LGBTQ leader cries foul vs homophobic acts in Zambo

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 21 August) –The President of the Lesbian Gay Bisexuals and Transgenders Federation of Zamboanga (LGBTFZ) cried foul against homophobic acts in the city as he called for increased advocacy and education on acceptance of their community members into society.  This, after a gay person who was returning home last Sunday was sneered at by seven minors, one of whom gave the victim a flying kick on the head.

Alvin Toni Fernandez, LGBTZ Federation President, said the city has an Anti-Discrimination Law that should be heeded.

Map courtesy of Google Maps

The seven offenders – aged 15 to 17 — were arrested Wednesday but released after 72 hours when the victim did not show up to file a complaint. The suspected offenders are allegedly part of a group of seven male minors, six of them residents of Barangay Camino Nuevo and the other a resident of Barangay Tetuan who assaulted a member of the LGBQTIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual) Sunday dawn in Tetuan. An eighth boy,  aged 19, is not classified as a minor.

“Violence, at this time of pandemic, is too much. We cannot afford to see … these inhumane acts against a member of LBGTQIA+.  Everybody, regardless of your Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) should be treated justly,” said Wilfredo Aporongao, Focal Person of the City Gender and Advocacy.

“Our office has been at the forefront in raising awareness on the different laws protecting our constituents, and advocating for anti-discrimination is one.  The Gender and Development Section of the Office of the City Mayor deeply condemns such act of violence,” Aporongao said.

Officials of barangay Tetuan, Camino Nuevo and Canelar jointly conducted a search and manhunt operations against the suspects, following the viral spread via social media of the video of what transpired Sunday dawn.

The video shows the boys walking along Toribio Street in Tetuan,  when the victim, a gay, walked by. One of the boys ran after him, and with a flying kick, hit the gay’s head. The gay then ran towards the direction of the crossing in Tetuan while the other boys ran after the victim, sneering.

Asked during barangay and police investigation why they did it, the suspects said, “Tripping lang.”

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Regional Office 9 under Regional Director lawyer Judelyn Macapili  on Thursday said the LGBTQIA community “has long been victims of abuse and discrimination.  But only one case in the region prompted a motu proprio investigation, when an LGBT member was killed in Pagadian City.”

“We are being careful here.  This is one situation whereby the suspects, who are minors, and the victim belong to the vulnerable group.  Authorities are looking into the matter with caution,” GAD Focal Person Aporongao said.

Norberto Monopolio, barangay chair of Camino Nuevo, said the six minors from his village have had previous records with the barangay for gallivanting beyond the 10 p.m. curfew and for making noise on the road at dawn.

He said their parents had been summoned but not one has come to the barangay hall.

Monopolio sighed because the victim did not appear within 72 hours at Police Station 6 of the Zamboanga City Police Office in Tetuan, so the police had to release the suspects. They are currently under supervision of the barangay as they render community service according to the law.

LGBTZ Federation President Fernandez noted cases of discrimination against members of the LGBTQIA community. In October 2017, a transgender make-up artist was robbed and shot dead in his own residence  in Barangay Baliwasan by a male friend who took advantage of the former’s kindness after having been well-versed with the house’s entrance and exit points.

In the first quarter of 2020, Fernandez said, police reported that a transwoman from Barangay Putikbarangay was hit on the head for no reason.  In April 2020, five transwomen allegedly violated curfew as they were found talking in the vicinity of the Santa Maria Cemetery where they also lived, which the cemetery caretaker permitted.  But personnel on duty at the Sta. Maria Police Station hit them with paddles and their hair cut off when they were brought to the police station.  “That was the start of the pandemic,” Fernandez said, “and there was no ordinance yet to protect our rights as human beings.”

“These incidents triggered us to appeal to the Sangguniang Panlungsod and rally behind the passage of an anti-discrimination ordinance,” said Fernandez, who is also the President of the Mujer-LGBT Organization, Incorporated.

The Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Ordinance 543 in Zamboanga City was passed in October of 2020.  Under this law, the city of Zamboanga recognizes the “fundamental right of every human being regardless of race, color, civil and social status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expressions, language, religion, national or social origin, culture and ethnicity, property, birth or age, disability and health status, creed and ideological beliefs, and physical appearance to be free from any form of discrimination.”

“Even with the existing ordinance, there is still a need to conduct education in values or in teachings of religion up to the grassroots. Ta mira bajo siemprecanamon (They still look down on us), said Fernandez.

“Teachings of religious leaders are important as they wield a big impact on their followers,” he said, citing Islam which considers resorting to exposing themselves as LBTQIA+ as forbidden, or haram. Fernandez said there was a public debate or scenario on this when their religious leaders opposed the inclusion of SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression).  “At that time, the main goal was having the ordinance. But now, with all these incidents, and our police forces also needing the education itself, we need to intensify the educational system’s understanding of gender and development and really include this in the curriculum, perhaps in values education,” Fernandez said.

The Mujer LGBT Organization, Inc. is one of 36-member-organizations of the LGBTFZ.  As it advocates for equality and human rights, it initiated Ayuda LGBT which enabled them to have an avenue to help other members of the community across the Zamboanga Peninsula starting December last year.

The LGBTFZ asked for donations from various sectors. It  received 2,500 food packs from the city government. (Frencie Carreon / MindaNews)