Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Brutal and gory

From June 25 2010

Brutal and gory

Warning: this piece is not for the faint of heart.

In July 2009, in Davao City, a gay photo studio owner was murdered. His head was repeatedly hit with a blunt object and the body was found inside a drum filled with water.

In November of the same year in Antique, Leonides Honejar, 33 years old, justified shooting his lesbian neighbor by saying that he was completely repulsed at the THOUGHT of the latter kissing his daughter. The accused is at large and being hunted by authorities.

In September 2010, in Camarines Sur, a medical doctor thought to be gay was found dead in a rice field. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) concluded that the doctor was doused with gasoline and burned while still alive because of the soot found in the body’s esophagus.

In October 2010, also in Camarines Sur, an unidentified body of a gay man aged between 40-45 was also discovered in a rice field. His thighs and penis were severed from his body. The police suspected that the manner of killing revealed severe hatred against the victim.

In December 2010, two gay college students were allegedly chased by a group of men, held against their will in a nearby house and killed. One of them was still able to send his mother a text message before dying.

Days after, their bodies were found and one was almost completely devoured by stray dogs. This happened in Occidental Mindoro.

In January of this year in Currimao, Ilocos Norte, the body of gay Judge Fredelito Pingao was discovered lying in a pool of his own blood. His neck was slashed and the body bore multiple stab wounds.

You think these are horrible? Yes, and so are the almost 100 more cases contained in the “Database of Killed Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Filipinos” done by activists against hate crimes Marlon Toledo Lacsamana and Reighben Earl Wysten Mendoza Labilles. I think they are into something big and important.

I have known Marlon for years because we are both Reproductive Health advocates and whenever he gets the chance, Marlon would always passionately talk about this thing he does on his own—compiling reported cases of crimes against those in the LGBT community.

While I have always been sympathetic, I got really interested when Marlon started giving gory details of cases. Now that Reighben is on board, Marlon’s work is further systematized.

The database is quite revealing. A total of 103 cases of killings were recorded from 1996 to 17 June of this year. I repeat, these were cases of KILLINGS and ONLY those that somehow made it to news or reported to the researchers. One wonders how many more happened but remain unreported.

For this year alone, twenty-eight murders have already been recorded.

61 of those killed were gay, 26 were transgendered (simply put, someone intentionally living the life of the opposite sex), 12 lesbians, and four were bisexual.

43 of the cases happened in Metro Manila, with more than half in the City of Manila (15), and Quezon City (14). 26 cases were traced from the rest of Luzon; nineteen from Mindanao; and fifteen from the Visayas.

As shown in my sampling of cases, the profiles of victims vary. There is no trend in terms of economic or social background because there were students, domestic helpers, beauticians, ordinary employees, media practitioners, medical doctors, professors, entrepreneurs, executives, and even a judge among the victims.

The information on the manner of killing is crucial. 38 suffered multiple (five to 30) stab wounds; 20 were shot to death; 12 were tortured before killing; four were raped prior to being murdered; two were burned and at least two were dismembered. As the police said in some cases, these are no ordinary killings. The element of hatred cannot be discounted.

My question then is, can these killings be considered as hate crimes?

Were they killed because they were LGBTs? The concept of ‘hate crimes’ in the Philippines remains virtually unheard of. This is where Marlon’s and Reighben’s work can come in.

According to “Preventing and Responding to Hate Crimes” published by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), hate crimes are “criminal acts motivated by the bias or prejudice towards particular groups of people and has two distinct elements: it is an act that constitutes an offense under criminal law; and in committing the crime, the perpetrator acts on the basis of prejudice or bias.”

Prejudice or bias here is broadly defined as “preconceived negative opinions, intolerance or hatred directed at a particular group.”

Thus, the perpetrator of this type of crime chooses the victim based on his or her membership or perceived membership in a particular group. The group referred to must share a common fundamental characteristic like “race, ethnicity, language, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or others.”

Hate crimes are not only killings. The concept covers many other things such as rape, damage to property, physical assault, threat of violence, harassment, and insults.

There are countries that have legislation against hate crimes but the absence of law does not mean that no such crimes are committed. While the concept may be new in our country, it does not mean that hate crimes do not happen.

On the contrary, perhaps it is time for us to look closely into this.

Admittedly, the 103 recorded LGBT killings may not be all purely hate crimes.

However, in a country where bias against those who live their lives outside of prescribed boxes is palpable, the element of “hatred” in these cases was present. It is even possible that many were caused by hatred against those in the LGBT group.

I raise this alarm hoping that citizens will notice, and some of our honorable legislators will take interest and act. Specifically, we need lawmakers to investigate these killings in aid of legislation.

Maybe we need a law against hate crimes.

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