my 1000 meters freestyle or roughly ten laps of the 50 meters Olympic size swimming pool at the Cebu City Sports Complex when the Earth Hour participants eagerly awaited to switch off their electricity.

Meant to raise awareness on energy conservation, according to Wikipedia, Earth Hour is a global event organized by WWF, also known as World Wildlife Fund and is held on the last Saturday of March annually, asking households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights and other electrical appliances for one hour to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change.

Earth Hour was conceived by WWF and The Sydney Morning Herald in 2007, when 2.2 million residents of Sydney participated by turning off all non-essential lights.

With the success of the Sydney’s lead, many other cities around the world, including the Philippines adopted the event in 2008. Earth Hour 2010 took place on March 27, 2010 from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 pm, at the participant's respective local time.

Such activity is incredibly innovative, every year since 2007, participating countries offered an hour of their precious time for mother earth. But then, switching off is not enough. We should be reminded that the electricity that we are using, mostly coming from the destructive effects of coal-fired power plants, major cause of ozone layer depletion.

In Cebu alone, we have three.

While the Philippines have a lot of indigenous, clean and green energy resources, it remains untapped due to pressures and politics from multinational corporations (MNCs). We remain reliant on carbon dioxide (CO2) emitting coal fueled power plants as a source of electricity.

However cheap the electricity generated by this carbon dioxide emitted power plants, it makes our life cheap and the earth hour cheaper if awareness alone on raising energy conservation is the goal. Condemnation for the use of destructive power plants, like coal, and advocating for the use of earth friendly renewable and indigenous energy sources, like hydro, solar, wind, should be in the agenda.

Geothermal and natural gas are heavily taxed by the government while coal-fired power plants like Kepco-SPC (Salcon Power Corporation) coal fired plants in the City of Naga, Cebu are being encourage by the energy department and the province of Cebu.

Unfortunately it reflects our governments policy on the use of renewable and energy sources, despite the abundance of natural gas and geothermal the Philippines remains committed to contribute to the ozone layer depletion.

In Naga alone, where I used to serve as consultant to both the rank-and-file and supervisory employees union, most of them are electrical engineers at the prime of their life, are not comfortable with coal fired power plants, experiencing first hand its destructive effects in the nearby communities and themselves.

In time of massive panic due to the erratic weather disturbance, energy conservation is laudable and necessary. Switching off our electricity usage for an hour coupled with our green and clean energy advocacy should be in placed. And in our everyday life, for example, we should limit our energy usage.

In the meantime, let us enjoy the Earth Hour, while transnational and multi-national companies around the world are signing agreements after agreements with host countries for the energy development using coal-fired power plants just so we can switch off the electricity that we are using – for an hour!

So that by the last Saturday of March 2011, we can switch off our electricity usage again and enjoy the privilege of being ‘in’ even just for an hour.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Epidemiological shift

“In some groups, such as young gay men, infection rates have recently risen again, perhaps because the highly successful treatment options with lifelong antiretroviral (ARV) therapy have turned AIDS into an apparently less dreadful and more manageable disease. AIDS has lost some of its horror for many people. But believe me: It’s not something you’d want.” Kevin de Cock, the WHO's chief strategist in the fight against AIDS


Alarmed, Sec. Esperanza Cabral of the Department of Health (DOH) confronted head-on the selective morality espoused by the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines when she and the entire DOH machinery distributed condoms and flowers on St. Valentine’s Day to passers-by.

While local politicians are afraid to confront the Church, Sec. Cabral’s actions is like punching the misplaced righteousness of the local leaders of the Catholic faith using Pacquiao’s left hook. Running amok, Church officials in particular the bishops then turned their ire to the courageous Dr. Cabral and vow to punish her.

Though relatively small compared to other Asia-Pacific countries, incidence of HIV-positive reported cases in our country, experts warned, is just a tip of the iceberg. Which lead major actors in the male sexual health to spearhead a conference on HIV.

June of last year, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) together with TLF Share Collective Inc., Health Action Information Network (HAIN), Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC) and Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM) attended by various community-based and non government organizations all over the country, sponsored a national conference aimed at confronting the rising, albeit at an alarming rate, the HIV/AIDS cases in the Philippines.

The First National Conference on Men Who Have Sex with Men and Transgender and HIV (MSM/TG), the first of its kind in the Philippines, is meant to address the shift by gathering data from the ground in order to come up with an all round analysis and intervention of the alarming epidemiological shift.

Last December, the DOH through the National Epidemiological Center (NEC) and the United Nations AIDS (UNAIDS), a multi-UN agency tasked to confront the epidemic launched the 2009 Integrated HIV Behavioral and Serologic Surveillance (IHBSS) through the National Dissemination Forum (NDF)

With utmost clarity, the NDF established the fact that while global infections has dropped to 17 percent, but the number of new infections in the Philippines has increased by 334 percent. HIV/AIDS epidemic in our country spread like wild fire in most at risk populations (MARP).

In an e-mail I received from the DOH NEC last January, unfortunately I just opened it the other day in time for the writing of this piece, the sad news is this January alone, there were already 143 new HIV Ab sero positive individuals confirmed by the STD/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory and reported to the HIV and AIDS Registry. According to the well prepared presentation by the DOH NEC, this was a 120% increase compared to the same period last year.

Of the 143 individuals reported, 58 were detected from voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) as part of ongoing community outreach activities.

Most of the cases (87%) were males. The median age was 28 years (age range: 16-61 years). The 20-24 year (26%) and 25-29 year (24%) age-groups had the most cases. Forty percent (57) of reported cases were from the National Capital Region (NCR).

The document added, of the 143 HIV positive cases, two were reported as AIDS. Both were single males who acquired the infection through homosexual contact. There were no reported deaths on the other hand.

The message was clear: there is a shift of HIV-positive cases in the Philippines.

From commercial sex workers (CSW) during the early 80s, to the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the 90s, HIV infection shifted from heterosexual to MSM transmission in our country. In fact, in May 2009 alone, a whopping 88 percent increase transmitted through sexual contacts between males having sex with male (MSMs).

The NDF titled “This Is It” which was passionately delivered by NEC Head Dr. Eric Tayag warned us that anyone can get infected with HIV, even unborn babies. And added, but some groups are more at risk than others because of HIV associated behaviors but are not limited to unprotected vaginal and anal sex, multiple sex partners and re-use of needles and syringes while injecting drugs. Lack of information and inadequate prevention programmes and services among most-at-risk groups compound risks.

Confronting the shift is actually a challenge not just to the affected sector but to the entire community as well, including its staunch opponents, like the church. After all, the victims are actually God’s people, and they are the flock the good Lord is referring to be saved from the dreaded epidemic.

Given the misplaced priorities of the current regime, the issue on health and safety of our population remains at risk. Add to that is the arrest of 43 health workers who volunteered time, talent and resources just so the government’s inefficiency on matters related to the implementation of basic social services, such as health, are narrowed.

In fact the DOH own admission, health per capita allocation is only P252.49 for every Filipino each year. This means only P0.70 is allocated for every Filipino per day, an amount less than what government allocated for every bullet a standard M16 assault riffle used by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, according to the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD).

The national budget for 2010 is P1.541 trillion and the budget allocation for health is P33.678 billion or 2.2 percent of the national budget. The Department of National Defense (DND) is assured with at least P73.6 billion, more than twice the DOH budget.

Given the current circumstances, it is Sec. Cabral and other pro-choice Catholics (and non-Catholics) who are heeding the Gospel just so the challenge to confront the HIV/AIDS epidemic as well as homophobia as a major uphill battle in the fight to stop the spread of the disease.

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