Sara Duterte is no champion: LGBTQIA+ groups

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MANILA, PHILIPPINES - FEBRUARY 19: Davao city Mayor Sara Duterte, daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, takes part in a rally as she campaigns for the vice presidency on February 19, 2022 in Caloocan, Metro Manila, Philippines. The son and namesake of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos, accused and charged of amassing billions of dollars of ill-gotten wealth as well as committing a record number of human rights abuses during his autocratic rule, has mounted a hugely popular campaign to return his family name to power. Ferdinand
MANILA, PHILIPPINES - FEBRUARY 19: Davao city Mayor Sara Duterte, daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, takes part in a rally as she campaigns for the vice presidency on February 19, 2022 in Caloocan, Metro Manila, Philippines. The son and namesake of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos, accused and charged of amassing billions of dollars of ill-gotten wealth as well as committing a record number of human rights abuses during his autocratic rule, has mounted a hugely popular campaign to return his family name to power. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. is holding a double-digit lead in the polls against his main rival, incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo, three months ahead of the national elections. Marcos is running alongside Davao city Mayor Sara Duterte, the daughter of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte who is the subject of an international investigation for alleged human rights violations during his bloody war on drugs. (Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)

A transwoman leader minced no words when it came to vice presidential bet Sara Duterte, who announced that she is a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.

“‘Wag po tayong magpapabudol (Don’t be fooled),” Bahaghari Chair Rey Valmores-Salinas warned on Friday (March 11). “This is nothing more than trapo behavior by a politician seeking votes and sympathy from our community.”

Critics such as Valmores-Salinas were quick to denounce the Davao City Mayor’s announcement as an attempt to gain an electoral advantage.

Echoing Valmores-Salinas’ stance, LGBTQIA+ student group UP Babaylan said that identifying one’s sexuality and identity must not be in the context of winning the election. “The LGBTQI community has been part of a long struggle for equality, making the community a benchmark for deceiving political tactics undermines such struggle,” they continued.

Duterte explained that while she is not attracted to women, she prefers sporting short hair and working on tasks typically associated with men. In response, the group LGBTQIA+ for Leni clarified that ”going against gender stereotypes does not automatically make [Duterte] an LGBTQIA+ person. That is to say: [Duterte’s] gender expression does not automatically make [her] an LGBTQIA+ person.”

Recalling how killer marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton was pardoned by outgoing Pres. Rodrigo Duterte (Sara’s father) last 2020, Valmores-Salinas said that being a member of the community is “a lifelong struggle in a world steeped with deep hatred and exclusion of our community.”

“The only legacy which Rodrigo Duterte has left the LGBTQIA+ community, and which Sara Duterte promises to uphold, is a legacy of violence against LGBTQIA+ persons, criminally neglectful rule, the worst economic crisis in our history, and all-out subservience to imperialists,” Valmores-Salinas blasted.

Pemberton was detained for killing transwoman Jennifer Laude in 2014. Both Laude’s murder and Pemberton’s recent release led to massive public outrage, with advocates and activists calling for the immediate junking of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). The latter provides the rules and regulations for US troops and personnel to conduct certain activities in the Philippines.

Valmores-Salinas then slammed Duterte for being one-half of the Uniteam tandem, spearheaded by the son of a dictator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. She warned that a Marcos-Duterte victory will only lead to further corruption in the Philippines.

“Beyond superficial claims of identity and support for the LGBTQIA+ community, Sara Duterte and Bongbong Marcos’ campaign without doubt represents the most rotten, plunderous, and anti-LGBTQIA+ bid in the 2022 elections. Ang tanging landas na natitira para sa atin ay ang buong-buong pagtakwil sa [kanila] (The only path left for us is to outright reject them),” Valmores-Salinas concluded.

Meanwhile, UP Babaylan said that more focus must be given to “dismantling political tactics that confine the community into a mere instrument for political exposure and recognition.”

LGBTQIA+ for Leni, while respecting Duterte’s explanation, instead challenged the debate no-show to not only educate herself, but to also stand against her father’s decision to pardon Pemberton and to fight discrimination.

Ang aming pakiusap: don’t sensationalize our identity. Ang aming identidad bilang LGBTQIA+ ay may mabigat na halaga at malalim na pinaghuhugutan. Hindi namin hahayaan na basta-basta itong gagamitin nang walang pakundangan ninuman, kabilang ka,” the group urged.

(Our only request: don’t sensationalize our identity. Our identity as LGBTQIA+ is extremely valuable and deeply rooted. We will not allow this to be disrespected by anybody, including [Sara Duterte].)

Editor's Note: The definition for the Visiting Forces Agreement was revised to provide additional context.

Reuben Pio Martinez is a news writer who covers stories on various communities and scientific matters. He regularly tunes-in to local happenings. The views expressed are his own.

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