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Duterte’s reversal portends uncertainty for Pinoy LGBTs

This article is being published in connection to the International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO) 2017

The Philippines joined many other countries around the world in observing the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia or otherwise referred to as IDAHOBIT last May 17.

It’s been almost a year since President Rodrigo Duterte took office, but so far, the Pinoy lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community hasn’t made any significant progress as far as the advancement of rights is concerned.

Many within the Pinoy LGBT community supported Duterte’s presidential bid last year because of his stated support for their cause. For example, he told entertainer Vice Ganda during an appearance on the latter’s talk show that he is against the discrimination of gay people. He also implied that he is fine with marriage equality, saying that “everyone deserves to be guaranteed happy.”

LGBT rights philippines under duterte

President Duterte is now non-committal about supporting LGBT rights (Photo credits: www.TheDiplomat.com)

However, in a speech to the Filipino community in Myanmar last March, Duterte reversed course on the issue. Citing the coutry’s predominantly Catholic religion, the President said: “Where God put you, stay there. Don’t mix all of us up. Would you believe, you erase the great divide between a woman and a man?”

It is disappointing that Duterte has rescinded his previously stated openness to having marriage equality in the country. His highly negative description of gays and lesbians is definitely a slap in the face of many Filipino LGBTs who voted for him because of what they initially regarded as his progressive views on the issue. Is this his way of tempering the criticisms from the Catholic Church?

Nevertheless, it must be pointed out though that pushing for marriage equality is not yet a priority here. Instead, the focus for now is on fighting discrimination in schools and in the communityIt’s hard to think about getting married to your same-sex partner when you can be fired from your job just for being gay.

So far, dozens of local government units around the country have passed anti-discrimination ordinances, but such acts are not really enough knowing that they can be overturned easily. Having an anti-discrimination law would be much preferable, but the proposed legislation remains languishing in Congress for the past two decades. On this issue, it is hoped that the President can still be a valuable ally.

(PS: This is an expanded version of the statement that I gave to the Philippine Daily Inquirer for their article titled “LGBT community slams Duterte on turnaround.”)

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