A few weeks ago, there were news items from Manila of Transgender women being rounded up by the cops. Initial reports gave the impression it was the national government and Duterte giving the order. Later items show that it was just two individual cops misusing an anti-sex trafficking campaign to abuse and harass people. Both of them have been fired.
The two cops were targeting Transgender women, falsely luring them into police stations then holding them under the false pretense of “preventing sex trafficking”. If they wanted to do that, they would shut down the SOGO three-hour hotels which operate openly all over Manila. (Are there any Transgender sex workers in Manila? Probably, but I never met any. But I did meet and see several Transgender people just going about their days, working in stores or partying in bars.)
Camp Queer points out ‘Oplan X-Men’ is only one example of the routine denial of transgender people’s right to exist in public spaces
LGBTQ+ groups were up in arms about the alleged profiling of transgender women in Makati City, caught especially in a viral video that circulated online on Friday, February 14.
It was in the video where two cops, Patrolman Timmy Paez and Police Corporal Juliel Atal, can be seen accosting Anne Pelos and inviting her to go to their headquarters for “profiling.”
Pelos said she was on her way home along Makati Avenue when the police stopped her.
In a now deleted Facebook post, Makati City Police dubbed their alleged profiling of transgender women in the city as “Oplan X-Men” in a bid to “rescue ladyboys” from exploitation and human-trafficking.
However, Makati City police chief Rogelio Simon said “Oplan X-Men” – the alleged profiling of transgender women in the city – was not a part of any police activity in Makati.
Simon confirmed to Rappler that Paez and Atal were relieved from their posts.
Several LGBTQ+ groups condemned the operation, calling it a blatant form of targeted harassment against trans women.
Camp Queer pointed out that, from the name alone, the operation already mocks and demeans the very identity of transgender women, who still fight to be recognized and protected by the law through the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression (SOGIE) equality bill.
“Oplan X-men has recently subjected our trans sisters to arbitrary arrests, harassment and profiling, under the guise of rescuing them all while insulting and mocking them by the police operation’s very name. This is only one example of the routine denial of transgender people’s right to exist in public spaces,” it added.
Camp Queer asserted that the act of “inviting” transgender women to the police station is an affront to the Constitutional right to due process, likening the operation to the administration’s anti-drug campaign titled “Oplan Tokhang.”
The Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights has begun an investigation. The country’s toothlaws and sieve-like laws for LGBTQIA rights are horribly and intentionally vague.
The Commission on Human Rights on Saturday night said it will investigate a reported policy of the Makati police for transgender women to report to their station for “profiling”
According to CHR, a video acquired by the commission showed Makati police inviting a transgender woman to the police station.
It is unclear when the incident that the CHR will investigate happened, but a Facebook page called Scads Makati and using the logo of the Makati police says in a January 23 post that the police conducted an “Oplan X-men at Burgos, Poblacion, Makati City…through combined efforts of Station Operations, Women’s Desk, Station Intelligence and Station and Drug Enforcement Unit, 9:00 PM, January 22, 2020.”
Twenty years ago Burgos of Makati City (near the financial district) was the sex tourist area of Manila, all sorts of rumoured sordid activity. These days, the clubs in the area operate under a false sense of legitimacy. In summer 2018, the club Time was raided and shut down, its owners involved in dealing drugs. I was highly annoyed at the raid – not because a club closed, but because I had been there six months earlier, not knowing it was a drug den. During the raid, patrons uninvolved in drugs were physically abused and denied their rights.
Another club in the area, Royal, is openly bigoted against Transgender people.
Once COVID-19 dies down, I’m uncertain if I’ll go back to the Philippines again, especially while Duterte is still in power. It’s cheap, close, they speak English, and public smoking is now gone, but it also has its downsides.
Funny thing: Before I transitioned and I travelled in other countries, sex workers and pimps assumed I was there for that and would harass me constantly. Not. In. The. Slightest. I can date in Taiwan all I want, and HIV and STD testing is the norm here. HIV rates are rising in the Philippines.
After I transitioned, sex workers have not once propositioned me – probably because they have no idea what I want. Fine by me.