Dear Editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer,
Having relied on The Philippine Daily Inquirer as an essential source of information on Philippine politics, lifestyle, and business, I would like to commend the newspaper for continuing to cover stories that matter to Filipinos both in the Philippines and abroad, often with exceptional depth and quality.
Thus, given my past admiration, it is with utter disappointment that I write to strongly critique a recent article, entitled “CBCP Wants Anti-Discrimination Bill Cleansed of Provisions on Gay Rights”, published on December 7th, 2011. In this article, Nina Calleja discusses the CBCP’s opposition to the current Senate Bill 2814 (Anti-Ethnic, Racial or Religious Discrimination and Profiling Act of 2011). Although the bill has passed the third reading in the Senate, it still has to go through harmonizing through bicameral discussions. The CBCP thus wants the phrase “sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity” removed from inclusion as the bill goes through this harmonizing process.
My opposition to the article stems from the following reasons:
1) Given the article’s public nature, and its ability to influence debate regarding an issue with such high stakes, I found it offensive that Calleja chooses to ignore one side of the conversation. Thus, she does not interview anyone—political activists, legislators, and academics to name a few—that could possibly provide feedback regarding the reason for the bill’s inclusion of this phrase in the first place. Off the top of my head, I could already recount many people who could have discussed the issue with similar depth and complexity. If Calleja can claim that no other sources of this information were available at the time of the article’s writing, then that should have been stated in the article, to at least give the impression of balanced coverage. Yet this article, as seemingly straightforward as it is, nonetheless provides a biased reading of the bill, and the CBCP’s stance as a whole.
2) Related to this bias, I was a bit offended by the tone of the article, especially the use of the word “cleanse” in the title. This word presupposes that the bill was polluted, tainted, and made “dirty” (the oppositional word to cleanse by the way) with the inclusion of a non-discrimination phrase that includes women and LGBT identified individuals. How come Calleja did not use “remove”, “stripped”, “taken out” or any possible terms that could convey a similar message, without the overtly political tone? Rather than having myself be accused of being defensive, I’d like to return to the article, and point to the copious amounts of quotations, perspectives, and frameworks coming from the CBCP, without ANY other possible viewpoints being included from the other side. This to me is explicit proof of the article’s point, which is to sway a particular set of legislators and the population, towards its bias around the topic. Granted that anyone should be able to write an opinion in a newspaper, then I suggest that as the Editor, you should have included this article in the Opinion section, NOT the News section as it still currently sits in.
3) Finally, as an out Filipino gay man, as an Assistant Professor of Women and Gender Studies, as a Filipino living in the Philippines and abroad, and as someone who feels invested in the equal rights of women and LGBT Filipinos, I would like to provide a counter-discourse to what Calleja wrote.
A) I find it offensive that Calleja can include passages about our “choice”, about our “third sex”, and about how the threat of the bill’s rightfully “changing society” for the better, without a single gesture or awareness of the violence that these harmful statements enact on our community. During the recently concluded Philippine Gay Pride (December 1), I saw the commitment of our community in fighting the continued spread of discrimination for everyone, not just LGBT identified folks, and to fighting the continued lack of awareness about HIV/AIDS (which is why the parade was timed to coincide with World Aids Day). Thus, as a community, we also desire the non-discrimination of everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, class, and religion (which the bill would have still preserved). This is the ethical thrust of the current bill, which is why sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity” were included in the last version.
B) As you can see in the bill’s phrasing, the removal of non-discrimination based on sex and gender would then also exclude not only “sexual orientation” but also sex and gender discrimination itself. Does the CBCP want the continue disenfranchisement of women and men based on their gender and sex (and not just sexual orientation)? I highly doubt the CBCP can claim that they believe women should still be discriminated, and survive politically (even though it is a religious group primarily).
C) The role of a newspaper, aside from providing information, is to educate the population. Thus, balanced reporting, which we had so forcefully fought for amidst multiple regimes and dictatorship, need to be preserved at all costs. This article, and its clearly skewed perspectives, fails to do so. Thus, it needs to be retracted immediately.
Thanks for your time. And regardless of the outcome of this letter, I do hope it gets noted. I’d still like to read the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and teach it to my students. Some of that faith needs to be restored.
Dr. Robert Diaz
Women and Gender Studies Program
Wilfrid Laurier University
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