How a viral video stressed the importance of respecting the rights of the Philippine LGBT+ community

August 14, 2019 - 1:44 PM
Gretchen Diez
Gretchen Diez' plight at a mall in Quezon City brought the matter of respecting LGBT+ rights to the spotlight. (Artwork by Uela Altar-Badayos)

A transgender woman got arrested at a mall in Quezon City after she was prohibited from using the women’s bathroom despite a standing anti-discrimination ordinance in the city.

This also sparked renewed calls online to pass the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression (SOGIE) bill into law.

A certain Gretchen Diez took to social media to share video clips and posts of how she was harassed, arrested and then brought to the Quezon City Police District Station after her choice of which restroom to use at Farmer’s Mall in Cubao district became an issue to one of the mall’s personnel.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte denounced the mistreatment done to Diez and noted the city has an ordinance on gender equality, which specifies respecting the rights of the LGBT community.

“Ang Quezon City ay ang unang lungsod na may Gender Fair Ordinance upang protektahan ang karapatan ng mga miyembro ng LGBT+,” Belmonte said on Facebook.

“Sa batas na ito, ipinagbabawal ng lungsod ang lahat ng uri ng diskriminasyon, at binibigyan ng proteksyon at paggalang ang dignidad at karapatang-pantao ng lahat, lalung-lalo na ang LGBT+,” she added.

Nakatutok ako sa kaso ni Gretchen Custodio Diez, isang transwoman, na umano’y sapilitang pinalabas sa isang comfort room…

Posted by Mayor Joy Belmonte on Tuesday, August 13, 2019

This incident showed that the management of Farmer’s Mall does not abide by the local policy, Belmonte said.

In 2014, the Quezon City Council passed the landmark Gender Fair Ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expressions in the city. This was also an expansion of City Ordinance No. 1309, which prohibits discriminating homosexuals in the workplace.

One of the provisions of this measure requires all government offices, private and commercial establishments such as the Farmer’s Mall to create a restroom for all genders or “All-Gender Toilets.”

Belmonte said that the incident showed that the mall did not meet this requirement specified by law.

She later ordered the Business Permit and Licensing Department (BPLD) to enforce it other establishments within her jurisdiction as well.

“We assure the members of the LGBT+ community that Quezon City will always protect their rights and be a home for their sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression,” she said.

The Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce shared that it is willing to educate companies and entrepreneurs on the importance of equality for their businesses.

“As many businesses worldwide are now realizing, promoting diversity and inclusion is not only (and fundamentally) an act of compassion and empathy, but also good business practice,” the group said on Facebook.

A STATEMENT FROM THE PHILIPPINE LGBT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE:Today, an unfortunate incident was recently reported in a…

Posted by Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Filipinos online, meanwhile, sought for the immediate passage of the SOGIE bill.

The #SOGIEEqualityNow soon became one of the trending topics in Twitter Philippines.

Although the Lower House was able to pass it during the previous Congress, the bill had been stuck at the plenary for some time as conservative senators such as Senate President Vicente Sotto and Sen. Manny Pacquiao have expressed opposition to it from the start.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, the bill’s principal author, even refiled it last June.

What happened before?

Diez initially shared on Facebook a video clip of a janitress, identified as Chayra Ganal, and other mall personnel at the security room of the Farmer’s Mall at around 1 p.m.

She narrated in the video that Ganal previously blocked her from going to the women’s restroom and told her to go to the men’s restroom instead. When she refused, she alleged that the latter and other personnel forcefully took her to the security room.

Ganal and her colleagues, meanwhile, could be heard demanding her to stop recording the encounter.

Diez soon made updates that she was handcuffed and brought to the Cubao police station. She was later brought to the Quirino Memorial Medical Center for a medical test, and then later transferred to the Quezon City Police District’s Anti-Cybercrime Division in Camp Karingal. She was then detained there for hours.

These posts gained traction across platforms and caught Hontiveros’ attention. The senator shared on her social accounts that she sent one of her lawyers to help Diez.

Diez was eventually released by 11 pm.

She said in an interview that while she have accepted Ganal’s apology, she will hold the management of the mall accountable.

“Wala naman akong gustong makulong. Gusto ko lang po maging lesson po ‘yun na minsan po kasi sa society natin kami ‘yung naaapi, kami pa ‘yung masama, kami pa ‘yung tinatapakan,” Diez said to ABS-CBN.