At least 20 transgenders have been killed in the Philippines since 2008, but Ganda (Gender and Development Advocates) Filipinas executive director Naomi Fontanos says the figure is understated. Worse, all killings thus far included in databases indicate a pattern of brutality, anger and disrespect.
By: Tricia Aquino, InterAksyon.com | October 17, 2014 11:09 AM
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MANILA – At least 20 transgenders have been killed in the Philippines since 2008, but Ganda (Gender and Development Advocates) Filipinas executive director Naomi Fontanos says the figure is understated. Worse, all killings thus far included in databases indicate a pattern of brutality, anger and disrespect.
Speaking at a University of the Philippines Diliman forum Thursday on the death of transwoman Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude allegedly in the hands of a US serviceman, Fontanos cited statistics from the Transgender Murder Monitoring Project, created by the organization Trasgender Europe. She stressed that it was an inaccurate figure given that from 2011 to 2014, at least five transgenders had already been murdered.
One of the most brutal cases is that of Luningning, a transwoman who loved to join beauty pageants. She was found naked, her skull cracked, the skin over her right breast peeled off, grass stuffed inside her stomach, and a stick shoved up her anus. Her genitals had been burned.
Anne, a dentist, was found on the floor of her apartment, her blood splattered all over the walls. Her boyfriend had stabbed her to death.
Rio, Fontanos’ own friend, died early this year. Her body was found in her swanky residence in Makati City, with over 20 stab wounds on her face, breasts, and back.
Just this month, Cielo, a call center agent, was also discovered dead in her apartment, multiple stab wounds all over her body.
Laude is the latest – but likely not the last – on the list.
“It shouldn’t be a numbers game,” said Fontanos.
Many unreported cases
Many cases of transgender homicide go unreported or unmonitored, she said. On November 20, the Transgender Day of Remembrance, the world will memorialize the fallen transgenders, many of whom died violent deaths.
Fontanos detailed the “anatomy of a trans murder,” saying that when a transgender is killed, three things are constant: extreme brutality, dehumanization, and disrespect for his or her gender identity.
“The killers just hit them everywhere and anywhere, as though they had no regard for the pain caused,” said Fontanos. As it was commonly known that transwomen valued their looks, she said, perpetrators would target their faces, breasts, and genital areas.
Victims were also re-victimized in that they were discredited. “Patay na nga, pinapatay mo pa ulit kasi walang naniniwala [sa kanya](The dead are again killed because no one will believe them),” said Fontanos.
In Laude’s case, Fontanos said, people were alleging that the victim had stolen from her murderer or were saying that she deserved to be killed because she was supposedly a prostitute.
Fontanos added that even Laude’s family tried to erase her identity in that Laude was called “son” or “gay,” even though Laude’s Facebook account showed that she identified herself as a woman. A representative from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) team that was conducting a parallel investigation also said that he talked to Laude’s sister, who said Laude lived like a woman from when she was a child.
Meanwhile, 157 cases of hate crimes against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community were recorded by Philippine Hate Crime Watch from 1996 to 2011.
This was according to CHR Investigation Division Atty. Twyla Rubin. The group submitted its data in 2011 to the government agency, culling the information from news reports and victims they knew.
Rubin said, however, that it was difficult to verify the cases. The news reports usually did not contain the victims’ addresses, preventing CHR investigators from validating the information.
“Mahirap ibuo (It’s hard to put them together),” she told InterAksyon.com in an interview.
She added that it was a challenge to get LGBTs to report crimes against them. “Very few file complaints.” This was why the CHR was taking so long to compile its own statistics of crimes against LGBTs, despite Chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales’ directive issued earlier in her term.
Rubin attributed this to a lack of support from the victim’s community, the stigma attached to filing the case, and the authorities’ disbelief of and blame on the victim.
She did say that the Philippine National Police Women and Children’s Desk was now being trained to accommodate LGBTs.
Rubin reminded the national government of its duty to protect its citizens, including Laude. The CHR representative added that authorities must hold the perpetrator accountable.
The State must also establish a system of reporting such cases, and train related agencies in addressing them, she said.
She also called on the United States Embassy to show its commitment to protecting LGBT rights.
Most important, she urged LGBTs and the public to report crimes against the community.
“Otherwise it becomes invisible,” Rubin said.
Focus on perpetrators
Meanwhile, Fontanos said that the public must not just focus on the victims of violence, but more so the perpetrators of violence.
It could not be discounted that Joseph Scott Pemberton, the suspect in Laude’s slay, was a member of the US Marines.
“What is it about their training that makes them violent? Let us interrogate these institutions that perpetuate violence in the world,” said Fontanos. “There is a need to change the culture of violence.”
Association of Transgenders of the Philippines president Kate Cordova called on women’s groups to join them on their quest for justice.
“Violence against transgender women is violence against women,” said Fontanos. “It will come from the same dark place.”
The forum was organized by Philwomen on ASEAN and SCRAP VFA Movement.