OPINION: How Christine Dacera's case highlighted the growing homophobia in the Philippines

Days after headlines of Christine Dacera's alleged rape-slay case hitting the national news, Filipinos took to social media their concerns and condemnations about the state of women's safety in the Philippines. They ask, "Why should it always be the victims' fault if they are sexually abused, and rarely the perpetrators' fault?" This opened a wide discourse of topics involving the Philippines' growing rape culture and misogyny.

But Dacera's case also put into the spotlight the already existing mentality of homophobia in the Philippines after Christine's openly gay friends fall suspects in her bizarre death. 

The Makati City Police has identified at least 12 suspects in Christine's death, including three of her gay friends. According to their initial report, Dacera was last seen in public with Rommel Galida, Gregorio Angelo Rafael de Guzman, and John dela Serna on December 31 at City Garden Hotel in Makati City.

After the police's accusation, de Guzman denies that he raped Dacera, and forced to reveal his sexual orientation on national news. On the other hand, Police colonel Harold Depositar, Makati City chief of police, insists the three's involvement in Christine's death, going as far as to say:

"Lalaki pa din sila. May instinct 'yan and... you know, lalo na if under the influence of intoxicating alcohol..." 

["They are still men. They have instincts and... you know, especially if under the influence of intoxicating alcohol..."]

Existing normal: The already established homophobia in the Philippines

Long before the issue, Filipino communities have already made the topic of sexual orientation and gender expression cultural taboos. Kids are made to think that there are only 2 valid genders and sexes -- masculinity or femininity, and male or female, respectively-- the binary norms of our society. Also, religion takes part in the idea that it is not normal for couples to be male-to-male or female-to-female. This is the very root of the country's hatred towards anyone who does not fit inside any of these arbitrary models of normalcy.

That's why growing up, kids are finding it harder and harder to understand the concept of SOGIE because they have no contact with it in their early childhoods. No concept of diversity when it comes to gender and sexuality is introduced to them at an early age, making raging wildfires of ignorance in the typical Filipino community.

The dangers of 'boys will be boys'

Depositar's remarks fuel the already devastating flames of the macho-feudal system in the Philippines by having to state on national television that men cannot be stopped from their sexual desires regardless of their sexuality. By having to do so, Depositar is spreading the viewpoint that men have predatory instincts that nothing, no one -- not even sexual attraction can control. This, on national television, is something beyond an utter disgrace and a big disrespect to the queer community.

Rape culture begins the moment we leave out conversations about the importance of consenting and responsibility. The overly used phrase "boys will be boys" is the first step in allowing rape to enter our societies. Fixating on the idea that men cannot contain themselves so society must be able to adapt instantaneously to whatever the consequences of their actions will be, is the problem many of us are continuously taking part of. 

Being queer in the PH: The law vs SOGIE

What does it mean to be queer in the Philippines and how does it affect one's encounter with the law? Because of the lack of representation in existing laws, the LGBTQIA+ community is finding it hard to deal with discrimination, usually done to them by law enforcers. In April, headlines of 'humiliation' as COVID-19 quarantine violation punishment in Pampanga surfaced the news. The violators, being members of the LGBTQIA+ community were publicly shamed as Barangay officials order them to dance, kiss each other, and do push-ups all the while being broadcasted for a live video on social media. Undoubtedly, if there had not been openly queer people, 'normal punishment' would have been ensued.

President Rodrigo Duterte also made news when he pardoned Joseph Scott Pemberton, a US soldier detained for killing trans woman Jennifer Laude. Pemberton got his approval of early release from the Olongapo Regional Trial Court over the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law.

These go to show how hard it is to be someone who the law does not specifically protect. Passing the SOGIE Equality Bill, which would serve as an umbrella law protecting the diverse people under the LGBTQIA+ community is the call of many to stop the growing discrimination against queer people.

Now, unfortunately, it has come to this. The grim case of Christine Dacera's death is at the roundabout of the Philippine justice system, with the only solution in sight being the police's neglect of her friends' sexual orientation.

Still a long way from redemption

It's clear that the Philippines still has a long journey to take on before truly dropping the homophobic mentality, but it wouldn't be very bad to at least be hopeful -- hopeful that the future brings more opportunity, representation, and protection to our LGBTQIA+ Filipinos.

As for Christine Dacera and her friends' case, the Philippine National Police must highly take into consideration and acknowledge her friends' sexual orientation. Conduct further investigations and find concrete evidence, instead of undermining a person's SOGIE. With this, justice will be served -- not only for Christine but for the entire LGBTQIA+ community as well.