Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Breaking the surface Stories of “hate crimes” against Pinoy gays

From http://philippinesgraphic.com/?p=1957

Posted on 24 Jun 2011 at 5:56pm

Graphic Nation

By Psyche Roxas-Mendoza

Fifteen years after the reports started, two gays move to document the terrible violence that has killed 97 of their peers—a good number of them slaughtered in the privacy of their bedrooms.

Marlon Lacsamana and Reighben Earl Wystern Mendoza Labilles, gays who conducted the first online study on gay killings in the Philippines.

His yaya was the only person from his family who came to his wake. His friends posted notices on blogs to raise the money for his funeral service and the sealed coffin where he lay before he was cremated. Days before, on Aug.16, 2009, at the age of 28, Winton Lou Ynion—University of the East (UE) in Recto faculty member and 2004 Palanca awards first prize winner for the short story in Hiligaynon—was dead after being stabbed 40 times in the head, neck and chest by an unknown assailant.

“At the time of his death, Winton was taking his doctoral degree at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. His yaya came the day he was cremated to take his ashes back to Iloilo where Winton was born and raised. He was very independent and did not talk much about his family. But he told us about his yaya and how he wanted to help put his yaya’s child through school. Winton was a writer and my friend,” said Marlon Lacsamana, 34, a Library Science graduate from UP Diliman who works at the Institute for Social Studies and Action (ISSA), a non-government organization that advances access to justice and health of women, youth and other sectors of society.

Brutal deaths

Police found Ynion’s body inside the toilet of his unit at Sunrise Condominium on Esteban Abada Street in Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Lacsamana said Ynion’s hands and feet were tied. A knife was firmly planted in his skull; his dried and already dark blood staining the toilet tiles. The entire unit was suffused with the stench of the Palanca award winner’s decomposing remains.

Like Ynion, Lacsamana is openly gay. The grisly circumstances surrounding the Visayan writer’s death proved particularly galling to him because it was the second time in that year, 2009, that a gay he personally knew was brutally murdered.

About five months earlier, in March, Lacsamana went to the wake of his friend Vincent Jan Rubio, a film professor at La Salle in Antipolo, who was strangled to death in San Mateo, Rizal.

Police reports said Rubio was found sprawled on a grassy lawn at 6:30 a.m., wearing only his underwear and a torn polo shirt. Reports claimed that Rubio’s killers, believed to be two men, might have been “pick-ups” (a term loosely referring to male prostitutes).

Students and friends of Rubio recounted that a day before his death, the La Salle professor, who just broke up with his boyfriend, had intimated that “he was going out to meet someone.” It was the last time they saw Rubio alive.

Hate crime?

Lacsamana said the deaths of Rubio and Ynion got him to wonder just how many gays were being violently killed in Metro Manila and elsewhere in the Philippines. He teamed up with another gay friend, Reighben Earl Wystern Mendoza Labilles, 22, a graduate of Political Science from UP Manila. Together, they conducted a study that tried to track down all brutal killings involving gays and to study if the nature of these deaths verged on their being counted as hate crimes.

More importantly, Lacsamana stressed, they wanted the killings stopped and the murders solved.

Labilles first met Lacsamana in June 2007, during the Gay Pride March in UP Diliman. It was also the time that the latter had begun to document gay killings, beginning in 2009. “We set up a core group of volunteers that included fellow gay rights activists Alvin Dakis, Renier Bona, Ron de Vera, Kevin Kane Li, Pol Cabalfin, Ging Cristobal, Oscar Atadero, Bemz Benedicto, Edmond Osorio, Reign Naldoza, Atty. Clara Rita Padilla of Engenderights, and Rev. Ceejay of the gay church-group, Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC),” Labilles said.

Added Labilles: “With Marlon as head researcher and I as editor and research assistant, we conducted an online tracking of gay killings as far back as 1997, and studied literature defining hate crime. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in Britain, defined a hate crime as ‘any hate incident, which constitutes a criminal offence, perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated by prejudice or hate. A hate incident is ‘any incident, which may or may not constitute a criminal offence, which is perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated by prejudice or hate.’”

Fund limitations

To systemize online monitoring of reports of gay killings, Lacsamana and Labilles put up the Philippine LGBT Crime Watch, an online organization in Facebook with about 350 virtual online members, and supported by other gay rights groups that include: Engenderights, Rainbow Rights, Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), Pro Gay, Queer Pagan Network, Rainbow Nightingales Project (gay nurses), Ladlad, and individuals like Ron de Vera of Amnesty International.

Both Lacsamana and Labilles said that work was slow because they were hampered by a lack of funds. “We just depended on the salary of Marlon and the kind support ISSA and the gay organizations gave to us,” Labilles added.

“We have very little funds, so we relied mostly on what was reported in the newspapers, the tabloids, radio and television, as well as the information and data sent to us through email and Facebook. We verified the cases in Metro Manila by cross-checking media reports with firsthand accounts made by our gay friends who had personal knowledge of some of the victims cited in the news,” Lacsamana said.

Lacsamana also said that their limited resources prevented them from going to police precincts to counter check and verify the media reports on gay killings. “But we hope to do this immediately, once our funds sourcing and pledges improve,” he said.

Labilles stressed that they welcomed gay or straight volunteers who can help them in their research, adding that those with firsthand information about gay killings can reach them at these email addresses: philippinelgbthatecrimewatch@hotmail.ph, mtlacsamana@gmail.com and reighben@live.com.

Grisly trends

Lacsamana and Labilles’ online study showed that about 97 gays were violently murdered in the Philippines from 1996 to 2011, with a pronounced rise in gay killings between 2009 and the present year.

From an average of 10 murders between 1996 and 2008, the killings rose to 12 gays slain in 2009, 26 murdered in 2010, and 27 killed in just the first six months of the current year. The killings, the study revealed, involved both male homosexuals and lesbians.

In November 2009, Matilde Sinolan, a 32-year-old lesbian from Barangay Beha, Bugasong town in Antique province, had her face blown off by an irate father who police said got peeved by the allegedly amorous intentions of Sinolan on the suspect’s young daughter. The study said that the suspect remains at large.

The study also indicated that the killings did not target a specific profile of gays. “Everyone seemed vulnerable,” Labilles said.

Last January, a 51-year-old Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge in Laoag City was found in his home in Curimao, Ilocos Norte, lying in a pool of his own blood, with his neck slashed. “His head was almost decapitated, balat na lang sa batok ang nagdudugtong ng ulo sa katawan [only the skin of his nape connected his head to his body], and semen was found in his anus,” Lacsamana said. Police said the murder may have been committed by the victim’s alleged sexual partners.

Another grisly killing recorded this year involved a supervisor of Smart Communications. Albert Clarence Bondoc, 31, suffered 13 stab wounds from his assailants. Police caught the suspects, one of which was a minor. Both are out on bail. A website put up by Bondoc’s friends to seek justice for the victim was hacked with the words: “May you rot in hell.”

Most vulnerable

The study showed that gays who belonged to the 25 to 44 age group were most vulnerable to murders. About 45 of the 97 recorded gay killings belonged to this age group.

Quezon City had the highest incidence of gay killings, with at least four victims listed as employees of broadcast networks. These victims were William Castro (DWAN AM radio, March 2005); Eli “Mama Elay” Formaran (entertainment writer, May 2005); Larry Estadarte (Balitang K/ABS-CBN program researcher, August 2005); and Joselito Siervo (executive producer Pinoy Dream Academy, November 2006).

About 42 of the 97 reported cases of gays killed happened in the Greater Manila Area, with Quezon City claiming 15 gays slain.

The study also indicated that killers preferred to stab their gay victims to death. About 36 of the 97 reported cases involved gays that died from multiple stab wounds —from a low of 3 to a high of 79 stab wounds. Gays who were shot to death numbered 20 out of 97 cases.

Back in the closet

Lacsamana said that it was extremely difficult to gather information from families of the openly gay victims who turned closet gays when they were with their parents or siblings. “There was one high school teacher from Ateneo de Naga who was stabbed to death. The parents of the victim stopped us from pursuing the case. Pamilya na ang nagpaatras ng kaso kasi ayaw daw nilang malaman ng madla na bakla ang anak nila at namatay ng ganun. [The family stopped us from pursuing the case, saying they did not want the public to know that their son was gay and that he died violently]. What they don’t know is that what befell their son is already all over the internet and the gay blog sites.”

He added that it was ironic that gays who chose to come out of the closet in order to lead active gay lives were suddenly pushed back in the closet by their families once they’re dead, and especially if they were brutally murdered.

Victimology

The online study of Lacsamana and Labilles could prove helpful in going after gay killers since it provided a preliminary profile and victimology concerning the cold-blooded murder of Filipino gays.

As defined, victimology focuses on whether the perpetrators were complete strangers, mere acquaintances, friends, family members, or even intimates. It also covers why a particular person or place was targeted.

Of the 97 online reports on gay killings that were culled for the study, it was often stated by the police that the victims knew their killer/killers because there were no signs of forced entry in their homes or rooms.

There were likewise indications that the victims got to know their killers by way of the internet, through the various gay chatrooms. The victims were befriended first before they were led to their deaths.

Killer date

A case in point is Jayfel Rayoso, 18, a second year Mass Communication student at Siliman University in Dumaguete who was killed last January 15. Rayoso was strangled, his throat slit. His body bore multiple stab wounds and showed signs of torture.

Rayoso, a dancesport athlete, is one grisly gay murder case that got uploaded in the Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kj-GInG-8A0) by concerned classmates and friends.

Entitled, “Memories of Jayfel Rayoso by Alfonsique Duamgo,” the six-and-a-half minute video was posted last January 10 and detailed the events that led to his death.

The video, showing the very slim and agile dancer in various poses with his classmates, said that on January 4, Rayoso wrote on his Facebook profile: “I finally found the one. Hopefully, it is him. Hahhahaha!” He also said that he met his new friend online and that they were to meet the next day. The scheduled meeting was, however, postponed to Wednesday, January 6. His dorm mates also said that Rayoso was able to communicate to his friends through Facebook until close to midnight of January 6. That was the last time they heard from him.

Nine days later, police found Rayoso’s now bloated body floating in the river.

Lacsamana said that it is dangerous for gays to seek partners or dates in chatrooms, where the persons you meet are unknown to you.

Labilles identified two chatrooms that he said may have been venues for killers to meet their gay victims. “By accessing chat programs like mIRC, you can get connected to a server and from there, enter chatrooms like #bi-manila and #salsalan. These are very dangerous venues for gays,” Labilles said.

Police said that the many of the cases of gay murders had the killers robbing their victims. But there have been some cases when no robbery was committed, only gays with slashed throats and multiple stab wounds.

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