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Monday, January 2, 2012

Gays hopeful that Clinton foreign aid policy to boost LGBT protections in the Philippines

MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 2, 2012)- Filipino human rights groups are calling on the administration of President Benigno Aquino III to sit up and take notice of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s policy statement delivered this month before the United Nations Human Rights Council tying foreign aid to the respect of human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in countries that receive development aid from the US.

The Philippine LGBT Hate Crime Watch (PLHCW), an alliance of organizations monitoring violence and discrimination against LGBTs in the country, formally called on the Philippine leadership to take a serious policy position to address the violation of LGBTs’ rights.

"LGBTs in the Philippines are still on the receiving end of stigma, hatred, violence, exclusion, homophobia, transphobia and discrimination. The statement from Secretary Clinton hits close to home as she was speaking of conditions present in our country. We hope this will be considered by President Aquino's administration to encourage the full implementation of human rights protections of LGBTs in law, policies and programmes," said Marlon Lacsamana, founder of the PLHCW, in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

Secretary Clinton’s statement also serves as marching orders to US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas, Jr. to realizing the new foreign policy directives. In a related development, US aid to African countries such as Uganda is now subject to fiscal scrutiny because of proposed anti-LGBT bills being pushed in their parliaments.

"The Obama Administration defends the human rights of LGBT people as part of our comprehensive human rights policy and as a priority of our foreign policy.In our embassies, our diplomats are raising concerns about specific cases and laws, and working with a range of partners to strengthen human rights protections for all."

"In Washington, we have created a task force at the State Department to support and coordinate this work. And in the coming months, we will provide every  embassy with a toolkit to help improve their efforts. And we have created a program that offers emergency support to defenders of human rights for LGBT people," read part of the speech that Clinton delivered in Geneva, which that was warmly received by gay rights activists worldwide.

Angie Umbac, president of the legal rights group Rainbow Rights Project, said that while the pronouncements of the US Secretary of State provided a much-needed boost for the efforts of civil society organizations that were lobbying for the protection of LGBT rights, it must also be emphasized that the 1987 Constitution mandates the Philippine government to protect the human rights of each and every citizen with no exception.

“But with the sluggish progress on human rights protection for LGBTs by our own government, it has become necessary for the issuance of a strong and hard-hitting reminder. US Ambassador Thomas and his principals are fully aware of what the Filipino LGBT community need, and they have made a commitment to walk the talk. In this coming year, we await a similar enthusiasm on the part of the Philippine government in heeding this call,” Ms Umbac said.

The Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (ProGay) also submitted reports to the Human Rights Council pressuring the Aquino government to pass the Anti-discrimination Bill and introduce bills in Congress criminalizing the hate-related murders of LGBTs.

ProGay's human rights officer Oscar Atadero said that Malacanang also has to start instituting policies that would outlaw workplace discrimination and the bullying of LGBT students.

According to PLHCW, 147 LGBTs have been murdered since 1996, with an estimated 37 murders recorded in 2011 alone.  "We  thank Secretary Clinton and appeal to her to keep a spotlight on the oppression of LGBTs in the Philippines. We cannot anymore tolerate the abuse and killings inflicted on our  members, and we look forward to positive change in the coming year as an aftermath of her pronouncements," Lacsamana said.

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