NERI COLMENARES IS MY ACTION MAN


My son calls him, “the real action man.” A friend, a true-blue capitalist from Binondo, beams on hearing the name Neri Colmenares.

Neri Colmenares (#11) is the first and only one of two names on my Senate list.

The man lawyers call “Comrade Amparing” has given honor to the term “activist”.

He paid his dues as a teenager – arrested, tortured, jailed.

He has never acted like he’s owed for the sacrifice.

After years as a human rights lawyer and three terms as Bayan Muna representative in Congress, Neri continues to invest his soul and root his politics in the “karaniwang tao.”

The people’s lawyer became the people’s fighter in the House of Representatives, bastion of traditional politicians. He authored 11 laws, including these:

  • Amending the Rent Control Act by prohibiting excessive rent for low income groups;
  • the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) law, increasing the salaries of PAO lawyers;
  • the law requiring disaster warnings through text; and
  • the law creating Special Election Precincts for persons with disabilities and senior citizens.

These are laws that affect the lives of millions of Filipinos in ways that truly matter.

He authored several human rights laws including the law compensating human rights victims during Martial Law, the Anti-Torture Law and the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law.

His bill for a P2,000 pension hike for Social Security System members sailed through the House of Representatives. Senators gave him the highest display of respect by adopting his bill en toto and passing it swiftly.

He aims for the elimination of VAT on electricity, water and fuel; the prohibition of privatization of public hospitals and public health services; the increase in income tax exemptions; the Freedom of Information Law.

He’s also the main author of the bill, Magna Carta of Airline Passengers Rights, to protect passengers from abusive airline companies. You and I know how important this is.

neri

It’s easy to see why Neri has worked so well in the House of Representatives.

Soft-spoken, polite to all, with a comic bent, he is ferocious when attacking abuse and persuasive in advocating his causes.

Colleagues across party lines stress his diligence, sharpness and his skill in building consensus where it can be forged.

His labors extend beyond the doors of Congress, all the way to the Supreme Court where he won a decision stopping Meralco and other electric companies from imposing excessive electricity rates in Metro Manila and other provinces.

He was also petitioner in the Supreme Court cases which declared DAP and PDAF pork barrel unconstitutional and in the P10 Billion overcharging and refund case against Globe and Smart telecoms. He has argued before the Supreme Court several times in various petitions defending human rights and the public against excessive rates for public service — including unjust MRT-LRT rate increases.

He argued before the US District Court in Hawaii for the compensation of human rights victims on the Marcos human rights case. He is the President of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) a national association of human rights lawyers and a Bureau Member of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers based in New York and Belgium.

Oh, Neri is one of a handful of candidates who openly espouse divorce. He’s for the anti-discrimination bill that gives justice and dignity to LGBT’s in this country.

Lourd de Veyra says: He’s solid.

Neri’s more than solid. In a field full of dross, he’s golden.

Plus, how many senators can sing Buchiki and What a Wonderful World and give these equal meaning?

 

 

Duterte’s contradictions


What’s the difference between a joke and a dirty slip showing? How do you distinguish hyperbole from a person’s genuine worldview?

In the case of the Davao strongman Rodrigo Duterte, the offensive comments come too regularly to be dismissed as careless witticism.

Credit Duterte for defending indigenous peoples hounded by henchmen of corporations out to wrest their ancestral lands. Credit him for condemning the massacre of hungry folk in Kidapawan. Praise him for wanting to expand agrarian reform to ensure farmers get the support they need. Hail his commitment to resume stalled peace talks with communist rebels and provide meaningful autonomy to the Bangsamoro.

But do not ignore Duterte’s record in justifying the killings of people he considers social pests – juvenile delinquents, addicts, pushers. 

The Davao mayor has not admitted to any extrajudicial killings. He claims the criminals killed under his direct supervision were all gunned down in battles with law enforces.  No case has been filed against Duterte for these extra-judicial killings.

His supporters stress this to debunk charges of selective justice. But there is no doubt that people have been summarily executed under Duterte’s watch.

Duterte applauded these killings, encouraged these, defended these, verbally attacked and threatened those who rang alarm bells. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has doggedly reported on this for years; its country researcher Carlos Conde has received threats for his efforts.

Duterte may not have actually pulled the trigger. But speech after speech – to cheers and ovation – Duterte, a lawyer, spits on the nation’s laws, including the Constitution, presenting murder as legitimate law enforcement policy.

Who judges the innocent?

In his April 12 rally at the Amoranto stadium, Duterte said he has never killed an innocent person. But who judges innocence or guilt? The courts do, not the mayor, not the President. To deny suspects a chance to defend themselves in court does not solve the problem of injustice.

In the same rally, Duterte expressed sympathy for the plight of the Bangsamoro.

“I have to swear to the flag. My duty to the republic is to protect everybody, including the Moro people,” he promised disappointed leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

That’s impressive. But government officials swear to protect the rights of everyone, including people suspected of committing crimes.

The military routinely tramples on these rights where suspected militants are concerned, including the Lumad fighting to keep their lands free of abusive extractive industries. Officials of the Aquino government routinely justify these abuses. They are wrong. And so is Duterte in his equally selective notion of human rights.

Duterte talks about the evils of corruption, of how top leaders have made a rich, small segment of the population more equal than the rest.

digong alabang
There is no denying Rodrigo Duterte’s popularity. Whether he campaigns in Metro Manila or the provinces, the Davao strongman draws huge, ecstatic crowds.

His followers also cite the same – criminals coddled by lawmen, judges, other officials – as a reason for their impatience with legal niceties and their support for death penalty sans any check and balance, except a leader’s righteousness.

I will not disabuse them of the belief that injustice stalks the land. It does; my Facebook page is filled daily of examples, from tragi-comedy to full-blown horror.

Nor will I try to paint Davao City as the country’s crime capital. It isn’t.

But there is no excuse for murder. There is no reason on earth that justifies state-sanctioned murder.

My rights are everybody’s rights

Dutere asks, “anong mawala sa inyo kung patayin ko ang criminal?” (What would it cost you if I kill criminals?)

I have seen state security officials kill people on simple suspicion of being criminals. I have seen friends die, seen them arrested and tortured. I have seen people languish in jail even when the courts have cleared them of alleged crimes.

I cannot agree that others do not deserve the same rights I fight for, the same rights government officials are sworn to defend.

Duterte isn’t a neophyte politician. He  has had decades as local chief to provide an alternative to instant-gratification, vigilante justice.

He offers higher wages for law enforcers. They certainly need it – like the rest of the country needs it.

But Duterte should be detailing steps needed to ensure that cops and soldiers do their job right, like trainings to lessen their use of shortcuts that then lead to lost cases.

He could list steps he’s done and will do to ensure the poor – defendants and plaintiffs – are guaranteed legal aid by efficient and honest government lawyers.

He could talk about workable rehab programs for young people who fall prey to drug abuse. He could talk about imposing harsher penalties for corrupt prosecutors who throw cases, or work with citizens’ groups to keep watch on hoodlums in robes.

It’s not that he hasn’t helped drug addicts. He has, as witnessed by  Clarisse Le Neindre, who know runs a rehab facility after recovering from addiction with Duterte’s help.

Watch Le Neindre’s testimony https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fforwardwomen2016%2Fvideos%2Fvb.1671955399731080%2F1690853824507904%2F%3Ftype%3D3&show_text=0&width=560

Why then stress shortcuts as solutions to problems? Duterte is doing people a disservice by pandering to the worst of our instant gratification tendencies.

He presents the sona – the whole-scale round up of suspected addicts and community pushers – as the swift response to the scourge of drugs. That blueprint misses the fat cats who control the entry, the manufacture and the deliveries of drugs to affected areas.

Double standards, too

duterte contractualizationDuterte says poor Filipinos will come first under his presidency. He opposes contractualization.

Yet he promises to create an enclave where foreign investors can stay safe from the reach of the country’s laws.

 

He personally commits to keep them safe from inconvenient truths – like the fact that workers have the right to unionize.

For all Duterte’s talk about the poor’s right to prosper, he sees the struggle for economic rights as an enemy of development. And, indeed, in his first official campaign speech, he threatened to kill labor leaders who would not heed his “appeal” for a moratorium on union work.

He banners his credentials as a dear friend to the LGBT community. By all accounts, he treats them well.

Yet he uses the word “bakla” as an insult, a synonym for “coward”.

Some gay friends who support him say they see nothing wrong with it.

If he uses it as an adjective that reflects your self-identity, there is nothing wrong with it. If you slam others for using bakla as a slur, why is Duterte suddenly exempt from those standards? His use of the word only encourages the bitter, hateful homophobia that have harmed so many of your peers.

And then there’s rape and his attitude towards women. He and his wife have a unique relationship and I will not impose my standards of fidelity on them. I must also acknowledge that, unlike ousted president Joseph Estrada, no one has charged Duterte with stealing public funds to subsidise his womanising activities.

Davao also has many pro-women policies.

And yet, he opens his mouth and something else comes out.

Duterte recently shared this tale of criminals in detention twice grabbing hostages. The second incident involved a bunch of Christian prayer warriors, including an Australian woman who was raped and then had her throat slashed, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune.

Duterte used the anecdote to stress how incorrigible some criminals are and also to show his willingness to risk life for the sake of victims.

Then he debased everything that mattered. His anger towards rape was almost secondary to dismay that criminals used the woman first before the mayor did.

He was joking? Maybe. But he also used the same line earlier in his talk.

Cops who commit crimes for personal reasons deserve to be punished, he said. He made an example of a cop who kills his mistress – especially a pretty one — and implied  the mayor should have first dibs on the beauty.

It’s not the first time he used that anecdote on the hostage-taking, ending with a similar line. Watch Noemi Dado’s video at the 38:43 marker.

You can slog through the entire Duterte speech, including some moving performances by Freddie Aguilar here.

 

And this admittedly moving paean to change. Which, indeed, this country needs.

We all should be outraged that the haves in this country get away with all kinds of abuses while the rest of us suffer indignities daily.

Yes, innocent people get killed and innocent people rot in jail. Hungry people are left to starve; when they protest, they die.

We all should rage.

But in cheering for Duterte’s warped logic, in playing blind to his contradictions, we might just visit more of the same on this nation.

 

GRACE POE and how NOT to damage control (UPDATE on who did it)


UPDATE: A a citizen volunteer for Sen. Poe has owned up on the error of that video. Leon Flores, former chair of the National Youth Commission (NYC), co-convenor of the Good Governance Pilipinas (GoGracePoe), a citizen volunteer for Sen. Poe. He takes full responsibility for the error. His note below, unedited. My views on her statements stand.

Dear Sen. Grace Poe,

You’ve mostly talked sense — not all the time, but mostly — since you campaigned for your current post. During that campaign, when thrown questions on popular issues, you were studied — this part right, but other parts need to be studied. You did very well chairing the Senate probes into the MRT mess. You did even better in the Mamasapano investigation — your committee report is as good as can be expected from the limits of your task.

But you were dead wrong in your statements on the Iglesia ni Cristo protest. And you got well-deserved flak for that. READ: Pandering to the INC 

Now, your PR people, whoever they are, are compounding that mistake. I’m not sure if these are professionals or close friends, but your son is apparently one of them.

Tell them this:

grace poe damage1Stop sending a truncated video — labelled “FULL Grace Poe response.” when it is actually only a portion of your remarks. 

It is a representation. The actual youtube video says “clip” but your social media label is unethical because it leads people to believe the “clip” if the “full response.”

Worse, it is being used to tell journalists that reports on your reactions are wrong. And it is being used as the basis of memes aimed at “correcting” news reports.

It is not just an error of fact or a tactical miss. It is an UNETHICAL act. It tries to mislead the public when we journalists were emailed a FULL transcript of that interview by your good office. Why don’t you just release as a note the transcript you sent us so that people can judge — based on the right information?

Just to jog your memory, here’s what your office sent. I am reproducing full transcript and highlighting the portions pertaining to the INC case.

SEN. GRACE POE AMBUSH INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

August 28, 2015

Sen. Grace Poe: ….mga estudyante marami pa talagang kailangang gawin sa kanilang mga adhikain, mga pangangailangan nila. Saka iba talaga ang enerhiya kapag mga bata kasama  mo. Yun nga edukasyon ay napakahalaga kasi nga naniniwala ako na ito ang sektor na yaman ng ating bayan. Pero hindi naman sila magiging produktibo na mamamayan kung hindi sila bibigyan ng sapat na tulong ng gobyerno. Yung unang bill ko kasi libreng pananghalian sa public schools. Hanggang ngayon ay tinutulak natin yan, sana naman ay matuloy na.

Question: Dun sa ibang interviews sa inyo, you emphasized, you always replied pagdating doon sa issue ng citizenship. Is this your way of reaching out to more audiences to explain to them ‘yung issue, rather than holding a presscon?

Poe: Oo, kasi alam mo lahat ng tao curious talaga. Ano ba talaga ang buhay nitong taong ito? Pilipino ba talaga siya? Tama lang na suriin nila ang aking pagkatao. Kaya mabuti na nanggagaling na mismo sa akin dahil hindi naman ako nagtatago ng katotohanan sa kanila. Ngayon sa batas dadaan naman tayo sa tamang proseso at hindi naman po tayo nagtatago ng kung ano pa mang kailangang malaman.

Q: Is this your way to gather more public support po?

Poe: Actually, I don’t really. Going around, I’ve been expecting people to ask me that question. But that it’s not really my intention. Hindi ko naman intensyon. Pero curious talaga sila. Yun talaga yung gusto nilang matanong kasi yun ang napapabalitaan nila na ibinabato sa akin, na ako raw ay hindi Pilipino. So at least nandito ako para ikwento sa kanila na bakit nila sinasabi na hindi ako Pilipino. Dahil hindi nila alam ang kadugo ng, kung sinuman ang biological parents ko.

Q: Ma’am, ngayon po nag-iikot po kayo sa maraming lugar ngayong linggo, bahagi na po ba ito ng paghahanda ninyo?

Poe: Kung saka-sakali malaking bagay ito kasi katulad niyan, galing ako ng Zamboanga. Kinausap natin mismo doon ang mga tao, business sector at mga internally displaced person tungkol sa BBL kung ano ang palagay nila diyan. Kasi mahirap naman na nakaupo ka sa Senado, hindi mo nakakausap yung mga taong direktang naapektuhan. Dito sa Nueva Ecija at sa Pangasinan halimbawa, apektado sila ng tagtuyot, El Niño, ano’ng kulang natin? Imprastraktura ng mga dam, ng mga water entrapment facilities. So dapat ay saksi ka sa tunay na pinagdadaanan ng iyung mga kababayan.

Q: So bahagi na po ito ng inyong paghahanda?

Poe:  Bahagi. Kasi naman pag ako ay natuloy, kapag natanong ako, ano ba sa palagay mo ang solusyon sa mga problema na yan? Eh baka hindi ko alam.

Q: Ma’am bakit dun sa mga pag-iikot mo, this week ma’am, bakit puro mga estudyante, puro bata?

Poe: Doon sa pag-iikot ko, nakakataba sa puso ko yung assurance na marami sa mga kabataan ay alam ang nangyayari sa ating gobyerno. Let us not underestimate the youth. Huwag natin silang maliitin. Huwag natin apihin ang kanilang oportunidad at pagkakataon. Katulad nga niyan, nagkaroon ng pag-uusap sa CHED. Bagama’t tumaas ang budget nila, binawasan nila ang pera para sa scholars. Eh yun ang pinakaimportante. More than other items in the budget, kailangan ay mag-invest tayo sa mga kabataan at education is the best equalizer. Nagbibigay ito ng oportunidad. E kung babawasan mo yung P300 million, sa halagang iyon parang ipinapahiwatig mo na hindi ka masyadong seryoso.

Q: Sa pag-iikot po ninyo ma’am, were you encouraged sa pagdedesisyon ninyo?

Poe: Para sa akin, ang pag-iikot kong ito, naramdaman ko ang pagmamahal. Hindi lamang nila sa akin kundi, ako sa kanila. Alam mo nakikita ko, ito yung mga pinaglaban noon ni FPJ. Kaya nga kapag sinasabi nilang inclusive growth, it means more than just, it’s not just a buzz word. Ito ang totoo na wala tayong iiwanan dapat sa ating mga paggawa ng tulong sa gobyerno. Dapat lahat ay kasama, hindi yung pipili ka lang ng sektor na uunlad.

Q: Ma’am do you have timeline po before you decide?

Poe: Before October 16.

Q: On INC

Poe: Kasi alam mo unang-una hindi ba ako’y nakikiramay sa marami nating mga kababayan.  Alam ko lalo na ‘yung pinagdadaanan nila. Kasi sa hustiya natin sa atin, marami ang nakasampa ngayon sa DOJ. Ihihingi pa natin ng resolusyon. Alam ko hindi madali. Kaya pati na rin sa SAF44 na ngayon hinihintay natin. Siguro mas makakabuti, dahil alam ko naman si Sec. De Lima, sabi nga niya ginagawa niya yung kanyang trabaho, ay humarap siya sa mga tao na nagra-rally. Mahinahon at i-eksplika, kung ano ba’ng sitwasyon bakit nangyayari ng ganun. Kasi after all, kami naman ang nasa gobyerno ang responsibilidad naming ay maipamahagi ng maayos sa ating mga kakabayan, bakit ganun ang aming mga hakbang sa pamunuan. 

Q: Pero sa tingin niyo po ba dapat hawakan ng DOJ ang kaso?

Poe: Alam mo sa totoo lamang, maraming inaasikaso ang DOJ. Para sa akin hindi ko alam talaga lahat ng detalye tungkol diyan. Siyempre magtataka ka rin bakit ang tutok doon, samantalang, halimbawa yung ibang mga kaso ng gobyerno wala naman silang witnesses pa, na naka-hold. Halimbawa, tinatanong ko mayroon na ba kayong nakuha doon sa Mamasapano massacre? Mayroon na raw mga inimbestigahan pero wala pa namang naka-witness protection at least, sa pagkakaalam ko. 

Q: Mayroon po bang fallback ang Liberal Party in case Grace Poe decides to run for president?

Poe: I’m sure naman lahat ng partido ay naghahanda sa kahit na ano’ng contingency.

Q: Ma’am yung sa INC, even if may kidnapping issue dapat ba hindi makialam ang DOJ?

Poe: Depende kasi sa lakas ng kaso. Pagdating kasi, I think dapat transparent. Ang pagkakaalam ko ng issue, ito’y isang saksi sa taong nakidnap. Pero  yung tao nakidnap diumano ay nandoon naman. Hindi ba free? So ako kasi hindi ako parte ng DOJ, gusto ko rin malaman. Kaya nga sinasabi ko, tama yung sinabi ni secretary kung ginawa niya ang kanyang trabaho. I-eksplika niya sa taumbayan kung anong merits ng case. Pero alam mo, huwag rin nating mamaliitin ang importansiya ng relihiyon. Para sa akin ang mga tao na yan ang dinidepensahan nila ay ang kanilang paniniwala. Nirerespeto natin yan at kailangan pangalagaan din ang kanilang mga karapatan. Thanks guys. #

That last paragraph is the pits. And here’s why.

Photo from Net25 TV's Facebook page
Photo from Net25 TV’s Facebook page

Ang pagkakaalam ko ng issue, ito’y isang saksi sa taong nakidnap. Pero  yung tao nakidnap diumano ay nandoon naman. Hindi ba free? So ako kasi hindi ako parte ng DOJ, gusto ko rin malaman. (You don’t know, but you throw out, “Hindi ba free?” You want to know — how do you want to get at the truth? On the streets? Coffeeshop gossip? A meeting with De Lima? You’re a lawmaker and should know better. This is a criminal complaint, filed with prosecutors. You get the truth — or what passes for it — from a formal inquiry into the complaint.)

Kaya nga sinasabi ko, tama yung sinabi ni secretary kung ginawa niya ang kanyang trabaho. I-eksplika niya sa taumbayan kung anong merits ng case. (Excuse me? De Lima referred it — a bit late, if I say so; ask the lawyers of the complainant — to prosecutors. That is where the merits of the case are scrutinized and resolved.)

Pero alam mo, huwag rin nating mamaliitin ang importansiya ng relihiyon. Para sa akin ang mga tao na yan ang dinidepensahan nila ay ang kanilang paniniwala. Nirerespeto natin yan at kailangan pangalagaan din ang kanilang mga karapatan. (Good god, I don’t care what religion you or anyone professes. This is not about religion. This is about a criminal complaint on a very serious charge. I am hoping you do not believe that HOW “discipline” is meted out is a purely internal faith matter even when such allegedly violates the laws of this land.)

As lawyer Trixie Cruz-Angeles notes:

Dear Ms. Grace Poe: Sec. 3 of the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act states:
3. Corrupt practices of public officers.– In addition to acts or omissions of public officers already penalized by existing law, the following shall constitute corrupt practices of any public officer and are hereby declared to be unlawful:
(a) persuading, inducing or influencing another public officer to perform an act constituting a violation of rules and regulations duly promulgated by competent authority or an offense in connection with the official duties of the latter, or allowing himself to be persuaded, induced or influenced to commit such violation or offense.
Now could you repeat your spiel about how the Justice Secretary needs to focus on other cases and not to take cognizance of the case for serious illegal detention filed by one Isaias Samson, Jr?

Again, you are dead wrong. Don’t add to your misery. People, including myself, respect people who promptly acknowledge mistakes and explain their new-found wisdom. This is beneath you.

HERE IS AN UPDATE: It was sent by Leon Flores, former chair of the National Youth Commission (NYC), co-convenor of the Good Governance Pilipinas (GoGracePoe), a citizen volunteer for Sen. Poe. He takes full responsibility for the error. Here is his note, unedited
Inday, I sought out the interview from Nueva Ecija because somehow I got a feeling that the words from Sen. Grace Poe were just taken out of context. I was able to get hold of a clip and uploaded it on our group’s Youtube account, Good Governance Pilipinas (GoGracePoe). GGP is a volunteer citizen-led group supporting Sen. Poe and egging her to run. We were lead and co-organizers of the #TakboNaPoe event last Aug. 16. I was uploading the interview video clip while I was in the middle of a speech contest yesterday. At first I titled it “Full video…” thinking that it was. I shared it on FB and asked others to share as well too. I asked for a transcript of the video thereafter and that was when I realized that it was only a partial clip. So I changed the title right away to “Clip of Grace Poe…” on our Youtube channel. Apparently when the FB post gets shared and reposted, it retains the original title “Full clip..”. Not much of a techie but my hunch is that it is a mere technological limitation. THERE WAS NO INTENTION TO BE UNETHICAL ABOUT IT. Second, it was my intention to be transparent about the whole transcript so I also posted it wholly on the video description. This effort to clarify things for Sen. Grace Poe and to seek out the clip was borne out of the request of some GP supporters (and yes even questions from the other camp). I also wish to clarify that while I do know Brian Poe, her son, he has nothing to do with our actions. GGP is a group of willing, eager, and able volunteers who believe in Senator Grace Poe. If you wish to know us more, we will be happy to have coffee with you soon. I hope this clarifies the issue on the video. All other issues pertaining to the INC case, you may officially seek from Mam Poe’s office.

‘Can I use this bathroom?’ (Recognition, not accommodation)


Pride photo from twu.edu
Pride photo from twu.edu

They stop mid-stride, stare wide-eyed.

One woman huffs and puffs and, hands on her hips, calls out, “Mister, nawawala ka yata.” (Mister, you seem lost.)

My friend is butch, around 5’6”, hefty and prone to wearing jackets. She straightens up from her slouch, thrusts out cup-C breasts and, with one raised brow, confronts the shocked audience of four in an upscale Makati mall toilet.

Cita (not her real name) used to bind her breasts. Then she discovered her full sensuality.

“Butch – tough butch –all woman,” she drawls. She’s being ironic when she does that. A lesbian is, of course, a woman.

Decades back, only lesbians who looked “manly” qualified as butches. Today, there are lipstick butches, soft butches and butches of all shades. My friends told me ten years ago: it’s the energy, not the look. Now, some friends reject the notion of lesbian labels. They can be femme, butch, a combination of both.

Photo from www.layoutsparks.com
Photo from http://www.layoutsparks.com

But Dom, another friend, identifies fully as male and chafes about her breasts, her hips and having to wear mid-height heels. There is great anger in her from a lifetime of having to fit in. She’d be chased out of toilets for males, so Dom doesn’t even try.

Her buddy, Ebe (real name Eve), looks like a rangy adolescent from the back. She has “always lived as male” in the United States where she grew up.

She not only trounced guys at elementary softball, skateboard and track and field; she joined them in peeing standing up. That is, until horrified mothers broke up their innocent fun.

Ebe’s has what she wryly calls “itsy, bitsy buns” on the chest. She finds bindings too painful.

“Until I do, they’ll hassle me,” she says of trips to toilets for males.

The Invisible Woman
The Invisible Woman

So daily, the Filipino-American braves the double takes from women.

And then there’s Faith, a transgender woman who stubbornly tries daily to use comfort rooms marked “female.” She says her success rate is 80%.

She’s not just doing it as a statement. When she “fails,” the emotional fallout is terrible: the sexist croons, sexual jests and jeers from males who see the 5’2”, 110-lbs Faith as a vulnerable target.

These encounters leave Faith depressed, sometimes in tears.

Her only consolation is, that there are males, yes, who actually defend and stay to guard her from harassers. One time, a brawl erupted in a mall when Faith’s tormentors also turned against the strangers who tried to protect her.

These are real people, real lives. So I don’t really know how to take the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) announcement about “communal” toilets.

Senior citizens and persons with disabilities should be given comfort rooms that cater to their special physical needs.

But as good friend Giney Villar notes, many LGBT members have the same needs as other people. They just have identities other than the traditionally accepted ones.

“Communal” made me imagine a room full of cubicles, available to male, female and any other identity and gender on a first come, first served basis. The CAAP idea isn’t much different from what now serve us in, say, Starbucks. I always thought that was more a matter of space logistics and economics that of gender sensitivity.

The communal toilets are convenient. But my LGBT friends are right: it’s not going to free them from the hassles they face. (Read more)

“Setting up gender-neutral toilets is an exercise in gender segregation,” says Ferdie Mendoza of Kapederasyon. “It will only lead to more discrimination of LGBTs.”

Ferdie says CAAP should recognize gender recognition as the unique facet of the transgender struggle.

“Simply put, gender recognition is the acknowledgment of gender identity—that, transgender women are women, and transgender men are men,” Ferdie points out. “And that they should be allowed to use restrooms based on their gender identity. This is what is known as gender integration.”

I’m no expert on gender and sexual identity theory. Heck, I even make mistakes like using the “he” pronoun for Ladlad’s transgender leader, Bemz Benedito.

As Barack Obama said of race, the subconscious bias and the holes of ignorance in us will need much putty to plug.

LGBT individuals are patient with some mistakes. They know the world won’t change overnight. However, they’re also not going to be deluded by breathless announcements about solutions that are but panaceas.

Those who think discrimination against LGBTs is just a fantasy should go with Faith the next time she is forced out of our bathrooms and forced into the company of hostile males.

That’s as simple as it gets.

Accommodation is patronizing, condescending. What LGBTs need is a recognition based on genuine respect for their human rights.