LGBTQ+ groups, including Bahaghari, Metro Manila Pride, United Transgender Masculine Orgs and Rainbow Rights, and other advocacy groups held an indignation rally in the late morning of 25 May at the North Gate of the House of Representatives building, Batasan Hills, Quezon City, denouncing the murders of transgender man Ebeng Mayor and transgender woman Junjie Bangkiao and the passage of the SOGIESC Equality Bill.
“Hindi kami papayag na maging normal na lamang ang pagpaslang sa amin. Hindi kami papayag na maging normal ang karahasan. Oras na para labanan natin ang kultura ng abuso sa pamamagitan ng pagpapasa ng isang panukalang magpoprotekta sa ating lahat laban sa diskriminasyon — ang SOGIE Equality Bill (We won’t allow our murder to be normal. We won’t allow violence to become normal. It’s time for us to fight this culture of abuse by passing a law to protect all of us from discrimination — the SOGIE Equality Bill),” said Bahaghari’s spokesperson Rey Valmores-Salinas.
“When we talk about justice for Ebeng and Junjie, we want to make it clear that while it is important to hold individual perpetrators to account, this is not justice in full. Justice also means holding the people who willfully denied Ebeng and Junjie of their democratic rights to account; holding President Duterte who joked about being ‘cured’ of homosexuality and perpetuating the notion that being LGBT+ is an illness to account; holding the regime that granted an absolute pardon for the killer of our trans sister Jennifer Laude, and that actively upholds the feudal-patriarchal culture that kills us to account,” added the transgender woman activist. “Kaming mga bakla ay higit pa sa paulit-ulit na balita ng pagpaslang. Ang buhay namin ay sagrado at may dignidad din (We, LGBTQ+ people, are more than the news of murders. Our lives are also sacred and with dignity).”
Joining the rally was feminist group Gabriela Women’s Party led by Rep. Arlene Brosas, who that day filed House Resolution 1788, which expresses the need to pass the SOGIE Equality Bill.
The lifeless body of Mayor, resident of Batasan Hills in Quezon City, was discovered in the same city on 20 May, three days after he was reported missing and after the observance of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia and Transphobia. A wooden stick was found shoved into his genitalia and he was believed to have been raped.
LGBTQ+ groups condemn murders
“This brutal act is a clear indication of a hate crime,” said Transman Equality and Awareness Movement, one of the first groups that alerted the public on the incident.
“The trans masculine community is vulnerable to sexual violence in the Philippines, a country that condones rape culture and victim-blaming and a president with a penchant for making rape jokes and derogatory remarks. In a survey we conducted in 2017, 28 percent of college level LGBT students reported experiencing sexual harassment,” the group stated.
“We call for a full and thorough investigation of this atrocious crime and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice to the full extent of the law. And we call for the immediate passing of the SOGIE Equality Bill, a law that has been languishing in the Senate, its passing delayed by cheap tactics by senators like Villanueva, Sotto and Pacquiao.”
Other LGBTQ+ groups also expressed outrage at the murders of Mayor and of Bangkiao, whose body was found in a cemetery in Alangalang, Leyte.
“For years, Filipinos have become familiar with reports of trans persons subject to horrendous indignities. The data does not lie: Trans Murder Monitoring report of Transgender Europe has recorded at least 58 transgender persons have been killed in the Philippines from 2008 to September 2020,” said Metro Manila Pride in its statement.
“As the Philippine government continues to deny granting legislation that protects trans Filipinos — as well as others harmed because of their SOGIESC — the bodies pile up. As it enables anti-trans behavior and violent rhetoric against trans and gender-noncomforming Filipinos, especially in the highest seat of office, trans Filipinos continue to be threatened by abuse and violence.”
The group added: “More than a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, there is evidence locally and internationally that LGBTQIA+ persons are at a heightened risk for SOGIESC-based violence. On top of this, the difficulties of surviving through the pandemic are worsened by the neglect LGBTQIA+ persons have experienced when it comes to life-saving aid. For people like Ebeng, whose area of residence has reported the highest number of cases in Quezon City, these dangers are even more heightened. It is clear that immediate action is necessary.”
“Such atrocious act epitomizes the reality of members of the LGBTQIA+ community who face higher rates of hate-motivated violence, which can often take the form of sexual violence. The long-held stigma and discrimination against them in our culture deny transgender people the opportunity to live freely, to enjoy equal protection under the law, and to be recognized as full members of our society. This act of violence further underlines the urgent need to strengthen protections against gender non-conforming persons, address issues of access to justice and strengthen the campaign against hate, stigma, and discrimination,” said the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia, who added that their office will be “conducting an independent investigation and shall work closely with the authorities in pursuing justice for Ebeng and their family.”
The University of the Philippines Diliman Gender Office also denounced the murders, saying that these are clearly hate crimes, resulting from inhuman ways of the patriarchy, while independent publisher Gantala Press is “calling for justice and demanding state accountability for the continuing acts of violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community in the country.”
The Philippine National Police announced that they have three suspects in custody.
Calls for gender equality bill passage
All the different groups call for the passage of the SOGIESC Equality Bill.
“As we seek justice for Ebeng, we also demand accountability from the current administration, headed by President Rodrigo Duterte, that has unwaveringly perpetuated the culture of violence against the LGBT+. We have not forgotten the scheming, flip-flopping position of Duterte on the SOGIE Equality Bill that has languished for 21 years in Congress, his military lockdowns that have further enabled authorities to arrest, abuse and sexually violate members of the LGBT+ community including LGBT+ minors, the violent and illegal detention of Pride 20, and the shameless trade of absolute pardon for the murderer of our trans sister Jennifer Laude in exchange for the favor of imperialist USA,” Bahaghari said.
“We are banging at the doors of legislators, policy-makers and community leaders to make haste in passing Anti-Discrimination Ordinances locally and nationally,” Metro Manila Pride emphasized.
“We are calling on the public to listen intently and amplify the voices of the trans community. Say their names, pass the mic, give them platforms and take part in making the community’s urgent needs and human rights heard — loud and clear to ignite true and positive change.”
CHR said that it “has been relentless in pushing for the enactment of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression Equality Bill to provide legal mechanisms to hold to account perpetrators of gender-based discrimination.”
“Now that the 2022 election is coming up, we must demand better from our elected officials, call for the urgent passage of pieces of legislation on anti-discrimination and reject laws excluding protection of transgender persons appearing at the local and national levels,” the agency added.