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Aruba urges court to dismiss case against discriminatory dress code November 3, 2006

Posted by lagablab in campaigns, gay discrimination, lagablab alert!, LGBT News.
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Ban Goza Inc., owner of the Aruba Bar and Restaurant, has asked the Pasig Regional Trial Court to dismiss the civil case filed by Christopher Borja (aka Inday Garutay). Ban Goza Inc. cites two grounds why the case should be dismissed: that the Court has no jurisdiction over the persons of the defendants and that the complaint does not state a cause of action.

The first ground is based on technicalities. According to Ban Goza, the Court failed to acquire jurisdiction over the corporation and its individual owners because the summons were not properly served. It alleges that the “summons was not served upon defendant Ban Goza Corporation as mandated by the rules” and that “neither were summonses served upon the individual defendants in accordance with the mandate of the rules.” The summons were signed by Lendley Batilaon, “a mere management trainee who is obviously not a person in charge at Aruba Bar and Restaurant.”

The second carries the bulk of Ban Goza’s arguments. It states the complaint is wanting because it does not prove that the defendant (Aruba Bar and Restaurant) really violated the primary right of the plaintiff (Inday Garutay). Below are the main arguments:

  • Aruba has the right to impose a dress code since “there’s no law, rule or a generally accepted principle of international law which prohibits or outlaws the implementation of a dress code.” (emphasis theirs);
  • Nothing also exempts homosexuals “from the application of a validly and legally imposed dress code, such that a violation of such exemption would amount to legal discrimination. The true essence of democracy requires that such a dress code be applied to all persons,” regardless of race, status, sex, or sexual preference;
  • There was a “fair warning” posted at the entrance of Aruba that the management has the right to bar the entry of clients who are inappropriately dressed and that Inday Garutay was asked to leave the premises in a “nice way”;
  • Everyone, regardless of race, status, sex or sexual preference, are indiscriminately welcome to enter the establishment. It must be noted, however, that like any private establishment, Aruba has the right to impose a dress code, which is necessary to avoid the happening of an event where a male customer dresses as a female and enters the female comfort room, to the detriment of female patrons who may be offended or made uncomfortable.

In its motion, Aruba also presented a rather curious discussion on same-sex marriage:

It must be noted that even under the Family Code of the Philippines, Articles 2 and 5 thereof allow a marriage only between a male and a female. As a matter of fact, Articles 45(3) and 55(6) of the same law even provide that lesbianism and homosexuality are grounds for annulment and legal separation, respectively. Notwithstanding this apparent discrimination under the law, this has never been regarded in reality and in law as such. The deeper and more profound reason prohibiting same-sex marriages is based on the impossibility of reproduction rather than on invidious discrimination on account of sex or sexual preference.

Download the whole motion here.

House Committee on Human Rights Chairperson calls homosexuality “morally reprehensible” October 21, 2006

Posted by lagablab in Anti-Discrimination Bill, Discrimination, gay rights.
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Last Friday, October 13, 2006, Rep. Bienvenido Abante, congressman of the 6th District of Manila and Chairperson of the Committee on Civil, Political, and Human Rights blocked the House of Representatives from tackling the Anti-Discrimination Bill (HB 634) for Second Reading. The Second Reading approval is considered to be one of the most important phases in the legislative mill. (Read here for more info on how laws are made in the Philippines).

A Baptist pastor prior to his election, Rep. Abante is a fire-and-brimstone conservative notoriously known for spearheading the campaign to ban the Da Vinci Code movie in Manila City. He also led the mass burning of copies of the Dan Brown novel. During last Friday’s session, he reportedly declared that the bill, which penalizes a broad range of human rights violations against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders, promotes a sexuality that he considers “morally reprehensible.” Previously, in a TV show on ABS-CBN News Channel, he erroneously announced that the bill would result in the legalization of same-sex unions. In the same interview, he equated homosexuality with pedophilia, saying that protecting lesbians and gays from discrimination is like extending support for pedophiles.

Despite the support from the House Committee on Rules for the bill, Rep. Abante reportedly threatened to filibuster (a dilatory tactic to delay a legislative process) to obstruct its approval. The House Committee on Rules Chairperson, Rep. Nograles, had a prior agreement with AKBAYAN Representatives Mayong Aguja, Risa Hontiveros, and Etta Rosales, the main authors of the Anti-Discrimination Bill, to pass the bill before Congress went into a short recess beginning October 13, 2006.

Since the House of Representatives was in a middle of a marathon session to approve the 2007 budget, Abante’s filibustering would cause an unnecessary delay. Rep. Abante was reportedly jeered by colleagues who were equally surprised by his refusal to support a human rights bill. He even sat near the Majority Floor leader to make sure that he would be recognized to interpellate once the bill is read.

Ironically, it was the House Committee on Civil, Political and Human Rights that first approved the Anti-Discrimination Bill when it was chaired by AKBAYAN Rep. Loretta Ann Rosales. Rosales was later removed from the position when she supported the impeachment complaint against President GMA.

Despite Rep. Abante’s opposition, Rep. Nograles and Majority Floor Leader Del de Guzman assured the authors of the bill that it would be tackled for approval when session resumes on November 6, 2006.

Please send protest letters to Rep. Abante and demand from him equal recognition of the basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders. Express your condemnation of his discriminatory actions and of his failure, as the Chairperson of the House Committee on Human Rights and as an elected public official, to respect and recognize the Bill of Rights as enshrined in the Philippine Constitution. Here’s his address:

Office of Rep. Bienvenido Abante, Jr.
Rm. 407, South-wing,
House of Representatives,
Batasan Hills, Quezon City
Phone: 931-5001 local 7248 or 9315691 (telefax)
Email: abante_maynila@yahoo.com

Also, send letters of complaint to House Speaker Jose de Venecia for Rep. Abante’s failure to fulfill his mandate as the Human Rights Chairperson. Tell Speaker de Venecia that as the Chairperson of the House Committee on Human Rights, Rep. Abante is committing a violation of human rights by excluding lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders. Below is Speaker de Venecia’s address:

Office of House Speaker Jose de Venecia
Rm. MB-2, House of Representatives, Quezon City
Phone: 931-5001 local 7446, 9315071 to 9315073
Email: devenecia@pldtdsl.net

Amnesty International launches campaign for the Anti-Discrimination Bill September 27, 2006

Posted by lagablab in Anti-Discrimination Bill, campaigns, LGBT International Solidarity.
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Amnesty International today released an action campaign in support of the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill in Congress. In a letter from its head office in London, Amnesty International encourages its members to write letters to the leadership of Congress and push for the enactment of HB634 and SBN1738.

In lobbying for the bills, AI wishes to highlight the following points:

  • The proposed anti-discrimination legislation is an important measure to address and prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the Philippines in line with international human rights standards;
  • By extending legal protections against abuse and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the bills advance the promise of universality of human rights;
  • The bills do not grant “new rights” or “special rights” but further clarify the protections provided for under the Philippine Constitution as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Philippines has also ratified several international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, further clarifying the Government’s obligations to prohibit and prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Support AI’s letter-writing campaign for the Anti-Discrimination Bill. Download details on the campaign here.

Updates on Anti-Discrimination Bill September 26, 2006

Posted by lagablab in Anti-Discrimination Bill, campaigns, LGBT News.
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Here are some updates on the Anti-Discrimination Bill (SBN1738 and HB634):

  • In Senate, the office of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla asked the Committee on Rules to have SBN1738 referred to the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which is now chaired by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile. The Committee on Rules has not responded to the request yet and it is not clear still if the Enrile’s Committee will organize a new hearing for the bill or just use the proceedings from the Labor Committee hearing;
  • The House of Representatives, meanwhile, is poised to approve AKBAYAN Rep. Etta RosalesHB 634. The House and Senate versions are identical;
  • Amnesty International, an international human rights organization, will launch an global campaign for the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill. AI-Pilipinas has worked closely with LAGABLAB for the Stop Discrimination Now! campaign. Earlier, two other international organizations, the Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists, have expressed support for the enactment of the Anti-Discrimination Bill.

“Gay statistics” in the Philippines by consensus September 15, 2006

Posted by lagablab in hiv/aids.
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“Experts” in the field of HIV/AIDS came up with a consensus on the estimated number of “males who have sex with males” (MSMs) in the Philippines: it is from 379,799 to 804,280.

This is according to the 2005 HIV Estimates in the Philippines, a consensus report released by the Department of Health, World Health Organization, the United Nations Joint Programme on the HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and the Field Epidemiology Training Program Alumni Foundation.

The method used by the report is “a mathematical modeling technique.” The consensus was based on two surveys that limited the definition of MSMs to those who admitted engaging in anal sex since a year prior to the studies.

The report states that “with a fairly accurate estimate of popultion sizes of high-risk groups, the National AIDS/STI Prevention and Control Program can plan intervention programs more effectively, ensure better program coverage, and more rational assessment of the effectiveness of current intervention programs.”

This is the sixth estimation process since 1993.

In 1993, a software called the EPIMODEL was used to calculate the over-all prevalence of HIV infection in the country. The estimate then was that 58, 000 Filipinos were infected with the virus and it was projected that by 2000, the prevalence would increase to 92,000. In 1996, a DOH/WHO model put the prevalence to 28,000 (est.), with 38,000 as the projected figure for 2000.

In 1998, a consensus of experts who reviewed data from the National HIV Sentinel Surveillance System (NHSSS), National AIDS/STD Prevention and Control Program (NASPCP), Bureau of Research and Laboratory (BRL), Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), and the University of the Philippines College of Public Health (UPCPH) retained the 1996 estimates.

A similar consensus in 2000 and 2002 reduced the HIV prevalence estimate to 10,000 and 6,000, respectively.

To arrived at a consensus, technical working groups composed of representatives from the Department of Health, National Epidemiology Center (NEC), STI/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory (SACCL), National Center for Disease Prevention and Control (NCDPC), Men’s Sexual Health/Family Health International, UPCPH, and the health offices of several local government units.

Several studies were used to determine the population size and HIV prevalence among MSMs:

  • the Rapid Assessment Survey of FHI in Baguio, Pasay, Zaboanga, Davao, and General Santos cities (2004-2005)
  • Serologic Surveillance (2005)
  • Integrated Biological and Behavioral Survey among MSMs in Baguio City, Pasay City, Quezon City, and Manila City of FHI (2004-2005)
  • National and Demographic Health Survey (2003)
  • Integrated HIV Behavioral and Serologic Surveillance (2005)

However, to come up with the MSM population size and HIV prevalence estimates, the 2005 Consensus Report used the National and Demographic Health Survey (2003) and the 2001 Men’s Study of Sexuality and AIDS (MENSSA). The former covered 3,147 males respondents, while the latter surveyed 2,148 men in Quezon City, Davao City and Cebu City.

For both NHDS and MENSSA, “males who have sex with males” are limited to men who have admitted engaging in anal sex a year since the studies were conducted. The 2005 Consensus Report adopted the same problematic definition of MSMs. The proportion of MSMs in both studies was then used to approximate the number of MSMs in the country’s total male population.