Suspension of Disbelief

Report on the Queeriosity Palace raid (by TLF Share)

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*this documentation was prepared by Jonas Bagas, who went to the precinct representing TLF Share, an NGO of men who have sex with men, and Akbayan Party-list.

 

This is a documentation of the raid conducted by police operatives at Queeriosity Palace, an establishment frequented by men who have sex with men.


While male-to-male sex is not explicitly prohibited in the Philippines, the police enforces certain laws based on their own interpretation such that these laws have the effect of criminalizing gay sex. These laws include the anti-vagrancy, anti-public scandal, and the anti-prostitution laws. The most recent and most stringent is the law against human trafficking, a non-bailable crime, which has an anti-prostitution provision.

For the police, the presence of condoms (used and unused) is evidence that prostitution is taking place, a belief founded on the premise that gay sex is transactional.
 
 

 

Reports on raids conducted by the police in all-male establishments include stories of extortion and other human rights abuses. The charges are oftentimes legally flawed and designed to fail.


The photo has been altered to protect the identity of the clients.
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A gay/bi establishment, an exclusive members-only all-male bath house called Queeriosity Palace along  FB Harrison in Pasay City, was raided at 1 am on September 24, 2010. Membership is given to men who are of legal age only, and upon entrance it requires the presentation of the club membership ID and another valid ID.

A raiding team of around 12 policemen, in plain clothes, barged into the bath house and announced that they are conducting a raid. They took the cash box, confiscated boxes of condoms and other paraphernalia, and arrested 105 clients for allegedly violating the Anti-Human Trafficking Law. They also arrested the staff members of the bath house.

They were all told to stay in the driveway of the precinct. The manager of the bath house, who was also arrested, narrated that when he asked the police for a search warrant, he was thumped on the head, punched in the stomach, and told not to ask questions. The police reportedly ordered the patrons to stay in the main lobby of the bath house while they searched the premises for ‘evidence’ like condoms. They took away the cash box and attempted to break the security deposit boxes where members keep their valuables, including wallets and cellphones.

Some of the condoms that were confiscated by the police were provided by the Global Fund through TLF Share, AIDS Society of the Philippines, and the Pasay City Health Department.

After searching the place, they told the clients and the staff members to board the five jeepneys that were parked outside the establishment. Everyone was brought to the Criminal Investigation Division of Pasay City, which is located inside the Pasay City Hall.

The policemen in the precinct were cooperative initially and allowed the community representative* who arrived in the precinct to talk to the manager. However, when asked about the details of the raid and the charges that would be filed against the arrested individuals, they became hostile. They asked for the representative’s ID and discovered that he is a congressional staffer of Akbayan. One of the policemen derisively said, ‘O, taga-Akbayan ka pala. Binoto ko pa naman kayo. Alam ko ang pinaglalaban ng Akbayan, pero bakit kayo pumapasok sa kalaswaan?’. (“So you’re from Akbayan. I voted for you. I know what Akbayan stands for,  but why are you into promiscuity?”)
They ignored the questions asked by the representative, refusing even to give their names. They all went to a room, apparently to confer among themselves.

One or two of them would come out every so often and talk to the representative. One said that they were already preparing the documents and evidence to charge the clients and staff members for violating the Anti-Human Trafficking Act. Another remarked that the police should not be disturbed while doing legitimate police operations.

They also repeatedly said that what was going on inside the establishment was ‘masama at bawal’ (wrong and illegal), that they have videos to prove that sex was happening inside, and that they have enough used and unused condoms to prove that prostitution was taking place. They said that the raid was ‘utos ni Mayos’ (upon the Mayor’s orders).

Outside, one policeman barked at the arrested clients and ordered them to fix their formation. He also told them that what they did is wrong and violates the law. He asked who among the arrested is married, and only two men raised their hands. The policeman then said that only two would be allowed to go home, presumably because they’re the only real men in the crowd.

It was relayed to the community representative earlier that the policemen were asking for P300,000 from the establishment and P5,000 from each client.

The community representative negotiated with the police and urged them to release the detained patrons and clients, explaining that condoms cannot be used as evidence for prostitution. He also informed Rep. Kaka Bag-ao of Akbayan, who at around 4 AM contacted Pasay City Rep. Emy Calixto-Rubiano, whose brother is the incumbent Mayor of Pasay City.

At around 5 AM, one policeman, who introduced himself as Officer Bimbo, said that ‘marami na ang tumatawag dito’, admitting that “may mga nakikialam na”. (We are already getting a lot of calls, some officials are already intervening).

Shortly after, they asked the clients to line up and enter the precinct to facilitate the filing of charges. Some of the detained clients started to panic and appealed to the policemen for their release. They were scolded and told to follow orders. They were all squeezed into the small precinct. The community representative was not allowed to enter the precinct.

The head of the unit, who introduced himself ay Officer Raymund Montante (it was learned later that Montante is not his real surname), approached the  representative and said that ‘payag na kami pakawalan sila, arbor na lang’ (The clients will now be released with no charges as a  favor) and that their release was just being processed. The staff members of the establishment, however, will be charged because one of them  reportedly admitted that prostitution is indeed taking place in the bath house. The community representative clarified to the police that the clients should not be asked to pay anything for their release, and ‘Officer Montante’  assured him that no ‘processing fee’ would be asked.

‘Officer Montante’ also said to the representative that if the establishment owner is open to negotiations, the police can lower the charges from trafficking to prostitution based on the Revised Penal Code. (Note: Under the RPC, only prostituted women can be charged with the crime).

At around 6 AM, the police started releasing the clients. Those who got out told the community representative that they were actually asked to pay, from P100 to P2,000, or depending on the amount of money that the police would find in their pockets or wallets. They would take the cellphone, too, if the cash was deemed insufficient.

Some even asked the community representative for fare money so that they would at least be able to go home.
‘Officer Montante’ was informed of the situation. He said that the police officers handling the release shouldn’t ask for anything, and he said that he’ll tell them to stop collecting payment. When the same stories of extortion persisted, ‘Montante’ was suddenly dismissive and said ‘baka voluntarily naman sila nagbibigay’. (Maybe they were giving it voluntarily ).

The policemen wouldn’t allow the community representative to get near the clients while their release was being processed – they would close the door every time he attempts to go inside the precinct. Officer Bimbo told him that ‘natataranta ang mga kasama ko pagnakikita ka nila’. (My fellow officers panic when they see you). From afar, however, it was evident that money was being demanded and money was being passed.

All clients were released before 7 AM.

There was group of clients that huddled right in front of the City Hall after they were released, and they narrated that they were all asked to pay by the policemen. The mobile phones of those who have no money were taken. While lining up inside the precinct, three men begged that they be released without paying because they have no money, but they were punched in the stomach.

The staff members of the establishment was released before noon. A police report came out of the media that a raid in the establishment  resulted in the detention and filing of charges against 10 macho dancers when in reality 105 clients and 9 staff members, two of whom female, were detained.

No charges were filed at all against any of those who were actually arrested.
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