Suspension of Disbelief

Archive for March 2012

ANC Presents Myanmar Opens to the World

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Exclusive Interview of Aung San Suu Kyi

March 16, 2012

Host: Korina Sanchez
Executive Producer: Francis Toral
Associate Producer: Patrick King Pascual
Researcher: Biena Magbitang
Graphics: Karl Claveria
Editing: Jetjet Capiz

Bahaghari Center pushes for equality for LGBT Filipinos

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I dare to care about equality’ campaign launched, partners and participants sought.

Stressing how the promotion of equality is everyone’s issue, Bahaghari Center for LGBT Research, Education and Advocacy (Bahaghari Center) has launched the “I dare to care about equality” campaign, forming part of the localized efforts aligned with the annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) celebrations.

Celebrated every May 17 since 2004, when it was founded by Louis-Georges Tin, IDAHO is an effort to coordinate international events to call for respect for lesbians and gays worldwide. May 17 was chosen as the date of the event because homosexuality was removed from the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization (WHO) on May 17, 1990.

By 2006, IDAHO – and its call not just for decriminalization of homosexuality but also the uplifting of the status of gays and lesbians all over the world – has gained wide support, including several Nobel Prize winners (Desmond Tutu, Amartya Sen, Elfriede Jelinek, Dario Fo, José Saramago), artists (Merryl Streep, Cindy Lauper, Elton John, David Bowie), intellectuals (Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, Bernard-Henri Lévy), non-government organizations (ILGA, FIDH), politicians, and many others. Globally, thousands of people from various communities (LGBT, as well as our allies) organize LGBT-related events from as far as Congo, China and Bulgaria.

In the Philippines, as part of IDAHO, localized campaigns were made by Outrage Magazine, among others, since 2009. The Webzine is also a partner of this year’s campaign.

For IDAHO 2012, the Bahaghari Center’s “I dare to care about equality” is a photographic campaign calling for everyone to take a more proactive stance in fighting discrimination. Photoshoots will be held for people who believe in advocating equal rights for all, with the outputs of the campaign to be released come May 17 online, as postcards/fliers, and as online ads.

That we need to think globally, but should act locally has long become a cliché,” says Patrick King Pascual, coordinator for the campaign. “”It remains just as valid, all the same. With ‘I dare to care about equality’, therefore, we aim to provide a channel for people to express their support for the continuous push for equality for all, just as we also provide a channel for people to know who are pro-equality.”

The photoshoots will be helmed by photographer Jed Yumang who will be behind the camera, with make-up and styling provided by artists Kaye Candaza and Nicole Magay.

For those interested to participate, email For those unable to join the photoshoots, participation is still encouraged through the submission of photographs following the campaign’s format for these to be included in ‘I dare to care about equality’.

Moves like this are important in highlighting that there are steps we can take to help increase the awareness on the quest for equality of LGBTs,” Pascual says. “It is up to us to keep on pushing until that day when anybody’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity are no longer issues.”

For more information, or for expression of interest to be part of the campaign, call +639287854244 (Michael David), +639274171518 (Patrick King) or +639263167735 (John Ryan); or email or | Facebook or





UP student council elections: a Heartfelt triumph of LGBT community

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VERA Files and Yahoo Philippines / 17 March 2012



March 1, 2012 was a historic date not only for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community but also for the University of the Philippines.

It was the day when UP students voted the first transgender chair of the University Student Council (USC).

Gabriel “Heart” Diño, a 22-year-old MS Applied Mathematics student, defeated three other candidates — Martin Loon of the UP College of law, Amencio Melad III of the Militant Stand UP coalition, and 4th year BA Tourism Major Maria Shaina Santiago.

Another transgender, Pat Bringas,  also won a seat in the student council.

Before winning the student council’s topmost position, Heart was a councilor who handled the USC committee on gender and was also a leader of UP Babaylan.

“I had difficulty with my packaging, whether I will be the Heart that people know and expect me to be, or will I be the Heart who will conform to the stereotypes of being the USC chair, which is serious and formal,” Heart recalled.

With her head held high, she ran on the platforms of  “zero-tolerance in frat-related-violence, budget watch, transparency and accountability and zero cases of gender discrimination and sexual harassment.”

During the campaign, Heart received several negative remarks pertaining to her being a transgender (a person whose gender identity and expression does not match his or her assigned sex at birth).

“In one of the dorm assemblies, my fellow candidate said that she is the only girl candidate for the chairperson position,” Heart recalled. “It was so sad, because she is an incumbent. I have been saying to them that I am a girl with transgendered experiences.”

Some of her school mates considered her an incompetent candidate, thinking that being a transgender, she had nothing to offer to improve their condition as state university students.

There was even a student from the College of Law who confronted Heart and asked her directly why she was using her sexuality to campaign for the position.

Her credentials and her capacity to lead the student council did not matter to some students. Her sexuality was always made an issue against her.

However, her recent victory proved that gender should not be an issue and that anyone (straight or LGBT) could be a leader as long as he or she is capable to lead and knows the responsibilities required by the position one is running for.

Heart recalled there were also good things that happened during her campaign, like having met a lot of people who believed in her, and inspired her to continue her fight. Some even helped her in the campaign.

“Heart’s victory was a landmark in the LGBT community in the Philippines,” a member of UP Babaylan said. “We (UP Babaylan, the first and largest LGBT student organization in the Philippines) were very proud of her. The years we spent fighting and advocating for equal rights in the university is already tangible.”

Ladlad party-list said Heart’s victory only showed that “the horizon of one’s dreams is infinite, whether one is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”

Ever since her teachers in Claret School told her parents of her feminine actions and tendencies, Heart has started to see things differently and accepted the reaction of her family, schoolmates, and other people towards her gender.

“I can still remember clearly how the janitor in one of the malls in Makati blocked the door when I tried to enter the female comfort room,” Heart said. “I knew that time that something needs to be done about this unfair treatment to transgender people.”

She continued: “So when I got the chance to join UP Babaylan, I took it, and from then on, I became an LGBT advocate.”

Heart’s triumph was for the entire LGBT community in the Philippines.  It inspired hundreds if not thousands of LGBTs who dream to achieve and accomplish something they are afraid of.

“Just do what you want… don’t be afraid of what other people will say to you,” Heart said. “As long as you’re not doing anything wrong, there’s no reason for you to stop doing what you believe in.”

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)





Organ transplant is ‘best option’ for kidney patients

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VERA Files and Yahoo Philippines / 12 March 2012



Carol (not her real name), a long-time dialysis patient at the Makati Medical Center (MMC), depends on a wheelchair for mobility.

Being a diabetic since childhood, she developed peripheral neuropathy (or the damage of nerves of the peripheral nervous system). This resulted to her not being able to walk.

She needed to find an immediate kidney donor for her condition to be better. All her family members were diabetic, so they were not fit to donate their kidneys to her.

Worse, Carol’s blood type is A, which made it more difficult to find a suitable donor.

Hope came when she was chosen and enlisted as a candidate for kidney transplant by the Human Organ Preservation Effort. In less than a year, she got a new kidney.

Human Organ Preservation Effort is a non-profit organization in the Philippines under the National Kidney & Transplant Institute, which handles transplants of patients who have different end-stage organ diseases. Donors are mainly patients who have been declared brain dead by the hospital with the consent of a family member, and with normal functioning organs.

Carol was one of the four guest patients who spoke and shared their experiences at the MMC’s celebration of World Kidney Day (WKD) on March 8. It was a gathering of MMC’s dialysis patients, post-kidney transplant patients, their relatives and their treatment partners.

Together with the whole renal department of MMC, they commemorated the event by remembering the struggle and triumph they all experienced through the whole process of dialysis sessions or kidney transplants.

The 2012 Campaign focused on the positive outcome of kidney transplantation and the life-saving aspect of organ donation. The slogan for this year’s campaign is “Donate — Kidneys for Life — Receive.”

One of its objectives, the WKD website said, is to encourage “transplantation as a best-outcome option for kidney failure, and the act of organ donation as a life-saving initiative”.

“As part of our celebration of the World Kidney Day, we want to raise awareness about our ‘amazing kidney’ to the next level,” Dr. Filoteo Ferrer, assistant training officer of MMC’s Nephrology Department, said.

As mandated by The Philippine Society of Nephrology, the MMC celebrated the event at the Nephrology Center or the Renal Care Department. It was  organized by the hospital’s nephrologists.

“We also need to highlight that diabetes and high blood pressure patients are key risk factors for chronic kidney disease,” Dr. Ferrer added.

Chronic kidney disease is the progressive loss in renal function over a long period of months or years. All patients who have  damaged kidneys are considered as having chronic kidney disease. This can be identified through blood test for creatinine.

Years of suffering from hypertension damaged Bobby’s (not his real name) kidneys. Bobby is now undergoing dialysis at MMC.

Like most dialysis patients, his main problem is maintaining the high cost of the thrice-a-week treatment.

“It occurred to me that the P6,000 I spend every session is starting to become a burden to my family,” he said. “It was a matter of deciding whether to continue the treatment or just stop it.”

“But after continuous sessions of hemo-dialysis, I’m already feeling better and stronger compared to the first time I started,” he recalled.

In the Philippines, the leading causes of kidney failure are diabetes, inflammation of the kidneys, and hypertension (or high blood pressure).

The signs of kidney diseases in patients with diabetes are: high blood pressure; ankle and leg swelling and cramps; presence of protein in the urine; high level of blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatine in the blood; going to the bathroom more often at night; morning sickness, nausea and vomiting; weakness, paleness and anemia.

To avoid kidney diseases as stated in the World Kidney Day 2012 Pledges, it is advisable to reduce salt intake, consume a healthy amount of fluid, eat healthy, maintain  a healthy weight, and exercise 30 minutes per day.

“We would like to raise awareness of everyone that having kidney problems is not solely limited to those who have diabetes (in their family), or to those who have heart problems; everyone is a candidate,” Dr. Ferrer said in his closing statement. “Awareness of the ailment and early prevention is always the key to reduce the frequency and impact of kidney disease and its associated health problems.”


(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)


Lawmakers to address concern of transgender on Clerical Error Law

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VERA Files and Yahoo Philippines / 6 March 2012



Nicole, 29, plans to undergo a sexual reassignment surgery by the end of the year after taking female hormones for several years.

After the sex change operation, it will be harder for Nicole to apply for a change of name and gender if House Bill 4530 and Senate Bill 3113 amending Republic Act 9048, or the Clerical Error Law of 2001, are enacted into law.

Nicole, being a transsexual (i.e.,  a person who identifies one’s self as a member of the opposite sex and who is in the process of sexual reassignment), will not be allowed to make such changes in his birth certificate under the two pending bills.

Sec. 5 of HB 4530 and SB 3113 expressly states that no petition for a change of gender by a person who has undergone sex change or sex transplant will be entertained.

The  Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) said HB 4530 and SB 3113 violate  the rights of  transsexual and transgender ( or a person whose gender identity and expression do not match his/her assigned sex at birth) Filipinos as human beings.

STRAP urged Congress and Senate to amend RA 9048 in such a way that would lead to a better quality of life for transsexual and transgender citizens (or trans Filipinos)  by allowing them to change their first names and sex in their birth certificates in simple and easy steps.

The group further called for the immediate passage of a law, recognizing the chosen gender of trans Filipinos with no requirement for surgical modification of the body.

It stressed that gender identity is a basic human right of anyone, thus, if one identifies one’s self as a transgender or a transsexual, the Philippine government should have an open mind in accepting and taking into consideration that person’s plan to change his or her sex in civil registry papers.

“At first blush, making changes in the birth certificate an administrative matter as HB 4530 and SB 3113 seek to do seems like a pro-people policy,” STRAP Chair Naomi Fontanos said. “But upon close inspection, you will see that RA 9048, the law that they seek to amend, is actually anti-transgender in the first place, and both HB 4520 and SB 3113 affirm the transphobia inherent in RA 9048.”

Fontanos added that Senate and Congress should recognize and accept the reality that sex can be changed and there are people who have a gender identity who want to be recognized in a manner other than that recorded in their birth certificate.

Senators  Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Antonio Trillanes IV, who filed Senate Bill 3113,  expressed willingness to review its provisions in response to the opposition aired by STRAP and other transgender groups.

Escudero said,”There is no such intention (to violate anyone’s right). It simply seeks to facilitate and make easier corrections based on error and easily verifiable without need of going thru a complicated and expensive court process.”

Trillanes, on his part, said,”If unintentionally, there are sectors that would be adversely affected by the bill if it becomes a law, we will correct that. The bill basically would save those who had to correct clerical errors in the registration of their names the precious time and energy which is what is happening now.”

Escudero said, ” We will review it again and consult with LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) organizations.”

Trillanes said the bill will still go through deliberations and he would  welcome inputs from transgender groups.

Representatives Mercedes Alvarez, George Arnaiz, Rogelio Espina, Magtanggol Gunigundo, Florencio Miraflores, Rene Relampagos,Maximo Rodriguez, Rufus Rodriguez, Pedro Romualdo, Niel Tupas, authored HB 4530, or “An act further authorizing the city of municipal civil registrar or the consul-general to correct clerical or typographical errors in the date of birth or sex or a person appearing in the civil register without need of a judicial order amending for this purpose the pertinent provisions of RA 9048.”

Rep. Teddy Casiño, known to be an LGBT rights defender and who was mistakenly included as one of the authors of HB 4530, said that the intention of the bill is merely to allow ordinary citizens to correct clerical or typographical errors in their birth certificate without having to go through the courts.

He explained that transgender persons who want to change their gender identity in their birth certificate are not covered by the bill since the law specifically states that changes in gender due to medical procedures are excluded from the coverage of the law.

Many nations across the world, such as Singapore, Australia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, and some jurisdictions in the United States, have started taking steps and reviewed their laws, policies and practices to recognize the right of their transgender and transsexual citizens to choose their gender identity.


(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)


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