Seize the Moment. Be Critical. Be Involved. Be Heard.


To my valued readers,

Have you ever experienced being crazy passionate about writing and then, seemingly all of the sudden, you lost interest?

It became less exciting, less fun, less of something you wanted to do but more of something you want to express.

I am very sorry for more than two years of a slump.
Even I, myself was wondering what happened.

But I have finally bounced back and clawed my way out.
The interest to write my opinion is once again become an obsession I can’t resist.

I am back.
And still imbued with the spirit of carpe diem…
to seize the moment…

be critical…

be involved…

be heard…

 

carpe diem

[In the Web] SOGIE and LGBT


By Perci Cendaña

Youth Advocate

 

 

United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) recently made a landmark SOGI Resolution seeking triumph over discrimination. The UN through the resolution made a firm resolve to support efforts for policies that protect the rights and promote the welfare of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions.

 

LGBT groups welcome this new development as an important step towards greater sensitivity, equality and respect for diversity in the world. For the Filipino LGBT community, what made this historical feat more meaningful is the affirmative vote of the Philippine Mission of the Department of Foreign Affairs in the UNHRC in Geneva.

 

The challenge according to them now is to translate this international commitment into local legislation.

 

Please read full story at http://world.einnews.com/article_detail/226818802/PTb6eYgI7krKp1H3?n=2&code=uK_pQ4zSngo6aZh3

LGBT

Photo file courtesy of www.theguidon.com


By Darwin Mendiola

The recent murder of a 26 year old Filipino transgender woman named Jennifer Laude by a U.S. Marine once again ignited public protest and renewed a call for wider recognition and better protection of the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans-genders and queers in the Philippines.

As a human rights advocate, I firmly stand on the spirit and letter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that recognizes that (Article 1) “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and  that (Article 2) “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms without discrimination.”

I wrote this article not to get into the nitty-gritty of the case but to simply share these important facts about LGBTQ and Hate Crime for the information of everyone.

This is a product of online research and not solely of my opinion.

But I strongly believe that sharing these Ten Facts that People should know about LGBTQ and Hate Crime can contribute to further promote and protect human rights.

#1 According to 2011 study of the United Nations, LGBTQ people are becoming increasingly vulnerable to crimes because of their sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).

This first ever United Nations report on the human rights of LGBTQ people provides details on how around the world people are continuously being discriminated and have endured hate-motivated violence, because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The report identifies homophobia, biphobia and transphobia as the major motivations for hate crimes against LGBT people.

Reference: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/19session/A.HRC.19.41_English.pdf

#2 Still, 76 plus countries around the world considered homosexuality illegal.

According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), there are at least 99 people around the world who are currently in prison for allegedly violating laws that punish those who are born gay, lesbian or bisexual. While at least 148 other people are awaiting trial on charges related to homosexuality.

Reference: http://76crimes.com/76-countries-where-homosexuality-is-illegal/

#3 As a response to this alarming global gender situation, the United Nations Human Rights Council has passed this year a landmark resolution condemning violence and discrimination against LGBTQ people.

The resolution states that the world needs to take a fundamental step forward by reaffirming one of the Human Rights’ key principles – that is everyone is equal in dignity and rights. It encourages all UN states-members to take necessary legal, legislative and judicial measures to address human rights violations against LGBTQ.

Reference: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/09/26/un-human-rights-council-passes-landmark-lgbt-rights-resolution/

#4 Even the Catholic Church is now considering reviewing its conservative stance on homosexuality as Pope Francis called on the Church to welcome gays and lesbians in the community, who “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”

Pope Francis reiterated this call on the Church during the Catholic Synod or the meeting of All Bishops to tackle a number of controversial issues facing the Catholic Church, including how to respond to changing families and how to better communicate Catholic doctrine. Pope Francis’s famous “Who am I to judge?” position has made him the “Man of the Year 2014” for LGBTQ.

Reference:  http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-29677779

#5 The United States of America is one of the countries that recognizes and addresses the issue of Hate Crimes.

President Barack Obama signed in 2009 the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expands the existing United States federal hate crime law to gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. In fact, the first hate crime laws in the United States were passed after the American Civil War, beginning with the Civil Rights Act of 1871, to combat the growing number of racially motivated crimes.

Reference: http://www.bilerico.com/2009/10/obama_signs_matthew_shepardjames_byrd_hate_crimes.php

#6 In the Philippines, a study backed by the UN has found that LGBTQ people have become more accepted in the Philippines.

The Filipino public seems to take a rather an open and tolerable view of the gay community, at least judging from popular media and the widespread use of gay lingo. But according to Ladlad, one of the LGBTQ groups in the Philippines. discrimination against LGBTQ still persists and they are becoming increasingly vulnerable to hate crimes. The UN study found hate crimes remained a big threat among the LGBTQ community in the Philippines. It cited that there were at least 28 LGBT people reportedly killed in the first half of 2011.

Reference: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/05/12/un-study-finds-gays-increasingly-accepted-in-phillipines-but-hate-crimes-remain-a-threat

#7 The Commission on Human Rights performs a function of a Gender Ombud.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) announced in 2013 that the Commission will look into cases of hate crimes against Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgenders (LGBTs) across the country which hopefully lead to a better prosecution and investigation of hate crimes.

Reference: http://www.rappler.com/nation/35553-chr-document-hate-crimes-lgbts

#8 Hate Crime is not yet a distinct crime in the Philippines.

LGBTQ groups claimed that violence against LGBTQ people is not treated as a hate crime. There is no specific mechanism that helps identify hate crime victims or makes use of the sexual orientation and gender identity of the person as the aggravating circumstance for the commission of the crime. It is not even investigated as such and just merely considered as a common crime against any person and/ or property. LGBTQ groups lament the absence of an anti-Hate Crime law in the Philippines. The fact that there are no basic figures and statistics on Hate Crimes shows that the government has not considered as such in past years.

References: https://ph.news.yahoo.com/blogs/the-inbox/lgbt-hate-crimes-rise-024938543.html

#9 Just recently, Sen. Bam Aquino filed the Senate Bill No. 2122 or the Anti-Discrimination Act of 2014, which seeks to combat discrimination of any forms. The bill seeks to prohibit and penalize discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion or belief, gender, sexual orientation, civil status, HIV status and other medical condition, among others. Among the acts that will be prohibited are inflicting stigma; denial of political civil, and cultural rights; denial of right to education such as refusal to admit or expulsion and imposition of sanctions or penalties; denial of right to work; denial of access to goods and services; denial of right to organize; inflicting hard on health and well-being; engaging in profiling; abuses by state and non-state actors; and detention and confinement. Under the bill, any act of discrimination shall be fined from P100,000 to P500,000 and an imprisonment of up to 12 years. A similar bill was filed by Rep. Teddy Casino of Bayan Muna, last June 26 which aimed to pioneer a House probe on the growing numbers of hate crimes in the country.

Reference: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/383705/news/nation/stiffer-penalties-for-hate-crimes-vs-lgbts-pushed-after-transgender-s-killing

#10 Quezon City, Philippines’ largest city has approved ordinance that bans anti-gay discrimination.

The ordinance is the first of its kind in the Philippines. It expands the 2003 City Resolution which only centered on discrimination of homosexuals in terms of employment.

The new city-wide ordinance makes it mandatory to educate employers and educators around the city on the rights of LGBTQ.

It prohibits and provides sanctions on any violations of LGBTQ’s rights on equal access to job opportunities, delivery of goods or services, insurance, and accommodation in Quezon City.

Under the new ordinance, establishments will be directed to designate a comfort room that can be used by all genders, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

Reference: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/10/02/philippines-quezon-city-passes-law-banning-anti-gay-discrimination/

While immediate focus should be on resolving the significant rise of alleged Hate Crime, much attention should also be given to any forms of discrimination against LGBTQ community.

Though, crime prevention is primary a government’s responsibility, prevention of any forms of discrimination is everyone’s business. It is about time for all of us to get out of the jury box with all our biases and prejudices. It must begin from us. For all we know recognition comes respect and respect begets responsibility which entails accountability.

No to hate crime Photo file courtesy of  www.rappler.com


By Medical Action Group

Torture is considered a crime under the international human rights law. It is prohibited everywhere, at all times, and no exceptional circumstances whatsoever can be used to justify it. However, the practice of torture continues unabated throughout the world including the Philippines.

Torture means “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”

It most often takes place in places of detention – where people deprived of liberty are especially vulnerable to mistreatment. Women in detention are usually subjected to gender-based violence. While there are those who are subjected to acts of torture on the grounds of their sexual orientation, ethnic origins, religious and political beliefs, age or disabilities.

Almost anyone can be at risk of torture – regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or political beliefs.

No one is safe.

Yet, no one is punished for committing torture.

IMG_20141023_133843

Ms. Edeliza P. Hernandez, MAG Executive Director discusses the UN Convention Against Torture before the participants of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Training Workshop on International Affairs and Policies held on October 22-24, 2014 at Torre Venezia Hotel in Timog Avenue, Quezon City.

You may download the presentation here.

UN CAT Presentation


By Atty. Ricardo Sunga III

Within one year from ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Philippines is obligated to establish a national preventive mechanism. It is one or several visiting bodies, set up, designated or maintained, at the domestic level, for the prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

There is range of possible forms that the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) can take. This paper explores them. Section I of this paper considers the standards that the NPM must observe. Section II critically examines the various possible forms of the NPM through the lens of these standards.

This paper was written by Atty. Ricardo A. Sunga III for the United Against Torture Coalition in 2012.

Ricardo Sunga III, LLB (University of the Philippines) and LLM (University of New South Wales), is a member of the Philippine Bar. He has been a professorial lecturer at the University of the Philippines College of Law, and is currently a Law Reform Specialist of the University of the Philippines Institute of Human Rights. He is also the Regional Coordinator for the National Capital Region of the Free Legal Assistance Group, an organization of human rights lawyers.

NPM_BLK

Photo File: Courtesy of www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk

You can download the UATC Position Paper here.

UATC-NPMPositionPaper


By Medical Action Group

The Medical Action Group has recently received a query from AB Communication undergraduate students of the Ateneo de Manila University who are doing a study on the health conditions of mentally ill inmates in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) as part of their academic requirements.

To make their response institutional, the MAG staff members have discussed and deliberated the issue and come up with the following insights.

I am posting their response in order to further encourage a public discourse on the issue and to help shape up public policies and programs.

QUESTION:

“Do mentally ill patients share the same rights and limitations as regular prisoners? Is it humane to keep them imprisoned if they are in a mentally delicate condition?”

RESPONSE:

THE MEDICAL ACTION GROUP subscribes to the World Health Organization (WHO) assessment recognizing imprisonment by its very nature has an adverse effect on mental health.

Prison conditions have adverse impact on mental health in general, because of overcrowding, nature of violence, isolation from families and friends, uncertainty of life after prison, and of course, inadequate health services. The impact of these problems is even worse for prisoners who are already mentally and emotionally impaired which may have pushed them to commit a crime.

Considering that prison system operates according to a certain system of rules, policies, and procedures that regulate the conduct of all inmates, it will definitely run in constant tension with the vulnerabilities of prisoners who have mental illnesses for they are more likely to break any of these rules and may be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment.

Given that most prison systems especially in the Philippines do not provide correctional officers with proper trainings in dealing with mentally ill inmates. The jail officers, who are usually trained like police officers whose main goal is to enforce the rules, do not understand and can’t distinguish normal social behavior to that of mentally ill. This may result to mishandling of mentally ill inmates that may constitute to human rights violations.

The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Standard Minimum Rules), adopted by the Economic and Social Council in 1957, although not a treaty, imposes obligations to the states to humanely treat prisoners—including providing mental health care to those who need it.

To wit:

Section 22.

(1) At every institution there shall be available the services of at least one qualified medical officer who should have some knowledge of psychiatry. The medical services should be organized in close relationship to the general health administration of the community or nation. They shall include a psychiatric service for the diagnosis and, in proper cases, the treatment of states of mental abnormality.

(2) Sick prisoners who require specialist treatment shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals. Where hospital facilities are provided in an institution, their equipment, furnishings and pharmaceutical supplies shall be proper for the medical care and treatment of sick prisoners, and there shall be a staff of suitable trained officers.

In fact, the Standard Minimum Rules go beyond providing health care and treatment services but rather recognize that prisoners with serious mental illness should not be confined in prisons at all. They should be put in mental institutions, where they can be properly observed and treated by mental health professional. It further clarifies that while they are still considered as prisoners, they shall be placed under the special supervision of a medical officer.

While we do recognize the existing efforts of the government to improve the health facilities including provision of psychological wards particularly in the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) to meet the internationally accepted Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, sad to say, the general prison condition is still far below these standards. While the NBP, one of the biggest correctional facilities in the country is in a better situation than the others, it is still being confronted with various even perennial problems. Not to mention that the controls and supervisions of jail facilities are at various levels given the devolution of authority of central government to the local government units. Political dynamics usually plays around the layered bureaucracy.

The most common problem of prisoners or detainees is the insufficiency or lack of food provision due to the delay in release of food allotment and inadequate or unsanitary food preparation. In some instances, relatives of inmates have to supply them with food.

Over-crowded or prison congestion is still a major concern as there are no enough shelter/living space or worse it is not even suited for human existence. Some prisoners have to take turn for their sleeping schedule because there is a lack of sleeping paraphernalia and the undersized cells have poor ventilation. Unsanitary conditions are compounded by defective comfort rooms and lack of potable water system. In NBP, prisoners have to draw water from a deep well.

Due to these old prevailing problems, inmates have easily acquired different kinds of diseases. This is in spite the fact that the NBP Infirmary has a capacity of 500 patients. But apparently it is not being fully utilized because of the absence of sufficient medical supplies and laboratory facilities.

This is attributed to the abysmal low budget for prison improvement. Take note, each inmate has a budget of three pesos only earmarked for medicine, except for major medical problems which would need referrals with the Department of Health (DoH) for the needed medical treatment. More often that not, only those rich and influential inmates who are given VIP treatments can avail such services because they can afford to pay for their own medical expenses. Take for example the case of former Batangas Gov. Leviste and just recently Atty. Gigi Reyes, Sen. Enrile’s former Chief of Staff who can immediately go out of NBP escorted by the police to have their own medical check ups.

While poor, ailing and aging prisoners are usually just left to wait for their time to finally come
Just like what happened to the political prisoner, Mariano Umbrero who passed away two years ago as a result of his deteriorating medical condition and lack of medical care.

So how do we expect for our correctional system to address the need of the mentally ill inmates?

Prison time can only exacerbate the psychological problems of mentally ill prisoners. Given the fact that they are incarcerated, removed from the general public and separated with their families is already psychologically stressful. Usually they are likely to turn to negative coping mechanisms to survive in jail.

Although, insufficient funding is not the only reason why mentally ill prisoners do not receive the treatment they need, the existing prison conditions in the country are not rehabilitative in nature and further undermine the prisoners’ mental health.

Putting mentally ill inmates into segregation may be an option depending on their specific behaviors, but they should also be housed in specialized secure units where they can still participate in meaningful human activities, especially to have human interaction, and receive the proper mental health services.

However, Medical Action Group (MAG) believes that whatever improvements are made, prisons will never be a good place for the mentally ill.

The rights based approach to health affirms that the end-goal of any medical and health interventions should enhance the ability of the mentally ill prisoners in particular to lead a productive and law-abiding life as possible upon their return to society.

A restorative understanding of justice opens new pathways for both the response to crime and treatment of offenders. While most restorative processes take place in community settings, the underlying framework of the right to health is creating prison environments that contribute to rehabilitation, healing and change. It is for this reason that MAG together with other human rights NGOs is pushing for prison reforms in accordance with international human rights standards.

MAG_LOGO

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