Pia Wurtzbach, LGBTQ advocates weigh in on PDEA’s press conference on BGC hotel drug bust

Pia Wurtzbach and advocates for the lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transexual, and queer (LGBTQ) community weighed in on the BGC hotel drug raid done by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and a media outlet’s baring of the mugshots of the suspects arrested, revealing that one of them was HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) positive.

The pvblic mentions that it violates the Republic Act 8504, the Philippines AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998. They add that by revealing the identities of the suspects, it created “a media frenzy around their sexual orientation.” It was also “unethical” to reveal that one of them is a person living with HIV.

News5 posted the mugshot photos of the suspects involved in the drug raid on Monday night, adding that one of them is positive for HIV. The media outlet later on removed the HIV reference, and on Tuesday morning, they took down the post altogether. However, the damage has been done.

Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, an advocate for HIV awareness, along with other LGBTQ advocates, raised their voices, mentioning how News5 and PDEA had only reinforced the stigma which was attached to the LGTBQ community as well as PLHIV.

Universe, listen to this. A few days ago a drug bust happened in a high scale hotel in Manila Philippines involving 11 supposedly gay men. Two of them were suspected of selling/distributing drugs. During the operation, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) found out that one of of them was HIV positive. PDEA and local news outlets decided to expose the identities of these men to the media. Their mugshots, names, and the HIV status of one of them were released. Was this really necessary? I understand that what the men were supposedly doing was illegal and they should face legal consequences. But there was absolutely no need to expose and publicly shame them. It’s illegal to publicly announce one’s HIV status (RA8504). What has been done has not only traumatized the men that were involved; it has also worsened the HIV situation in the Philippines. We’re working so hard in educating the people properly on HIV/AIDS, on taking away the stigma. Because of what PDEA and the news outlet have done, some people are now associating drugs and immorality with being gay. It’s ridiculous. The whole point of this drug raid was to arrest the men for their supposed crime, which was selling/distributing and using illegal narcotics. Being gay is not a crime! Living with HIV is not a punishment! Come on, Philippines. We are already taking small steps forward to improve acceptance, tolerance and understanding. We cannot take big steps back. To PDEA and the news outlets, take steps to mend the situation. Sa aking mga kababayan, wag po tayo maging judgmental. Hindi immoral ang maging bakla, hindi dapat ituring na kaparusahan ang HIV. At lalong hindi ito biro na dapat pag-pyestahan at pagtawanan. To my beloved LGBT community, stay strong. We’ll win this.

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Jansen Andal added to the discussion:

So I really dont find it necessary to post the mug shots and names of the individuals involved in this incident and have the public discover who they are as what news 5 did and PLEASE, there is a confidentiality that the media should consider with regards to the health condition of one of the persons involved. The media did all means already to hype the incident and the stigma, adding the sex party and the health condition. Boo. I hope they can just focus on the drugs instead and not dwell in another context of shame.

And of course, the lgbt community will always have a say about this. So get ready.

As well as several others:

Read the full post:

The point of this whole issue isn’t that these 11 guys are gay, in an orgy, or allegedly living with HIV. The illegal act was that it was drug related—end of story.

Putting their identities on full display and creating a media frenzy around their sexual orientation and practices is incomprehensibly stupid and downright malicious.

Publishing that “one of them is HIV positive” is ILLEGAL under RA8504. The public has no business with their alleged HIV status.

Go ahead and nab people without killing them for pushing illegal narcotics—you’re doing your job a bit better than most, I’ll give you that. (NOTE: in another conversation, we desperately need to talk about harm reduction and drug use/abuse as a Mental Health issue).

But this public castigation is just immeasurably harmful not just to these people, but to both the LGBTQ community and those living with HIV.

What the PDEA and media have done are unethical and cruel. Check the comments sections. People are conflating drug use and immorality with being gay, with being HIV positive.

We’re barely keeping our heads above the water. There’s so much stigma and discrimination that we’re fighting against. Sure, the Anti-Discrimination bill is inching forward; there are amendments to the HIV Act to accommodate better testing, care, and management (though proper Sex Ed is still being heavily contested).

BUT these laws and bills take time to properly seep into culture. And everyday, with comments like “kadiri, bakla” and “yuck, yan kaya kayo nagkaka-HIV,” we just take leaps backward, undoing the small forward-steps we’re painfully trying to make.

If you posted a comment or shared that news article with the mugshots of the arrested, feasting on their identities like gossip-hungry hyenas—shame on you. You’re part of the problem.

 

News5 reported that PDEA has apologized, stating it was not the agency’s intention to pvblicly shame the victim.

“We apologize. Humingi ng paumanhin ang PDEA sa hindi sinasadyang pagkabunyag ng HIV patient na sangkot sa orgy-drugs scandal. Hindi raw intensyon ng ahensya na pahiyain ang biktima,” it said in the statement.

“Walang inilabas na detalye sa kanyang pagkatao, kundi ang kaso na may HIV patient na sangkot sa orgy at ilegal na droga para makapag ingat din ang publiko.”

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