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Pushing SOGIESC issues at the national elections

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Trans activist Kaye Candaza recounts her experiences of violence and discrimination.

LGBTQ+ concerns and SOGIESC-related issues are rarely discussed during national elections in the Philippines, if at all. Political candidates are rarely asked about their plans and policies regarding the marginalized community, and it is high time that LGBTQ+ issues are included in the conversation.

An election information campaign was launched to inform the public on the plight of people with diverse SOGIESC (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics), encouraging everyone to consider a candidate’s stance on SOGIESC-related issues.

“This election season, let us keep in mind the plight and welfare of the members of the LGBTQI community who often do not feel a sense of belongingness and security in our country. Together, we can create a safer and more inclusive Philippines for LGBTQI individuals, as well as all those in the margins,” said the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR), one of the producers and supporters of the #SOGIEForward campaign together with Filipino LGBT Europe and the Royal Embassy of Netherlands in the Philippines and partner organizations, the Zamboanga City-based Mujer-LGBT Organization, the ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, and The Red Whistle.

Four documentaries

#SOGIEForward was launched in November as a call to action. It mostly consisted of a series of four short documentaries, about four to five minutes long, that narrates the lives of LGBTQ+ migrants in the Netherlands and shows how equal rights is crucial. The episodes were directed by gay Tausug filmmaker Rhadem Musawah with Chris Santa Brigida, chairman of Filipino LGBT Europe Foundation, serving as executive producer.

PhotoGRAPH COURTESY OF Rhadem Musawah
The video series’ director Rhadem Musawah (left).

The videos were posted on the social media pages of involved organizations as well as on video-sharing site YouTube starting on 5 November 2021. This also serves as a rallying call for all LGBTQ+ groups to push for the passing of the SOGIESC Equality Bill, the producers also said.
“All of us has SOGIE, and we should all be protected,” says Kaye Candaza, a transgender woman activist and head of the Filipino LGBT Europe Trans Committee. Her story is the subject of the pilot episode, “Kaye” (fb.watch/9U8u47b6oa/).

“For an activist in the Philippines, I don’t feel really safe and protected,” she said and thus moved to the Netherlands, where she feels better protected and recognized as who she is.

Chris Santa Brigida, chairman of Filipino LGBT Europe Foundation and one of the subjects of the video series.

Growing up in the Philippines, Kaye has experienced violence as early as when she was five years old — being constantly beaten by her own father, being bullied in school and finding it difficult to be employed as a nurse for fear of rejection and discrimination.

Like Kaye, lesbian airport worker Amay Coz found freedom and acceptance in the Netherlands. Her story is featured in “Amay” (fb.watch/9U8wRitvRe/), which premiered on 12 November 2021. She wishes for societal acceptance in the Philippines.

Gay athlete Godwin also found a home and love in the Netherlands. “You’re just a person here. There is no weight on your shoulders,” he said in “Godwin” (fb.watch/9U8yom_P6b/), shown on 4 December 2021. He thinks SOGIESC should be taught in school and we should elect politicians who are sympathetic to the plight of the LGBTQ+ persons.

A community leader and entrepreneur, Santa Brigida told his story in “Chris” (fb.watch/9U8zpX5WUn/), shown on 11 December 2021. “Hindi gaanong kadali maging bakla sa Filipinas (Being gay in the Philippines is not easy),” he said.

He emphasizes that the SOGIESC Equality Bill is not granting privilege to a group of people but ensuring that everyone is treated equally. Brigida believes that the first step to end the suffering of LGBTQ+ Filipinos is the passage of the bill, as it will afford them the legal assurance that they can no longer be discriminated against because of their sexual identities. He also calls to make the country safe for everyone through voting the right persons in the coming election.

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF Rhadem Musawah
Candaza and Musawah shooting the video as part of a campaign to educate the public.

Acceptance

Amplifying the messages conveyed in the videos, the Filipino Queer Forum was held as an online event (fb.watch/9Yt5nPVJlc/), spearheaded by Filipino LGBT Europe, on 11 December.

The roundtable discussion featured Aaron Le Fevre, deputy director of the Global Equality Caucus; Santa Brigida; Ryan Silverio, executive director of the ASEAN SOGIE Caucus; lawyer Twyla Rubin, officer in charge of the CHR Gender Equality and Women’s Human Rights Center; Esmeralda Amora-Ladra of the Gender and Development Focal Point System of the Commission on Elections; and trans woman politician Geraldine Roman, congresswoman of the First District of Bataan. They gave international and local perspectives on the fight for equal rights in the Philippines.

The #SOGIEForward videos won the Best Mini Documentary award in the Independent Creators category at the Adobo Video Fest Community Engagement Awards on 16 December 2021.
“We are immensely grateful for this recognition. We hope this will inspire more production and mainstreaming of work that promotes the plight and welfare of the members of the LGBTQI community. Let us continue to work together in creating a safer and more inclusive Philippines for LGBTQI individuals, as well as all those in the margins,” CHR said.

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