LGBTQ+ groups hit Oplan X-Men’s ‘targeted harassment’ against transgender women
MANILA, Philippines– 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 utter disregard for due process is characteristic of the Duterte administration, as is evident in Oplan Tokhang, and has created an environment where the police can get away with violating the rights of the people, especially those who are most vulnerable,” it said.
“Profiling by law enforcers aimed specifically at interrogating transgender persons obviously entails intimidation and stigmatization,” added Gabriela Women's Party.
University of the Philippines (UP) Babaylan, meanwhile, argued the basis for the implementation of Oplan X-Men stands on weak grounds, and specifically targets a marginalized sector in society.
“This so-called solution to sex trafficking only targets trans women and illegally profiles them, a transphobic solution to a grave problem that violates every victim's rights, regardless of SOGIE,” they said.
Danmer John de Guzman, the national spokesperson of the LGBTQ+ party list, agreed with UP Babaylan, saying the LGBTQ+ community shouldn’t be singled out in the administration’s campaign against human trafficking.
“Hindi panakip butas ang LGBTQ+ community sa kapalpakan ng administrasyong Duterteng sugpuin ang human trafficking sa bansa (The LGBTQ+ community shouldn’t be used a cover by the Duterte administration to address human trafficking in the country)," he said.
“The complex problem of sex trade in the country can never be solved by discriminating against a minority and continuing to criminalize safe and consensual sex work,” UP Babaylan added.
The incident of LGBTQ+ discrimination spurred calls to prioritize the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill and urge the House of Representatives to act immediately.
“This systematic violation of human rights only further proves the urgent need to protect LGBTQI people from violence and discrimination and decriminalize safe and consensual sex work in the country,” stated UP Babaylan.
Camp Queer added the anti-discrimination legislation should put an emphasis on institutional accountability, challenging deeply ingrained cultural values, to help create an environment where trans and queer people can live their identities without fear of discrimination and violence.
This is not the first time that authorities have singled out transgender people. Just last August 2019, trans woman Gretchen Diez was arrested for going live on Facebook after she was prevented from using a women's restroom in a Cubao mall in Quezon City. – Rappler.com