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PostPosted: Thu May 20, 2010 1:31 pm 
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HIV epidemic may be imminent in the Philippines
May 11, 2010

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A Filipino AIDS awareness advocate blows up a condom during a street campaign to encourage safe sex on World AIDS Day in Manila, December 1, 1999.
REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

HONG KONG (Reuters) — Low condom use, needle sharing and a rise in casual sex and prostitution may unleash an HIV epidemic in the Philippines, according to a new study.

The report, published in the Journal of the International AIDS Society, said young adults, gay and bisexual men, prostitutes, injecting drug users, overseas Filipino workers and sex partners of all these groups were vulnerable to contracting the virus.

"There is no guarantee that a large HIV epidemic will be avoided in the near future. Indeed, an expanding HIV epidemic is likely to be only a matter of time as the components for such an epidemic are already present in the Philippines," wrote Anna Farr and David Wilson at the National Center in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

Unlike other countries in the region, the spread of HIV in the Philippines has been described as "low and slow" because of a disperse geography, relatively uncommon intravenous drug use, sexual conservatism and high male circumcision rates. But the authors said an HIV epidemic was possible because of the presence of many conditions "for a large, increasing and generalized epidemic."

"These include: a low rate of condom use; unsafe practices among intravenous drug users; large migration rates; increasing trends in extramarital and premarital sex; a lack of education and common misconceptions about HIV/AIDS; and cultural factors that inhibit public discussion of issues of a sexual nature," they wrote.

The report also focused on the 7.5 million Filipinos working abroad in 170 countries. "By participating in casual unprotected sex or other risky behavior while overseas in higher prevalence settings, overseas Filipino workers become a substantial source of new HIV cases in the Philippines upon their return home," they said. Overseas Filipino workers make up 30 to 35 percent of all HIV cases reported in the country, the report said.

The Philippines has the lowest rate of condom use in Asia — just 20 to 30 percent among groups at risk of HIV infection such as sex workers, according to the report. "A common perception is that condoms are only for birth control and not for protection against HIV and other sexually-transmitted illnesses," the authors wrote. "This perception is reinforced by the view that condoms are discouraged by the Roman Catholic Church. Government family planning programs have policies against supplying condoms to unmarried people."

Monthly HIV diagnoses among homosexual men jumped to 704 by 2008 from 328 in 2003, while the figure among bisexual men shot to 289 from 92 within the same period. The average age of diagnosis has also fallen significantly, from 36 before 2005 to 29 years recently, the authors wrote.

(Reporting by Tan Ee Lyn; Editing by Kazunori Takada)
Source: Reuters.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 29, 2010 4:23 am 
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Sex education debate heats up in Philippines
by Jason Gutierrez
June 21, 2010

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An estimated one third of the Philippine population live in slums

MANILA (AFP) — A new sex education campaign in Philippine schools has sparked widespread debate in Asia's bedrock of Catholicism, where the high birth rate is blamed for desperate poverty.

The United Nations-backed programme, which is being piloted this month in primary and high schools, aims to promote safe sex, limit the spread of HIV-AIDS and prevent unwanted pregnancies. However, the Catholic Church and powerful conservative crusaders have struck back with a high-profile campaign to shut down the project, saying it breaks the nation's religion-based moral codes.

"Sex education in schools is not the answer to our population problem and poverty," Eric Manalang, head of the conservative political party Ang Kapatiran (The Brotherhood), told AFP on Monday. "It promotes promiscuity among children... it does not promote the proper values that we want our children to receive in schools and we believe sex education should strictly remain a family affair." Manalang said his party and church had filed a petition in court on Monday requesting an injunction to stop the programme. He said the chances of the legal bid succeeding were high with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, as well as various parent groups, supporting the fight.

Their legal bid claims the programme impinges on parents' constitutional right to educate their children based on their religious beliefs. "Issues that are not for children should not be taught in schools," the bishops' conference said in a statement. While Ang Kapatiran is only a small political party, conservative religious forces led by the Church hold a lot of sway in the Philippines, where more than 80 percent of the nation's 90-million people are Catholic. The bishops last year succeeded in blocking a proposed law in parliament that would have made it easier for the public to access state-funded contraceptives.

Nevertheless, the education department has so far held firm. It says the programme is aimed at curbing a population growth rate of over two percent, among the highest in Asia, and does not promote out-of-marriage sex. The scheme covers topics such as reproductive systems and cycles, hygiene, pre-marital sex, teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, according to the education department. Education Secretary Mona Valisno said the teaching modules were designed by professionals, including psychologists, who made sure the discussions would be educational. "Sex education will be integrated in other subjects such as science and they are designed to be scientific and informative," she said. "They are not designed to titillate prurient interests."

The United Nations has become embroiled in the controversy because it partly funded the project, and issued a statement last week rejecting the Church's position. Manalang hit out at the United Nations Population Fund, the body involved in the project, saying it was interfering with internal Philippine issues.

But the fund's Philippine director, Suneeta Mukherjee, said opponents of the programme had nothing to fear. "We are not encouraging people, or children, to have sexual relationships, we are only helping students handle their sexuality as part of the process of growing up," Mukherjee told AFP. "Children at this age are very sensitive and must be taught by people in authority."

She pointed out that HIV was on the rise among young Filipinos, and many of the nation's poor — a third of the population lives on less than a dollar a day — did not have access to sound education on sexual matters. "We just want the children to make responsible decisions," Mukherjee said.

Source: Yahoo! AFP.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 29, 2010 4:27 am 
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:yeahright:

Considering some of the stories about being able to buy a Filipino child for $100 to do with as you please, I'd say the Filipino sense of "Family Values" could use some adjustments...

:x

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 15, 2010 5:40 am 
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Sex vs God in the Philippines
By Jennee Grace U Rubrico
21 July 2010

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Sex education protest

MANILA — Armin Luistro is embroiled in a fierce debate between church and state. As the Philippines education secretary, it's his job to steer government plans to introduce sex education into elementary and high schools in the predominantly Catholic nation.

Since announcing last month that he planned to review the program, Luistro, a member of the De La Salle Brothers — a group of full-time religious educators who are not priests — has sought to distance himself from a longstanding issue that is putting politically powerful church leaders at loggerheads with the government for the second time in five years, saying it is not his priority.

As in a similar tie-up between the department and the United Nations Population Fund in 2005 — which was suspended at its pilot stage — the government again finds itself at odds with the politically powerful Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), which wields enormous influence, including the formulation of national policies. While Luistro has yet to decide on the future of the program, he has met with church leaders, whose stance on the issue is clear.

"The position of the CBCP even before is that it [sex education] should be left to parents, especially if we are talking about children who are underage," CBCP spokesman Pedro Quitorio III said.

Spearheaded by the Education Department, the government's initiative aims to teach students about health, wellness, values and character development through modules that include discussions on the human reproductive system, parts of the body and puberty. As planned by the previous Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, sex education is to be integrated in subjects including geography, history and civics and mathematics, with the church's position on pre-marital sex included alongside data on pre-marital sex, teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

In a memorandum detailing the focus of the earlier program, the Education Department stressed the need for sex education by pointing out that 71.1% of young females and 35.7% of young males reported contracting genital diseases. It had also noted a 5% rise in early unprotected sex between 1994 and 2002, as well as a lack of adequate knowledge among adolescents to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

To address those matters, the Education Department had pushed for "more specific and focused topics", including safe motherhood, fertility awareness, misconceptions and myths on family planning methods, and adolescent reproductive health, and for parent-child counseling. The revived program was scheduled to be pilot tested this year in 79 public secondary schools and eight elementary schools across the country.

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The CBCP Office

The church is not without its backers since about 82% of country's 90 million people are Roman Catholic. The Education Department now faces a lawsuit filed on behalf of 30 parents who oppose the sex education plan for allegedly promoting "contraceptive imperialism" that assaults Christian sensibilities and values.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a political force that claims to be fighting for the right of Muslims in the Philippines, has also joined the fray. "This is like preparing the child to be competitive for the next world of sex," said Sheikh Muhammad Muntassir, head of the MILF Da'wah committee, who also added that the policy was "hastily designed" and did not consider child psychology.

The Education Department has for the last month been firefighting, giving out interviews and issuing press statements to defend the program. In an attempt to manage the backlash, former education secretary Mona Valisno clarified that "classroom discussions on sex education [are] not about the sex act but on the science of reproduction, physical care and hygiene, correct values and the norms of inter-personal relationships to avoid pre-marital sex and teenage pregnancy.

"Our role here is to educate our young people on issues that directly affect them and empower them to make informed choices and decisions," Valisno said, adding the modules were prepared by psychologists "to ensure that specific topics for discussions will be made in the appropriate year levels". She admitted, however, that it would be up to the new administration to decide on the implementation or scrapping of the contested project. Many take a pragmatic stance, citing the dismal results of the country's population control drive to argue their point. Now the twelfth-most populous country in the world, the Philippines has a population that grows at a rate of 1.96% per year.

Of its 90 million people, 40% are aged 14 years old and below. East Timor is the only Southeast Asian country that has a faster population growth rate, at 2.03%. Indonesia, the world's fourth-most populous country, has a population growth rate of 1.14% per year, while China and India, the two most populous countries in the world, see their population grow yearly by 0.66% and 1.55% respectively.

"Personally, this is not a moral issue. Whether we should follow the church's teaching, I don't agree. The situation is that the country needs to manage its population," said Donald Dee, vice chairman of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the country's largest business organization. "But when and how sex education should be taught is something that we leave to the child psychology experts."

Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute of Political and Electoral Reform, notes that population growth control is paramount, as a runaway population puts the country at risk of running out of resources. "Having a big population has some advantages, like having a big labor pool, but there's a possibility that we would run out of food to feed our people," he said.

He raised the possibility that the name — the Adolescent Reproductive Health program — and approach of the initiative may have contributed to the conflict between the church and government. While acknowledging that the church as an institution was not likely to change its position, Casiple said he still believed that the program had a good chance of survival.

Luistro's move to review the program, he said, would open up discussion and debate. He added that even within the church, the sex education initiative enjoyed some support. "The beauty of having a cabinet [in government] is that issues can be discussed and resolved by consensus. The country needs to manage its population, and most likely, the [government's position] will be leaning towards reproductive health, including sex education," he said.

Source: Asia Times.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:28 pm 
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Catholic priest distributes hope, condoms in Philippine slum
17 August 2010
By Girlie Linao

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People wait for father Heinz (seen on the right) for medical care

Cebu City, Philippines (dpa) — On a dingy side street in the central Philippine city of Cebu, about a dozen young girls lined up in front of a car, posing and smiling in hopes of getting their first customer for the night.

Under the street lamp's yellow light, the unseen passengers picked two girls through tinted windows. In less than 10 minutes, the car zoomed out of the street with the chosen girls inside, their pimps smiling. Several more cars passed by and girls scurried out from a narrow alley where they sat on plastic chairs, eating dinner with their hands wrapped in plastic to avoid dirtying their polished nails.

Across the alley, Catholic priest Father Heinz Kulueke checked on a baby who had a fever while the mother, a prostitute herself, chatted with him. Every night for the past eight years, Kulueke has led a small group of volunteers to provide medical aid and distribute condoms in the red-light district of Kamagayan, a 5-hectare slum area in Cebu City, where shanties have been turned into brothels. They also visit nightclubs, restaurants, massage parlors and other commercial establishments where pimps can even get "orders" for girls through mobile phones.

Kulueke's target is to get young girls off the streets of Cebu, a key tourist destination and bustling commercial hub 585 kilometres south of Manila. He also works with street children in hope of keeping them away from the flesh trade. According to Kulueke, an estimated 10,000 prostitutes work in Cebu City, and about 40 per cent of them are minors, some as young as 12 years old. Many came from poor families and were trafficked.

Annie Suico, a city social worker, said the local government had stepped up efforts to stop prostitution and trafficking of children through various ordinances and inter-agency projects. But she admitted that reaching out to the victims was not easy. "The girls always say that they over 18 years old when they work in bars or nightclubs," she said. "It's really very difficult to find the girls because they hide their ages. You only find out when they seek your help."

Suico said Kulueke's work has been a great boost to the city government's efforts to stop child prostitution and trafficking. The 53-year-old missionary started his campaign after encountering young girls prostituted outside the University of San Carlos campus, where he teaches philosophy.

While the Roman Catholic Church opposes the use of artificial contraception such as condoms, Kulueke said the situation on the ground calls for a different approach. "Many girls get infected with sexually transmitted diseases or HIV/AIDS," he told the German Press Agency, dpa. "There are also numerous forced abortions after unwanted pregnancies leading to death in several cases."

One of Kulueke's volunteers is a 21-year-old former prostitute, who identified herself as Liza. She was only 13 years old when she ran away from home in 2002. In dire need of money, she was recruited to be a waitress in Cebu City but was surprised when she was brought to a brothel. "I was so scared then," she recalled while distributing condoms to some of her "batchmates" in Kamagayan. "My first customer was a burly German man who beat me up when I didn't know what to do."

Liza said she eventually got hooked on drugs, like most of the girls in Kamagayan. "At first, the pimps forced the drugs on me so I can give better service," she said. "But later on, I needed the high to forget what I was doing." After nearly two years, Liza decided she'd had enough and fled the brothel. Kulueke's team took her to a recovery house in Manila, where she finished high school.

Kulueke, who has been in Cebu since 1986, said the turnover of volunteers was very high due to the frustrating work. "Sometimes even I get very tired and exhausted trying to help all these people," he added. "It could take many weeks and even months before we manage to get people out and help them start a better life. But I cannot give up hope."

Source: Earth Times / dpa.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2010 12:42 pm 
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Manila ready to dazzle for historic gay beauty pageant
2 September 2010



Fifteen muscular gay men strut the stage in a whirlwind of sequins, feathers, gold and glitter while a transvestite dressed as Lady Gaga performs the American pop-star's latest hit.

The scantily clad men are vying for the crown of "Mr Gay World Philippines" and Filipino-Arab fashion designer Sherwin Abuel wins the title in a crowded suburban Manila nightclub after wowing the judges on the catwalk. The contestants were required to compete in traditional pageant categories such as "Best in swimwear", "Best in formalwear" and "Mr Congeniality".

But the contest was also about promoting equal rights, and Abuel started his reign as Mr Gay with an expression of pride. "Being gay is not my choice. I was born with it and I love it," said Abuel, 34, who will represent the Philippines when it becomes the first Asian country to host the annual Mr Gay World contest next year. The Philippines is a devoutly Catholic country but Abuel said he had never faced discrimination.

Organisers of the Mr Gay World contest said this was one of the main reasons why the Philippines was chosen to host the global contest in March next year, after the first two events were held in Canada and Norway. The vice chairman of Mr Gay World Philippines, Mac Bordallo, pointed to conservative Muslim religious values in countries such as Malaysia as reasons for not hosting the event there. He said efforts to establish a presence in China also failed last year when police stopped them from hosting a national Mr Gay contest.

And while Bangkok may have a reputation for being Asia's most gay-friendly metropolis, Bordallo said Manila was increasingly attracting the pink tourist dollar. "Foreigners have only known Thailand as a gay tourist destination, but this is changing", Bordallo said. He said the Mr Gay World event was expected to bring in many more gay tourists, and organisers were already preparing packages to some of the country's best destinations such as the tropical island of Borocay.

In Manila, the gay entertainment scene has exploded over the past decade, according to Glenn Maboloc, president of the non-government organisation KRYSS, which promotes gender equality, human rights, and sexual health for the youth. "The gay nightlife took off in the late '90s," Maboloc said. "These days, the daily haunts have extended to massage parlors and gay bars, the type that feature men dancing half-nude on the stage. Comedy bars where most of the entertainers are gay or transgender have also become hugely in demand of late."

Manila also boasts a range of drag-shows, with the Moulin-Rouge-style cabaret at Club Mwah, which opened in 2004, one of the top attractions. At Club Mwah, transsexual performers in flamboyant costumes regale a mainly local audience with song and dance numbers from gay icons such as Liza Minnelli and Diana Ross. Of the nightclubs, Bed has remained one of the most popular since opening its doors in 2003.

On a national level, there are many examples of acceptance for gay men despite opposition from the Catholic church and a macho culture in which boxing and cock-fighting are two of the male population's favourite pastimes. The Philippines made headlines when it held the first gay pride march in Asia in 1994 and it recently became the first country in Southeast Asia to have an official gay political party. That party — Ang Ladlad (Out of the Closet) — said it attracted more than 120,000 votes in the May national elections.

The Philippines also allows gays to serve in its armed forces. But gay rights advocates say much more work lies ahead. There are no anti-discrimination laws in the Philippines and same-sex relationships are not officially recognised. An anti-discrimination bill that seeks to "prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity" was first submitted to parliament in 1999, but has never been passed.

Source: Breitbart AFP.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2010 6:15 am 
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Briton, 28, killed in Philippines by jealous boyfriend of woman he intended to marry
By Richard Shears
6th September 2010

A lonely British man who flew across the world to propose to a woman he met on the internet has been stabbed to death by her jealous boyfriend - just two days after he arrived in the Philippines.

John Lorne McDonald, from Aberdeen, fell for Filipina who had placed details about herself on an internet dating site - but police suspect she failed to tell him she already had a boyfriend. The 28-year-old Scotsman packed his bags and flew to the town of Angona, 20 miles east of Manila, where he met his chat-room lover, 31-year-old Nanqueen 'Nancy' Romero, face to face for the first time.

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Jealous: Angona, 20 miles east of Manila, where John Lorne McDonald met his chat-room lover, Nanqueen 'Nancy' Romero, face to face for the first time. Two days later he was killed by Romero's boyfriend

Just two days later he was dead - stabbed numerous times by Miss Romero's enraged live-in Filipino boyfriend. She was also stabbed by the boyfriend, named as Anselmo Lacostales, who has gone on the run, having also stolen Mr McDonald's wallet. Miss Romero received stab wounds in the stomach and arms and is now in intensive care.

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Lonely: The Brit flew across the world to the Phillippines to propose to a woman he had met on the internet - and was murdered two days later

According to police officer Edgar Petalvero, who is in charge of the case, Mr McDonald met Miss Romero through an internet dating site chat room. They spent weeks conversing with each other online before she invited him to fly to the Philippines. Impoverished Filipino women often using dating sites in the hope of meeting a Western man they might be able to marry and take them away from their poor lifestyles.

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John Lorne McDonald travelled to a town 20 miles north of Manila, capital of the Philippines, and was stabbed to death by Nanqueen 'Nancy' Romero's boyfriend

'Mr McDonald arrived in the Philippines last Thursday and called around at Nancy's house on Saturday,' said officer Petalvero. 'From what we understand, she introduced her live-in boyfriend, Lacostales, as her brother. But trouble came after they all went out to dinner.' According to evidence police have gathered, after Mr McDonald, Miss Romero and Lacostales had dined in an Angona restaurant, they moved on to a karaoke bar, where the drinks flowed.

Sometime during the early hours of the morning, Mr McDonald made it known that he planned to ask for Miss Romero's hand in marriage. Lacostales was furious, according to police. When they arrived back at the home Miss Romero shared with her boyfriend, Lacostales produced a knife and stabbed the Scotsman and Miss Romero repeatedly. Then he fled. Neighbours who heard her screams raised the alarm, but by the time Mr McDonald arrived at hospital he was declared dead.

Police had said earlier that Lacostales had arrived at the house while Mr McDonald and Miss Romero were throwing a party to celebrate their future together and it was then that he had stabbed the couple. But investigators now believe that the boyfriend was with the pair throughout the evening and had stabbed them when he heard Mr McDonald talking of marriage.

The British Embassy in Manila said Mr McDonald's mother, who lives in Aberdeen, was being informed of his death.

In February this year retired banker Frank Bell, 60, from London, escaped with his life when he was ambushed by gunmen as he drove with his 28-year-old Filipina wife Juriza and four-year-old daughter Savanna in the Philippines city of Cebu. It was claimed he had been targeted by two teenage men who drove up to his van on a motor bike and fired the shots but they were killed when they lost control of the bike and crashed.

Police said it was believed the father of one of the teenagers was having an affair with Mr Bell's wife. Mr Bell claimed he had no part in the deaths of the men and that they crashed their bike after firing at him.

Source: Daily Mail UK.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2010 6:27 am 
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Tragic but not unusual story.

As in Thailand, the Philippine women, and boys, are very adept at fooling Western men over the internet. Sole purpose: to get money. Sometimes they genuinely want to leave their country, but with money they would prefer to stay at home.

Just like this woman, they already have boyfriends or husbands and children so it's a basic 'money for sex' scam. Unfortunately for the British guy he wanted to get married and this is what caused his death. The local men resent Western men taking their women. They don't mind to go along with a 'sex for money' scheme as much, attitudes tend to be liberal (especially in Thailand, less so in the Philippines which is mostly catholic) but they drink too much, get jealous and violent. This happens even without any Westerner being involved. Prostituting their wives and girlfriends in return for money and a boasting life to their friends is an acceptable price to pay. Some have several 'girlfriends' who do this for them (pimping). Quite possibly his marriage proposal was something they never considered, and it enraged the local.

The party, the going out together, where the Westerner invariably pays for all the bills, is standard practice. The 'brother' (usually the husband or boyfriend) comes along as 'chaperone'. Often there are children too, introduced as her little brothers and sisters but which in reality are her own children (often of different fathers).

And so it goes on.

An Asian wife can be a good thing, just make sure you get her away from her homeland. Or be aware of what you are involved in. Attitudes differ vastly between the West and the East and methods considered outrageous or immoral in the West often take second place to the need to get out of poverty in the East. It's a way to make money and the people involved can be ruthless and heartless.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 06, 2010 8:45 am 
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Contestants of the 2010 Amazing Philippine Beauties pageant prepare in their dressing room before a media presentation in Manila. The Amazing Philippine Beauties contest searches for the most beautiful transgender or transvestite contestant
Picture: AFP/GETTY

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 15, 2010 7:42 pm 
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Women in Philippines put food before sex in survey
10 November 2010

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Poor Filipino kids line up for free food given by a non-government group at Manila's slum district of Tondo, Philippines, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009.

Women in the Philippines rank food a lot higher than their sex life among the main things that make them happy, according to a government survey released Wednesday.

Both Filipino men and women ranked family, health and religion in that order as the three most important things that made them happy, the National Statistical Coordination Board found in a poll. Female respondents, however, put food in fifth place, just ahead of work. Love life came 10th and and sex life at 18th, just one rank above the bottom. For men, love life figured in 6th place and sex life 10th, with food at 9th.

And this can lead to trouble, said the agency's secretary-general Romulo Virola.

"This is easy to trivialise, but the unmet expectations for love and sex by either partner can surely lead to problems, and must be managed properly and professionally," he wrote on the government agency's website.

For the Philippine poor, the survey found that men ranked their sex, love lives and food at the top while women said family, love life and food were top of their lists.

In the four months since Benigno Aquino became president of the Philippines, the impoverished country's population has grown by about 600,000 — the fastest rate of increase in Southeast Asia. It now stands at around 94 million and there have been calls to increase access to contraception in the devoutly Catholic nation.

The non-random 2010 poll covered 356 respondents two Manila districts, a nearby province, staff of two government offices and one private firm.

Source: Breitbart AFP.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 6:27 am 
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Philippines pulls new tourism website amid porn link
17 November 2010

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Tourists visiting Manila Cathedral

The Philippines said Wednesday it had pulled its latest online tourism campaign after critics panned the rebrand and warned that unwary surfers could easily end up at a porn website instead.

The site, http://www.beautifulpilipinas.com, was taken down on Tuesday, just a day after it was launched by the tourism department, said Evelyn Macayayong, interim head of the ministry's tourist information office. Critics panned the decision to use the local spelling of the country's name, warning that a site with a very similar web address was pornographic.

Macayayong said the domain name would be changed, but the main reason the site was pulled was that readers had pointed out other errors. "We are currently editing some grammatical and typographical errors on the write-ups, which have been observed by our readers," said Macayayong. "Most of these have been lifted from the old website as well as affiliate sites such as those of the regional and overseas offices. The revised version will be ready as soon as the corrections are made."

The rebranding itself — which featured a candy-coloured logo including the slogan, a coconut tree, an endangered primate called a tarsier, the sun and waves — also came in for criticism. Some called for the country's eight-year-old tourism slogan, "Wow Philippines", to be brought back. Posts on networking sites about the "Pilipinas Kay Ganda" (Philippines What a Beauty) website described it as "bland," and "lacking punch".

Filipino tourism industry pundit Ivan Henares wrote on his popular blog, "Ivan About Town": "I can't understand why (we) want to get rid of a brand our country has worked so hard to build and invested so much money on." In response, Macayayong referred AFP to Tourism Minister Alberto Lim's speech at Monday's launch. "It is a radical departure from what our neighbours are doing, and to the faint of heart, a bit risky," Lim had said, defending the rebranding as a result of market research conducted by an unnamed major advertising firm. Macayayong said she could not say when a revised version of the new website would be back up.

The Philippines has been struggling to shake off its image as an unsafe destination after a botched police rescue of foreign tourists seized in a bus by a dismissed policeman in August that left eight Hong Kong residents dead. The ministry said in a statement that tourist arrivals in the eight months to August were up 15 percent from a year earlier to 2.3 million. Lim said he was confident the ministry would attain its full-year target of 3.3 million arrivals, from just over three million in 2009, even though the government expects some fallout from the hostage fiasco. "Even if we incur a slowdown in the months following the hostage-taking incident, we are optimistic that November and December figures will be on the rebound as historical peak periods," Lim added.

Source: Breitbart AFP.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 7:47 pm 
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Philippine police arrest 36 in cybersex raid
11 January 2011

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Thirty-six people have been arrested in the Philippines for illegally selling Internet sex to web users in the United States, authorities said Tuesday.

The 36 were arrested in a raid on Monday on a supposed Internet cafe that was actually being used to sell pictures and videos of naked women to US clients, said local police officer Myra Sapa.

Those detained would chat with clients via online messaging, posing as women and offering to disrobe and perform live sex acts in front of a webcam, said Sapa, based in the northern city of Dinalupihan where the raid took place. "They would talk about sex and nudity until they convinced their clients to give them their credit card account number. Then they would send pictures and videos," she said. "They pretended that they were these people on the videos. But it was not them. They were giving pre-recorded videos."

It was not known who the actual women on the videos were, said Sapa, adding they were not among those arrested in the raid. The 36 face charges of distributing obscene material and for trafficking of women, Sapa said. If found guilty, they face years in jail. Sapa said some men were among the 36 detained, and they had been posing as women when chatting online to the US clients. However she said the majority of those detained were women.

Cybersex dens, where women also disrobe and perform sex acts in return for payment from foreign viewers over the Internet, have become a growing problem in the impoverished Philippines, according to law enforcers and social workers.

The National Bureau of Investigation's computer crimes chief, Migdonio Congzon, told AFP in a recent interview that authorities were conducting raids on cybersex dens almost every week. However the number of people arrested in Monday's raid made it one of the biggest to have been reported in the Philippines.

Source: Breitbart AFP.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 5:38 am 
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Girls lured into Philippine cybersex industry
3 March 2011
By Kate McGeown

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Kim and Maricel (not their real names) were forced to work as cybersex chat girls in the city of Olongapo

Maricel is a shy, attractive girl, who looks younger than her 15 years. But in her short life, she has already had to deal with experiences that would badly scar many adults.

Two years ago her aunt told her about a job in the city of Olongapo, several hours away from her home. "She told me I would be working as a domestic helper and a babysitter," said Maricel. "But when I got there, she told me to dress up and go in front of the computer. She even showed me how to do it - so I had no choice but to follow her instructions." Maricel had become what is known here as a "cybersex chat girl". Her friend Kim was soon lured into the same trap, and worked alongside her.

"We did a show in front of the camera, using a webcam and a phone," said Kim. "When the customers requested us to show our bodies, we removed our clothes… If they were satisfied with our show, they requested us for another show."

Cybersex den raid

Cybersex, or sexually explicit chat over the internet, is a growing industry in many parts of the world - and one of the countries where business is booming is the Philippines. An already established sex trade, high levels of poverty and a population that speaks at least basic English means there is a ready supply of girls.

Neither the police nor the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) have accurate statistics, but they estimate that thousands could be working in the back rooms and small apartments that are the usual locations of these so-called cybersex dens.

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Lesley Ermata outside the cybersex den she raided and found six girls in various states of undress

All internet sex is classed as pornography and therefore illegal in the Philippines, but what most concerns the authorities is the number of girls who are trafficked into these dens - many of whom, like Maricel and Kim, are well under 18, the legal age of consent.

The plight of these girls is a major concern for Lesley Ermata, a police officer specialising in women's issues. She is based in Angeles City which, like Olongapo, has a thriving sex tourism industry. "It's one of the main problems we face here," she told me, as we got into the car on the way to a small one-storey house about 10 minutes from the police station.

Last year, she raided this building with a group of colleagues, and found six girls in various states of undress. The youngest was just 13. From the outside, there is nothing to suggest this house is any different from all the others around it. It is on a busy suburban street, with a shop on the corner - many people pass by every day. The landlady of the building, who also lives next door, denied she had any idea that it was being used as a cybersex den. In fact she said she had never even met any of the six girls who were working there.

Whether neighbours genuinely do not know what is going on, or whether they choose to remain silent, is a matter of debate. But either way, the fact that these cybersex dens are so hidden away makes it very difficult for the police to find them.

Ms Ermata says her team is almost entirely reliant on informants - the rare girls who have escaped and are brave enough to speak out, and also have enough evidence for the police to obtain a search warrant. "We were able to raid this house because we had an informant who'd just escaped. She had a cellphone - she had videoed the other chat girls when they were online so she had evidence."

'Go to hell'

But even when the police are able to raid a cybersex den, there is no guarantee they will be able to find the owners. "As of now, we don't have the capability to trace where the operations are being conducted," said Migdonio Congzon, the head of the computer crimes unit at the NBI.

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Migdonio Congzon, the head of the computer crimes unit at the NBI Migdonio says it is difficult to trace where the operations are being conducted from

"They already use proxy servers; their websites are [often] hosted by a system outside the Philippines." And he added that even if he did manage to track down the cybersex bosses, he faced another uphill battle in trying to convict them. "The laws are really behind. There have been cases filed before the prosecutors' office, but the case goes to the prosecutors before it goes to court and as far as I know all those cases are still with the prosecutors' office."

In other words, he is yet to hear of a single conviction. Perhaps the biggest problem Mr Congzon faces is that many members of public simply do not realise this is a serious issue - often involving under-age, trafficked girls. Cybersex operations here have even likened themselves to call centres, saying they are part of the outsourcing industry - a sector which is booming in the Philippines. The call centre industry is distancing itself as far as possible from these claims.

For Kim and Maricel, working in this industry was an experience from which they will need time and space to recover. They have now left the cybersex business. Their den was raided late last year, and they are in the care of a charity in Olongapo called Preda, which is run by an Irish priest. But the memories of the men who paid them to perform in front of a camera are still fresh in their minds.

"I felt embarrassed every time I saw them in front of a computer - I hated them because I felt that I was a child, so why were they doing this to me," said Maricel. Kim was more concise. "I hate them - I want them to die and go to hell".

The names of the girls have been changed for their own protection.

Source: BBC News.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2011 8:08 am 
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Gay groups oppose anti-condom ordinance
30 March 2011

MANILA, Philippines — Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender rights (LGBT) activists cried foul over proposed ordinances restricting the sale, distribution and use of condoms in several villages in Balanga, Bataan and Muntinlupa City.

Goya Candelario, spokesperson of the Progressive Organization of Gays (ProGay Philippines), said that the group opposes the successive passage of local ordinances that require consumers to obtain medical prescriptions for acquiring condoms in Manila and in Bataan.

"This is such a dangerous trend, coming at a time when HIV infections in the Philippines have suddenly increased in the past two years. Making it difficult for most at risk populations or MARPs to obtain preventive measures such as condoms can surely promote more transmission of HIV and parallel infections," Candelario said.

The group said that condom ordinances in Bataan would increase the sense of shame and discrimination that LGBTs suffer, raising the likelihood that young and low income gays would practice unprotected sex.

An ABS-CBN report earlier said 7 barangays in Balanga City in Bataan province have issued ordinances that ban the sale of condoms without a doctor's prescription, similar to the one in barangay Ayala Alabang in Muntinlupa City.

ProGay, meanwhile, backed the passage of the comprehensive Reproductive Health bill in Congress. ProGay said that although LGBT health concerns are not yet highlighted in in HB 4244, any positive reproductive health measure can eventually benefit LGBTs as some services, education campaigns and benefits can be tailored by creative local governments to cater to the special needs of LGBTs.

"Gays and lesbians are also members of poor families and caring and providing for health needs that are part of our burdens. If the RH Bill is passed, that would provide a little government assistance for health care, lessening costs which can then be channeled for education, housing and food," Candelario explained.

Source: ABS CBN.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 30, 2011 4:05 am 
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Ladlad marks first year of legal victory, honors SC
By Jerome Aning
10 April 2011

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MANILA, Philippines — The country"s first officially recognized lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political party, the Ladlad (loosely translated, Out-of-the-Closet) Party-list, celebrated Friday the anniversary of a Supreme Court decision that allowed the group to participate in last year"s legislative elections.

Ladlad officers and members converged at Plaza Salamanca near Rizal Park in Manila to honor 13 justices who voted to nullify a ruling by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that barred their group from fielding a candidate for a seat in the House of Representatives through the party-list system. Ladlad chair Bemz Benedito said the party was busy expanding its ranks and boosting its outreach program in order that the group could win House representation after the 2013 mid-term polls.

The 13th card

The group marched to the Supreme Court building and delivered 12 thank-you cards to the justices. A 13th card was reserved for retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who headed the tribunal when the decision was issued on April 8, 2010.

"We thank you for applying the Constitution and laws, unprejudiced by public opinion, and confident in the knowledge that our democracy is resilient enough to withstand vigorous debate. That very decision vindicated us of discrimination and detest," Ladlad"s letter said. "We thank you for upholding equal protection and for recognizing our interest in participating in the party-list system on the same basis as other marginalized and underrepresented sectors. The recognition gave us dignity and self-esteem," it added.

Pink balloons

The group also released 50 pink balloons printed with messages saying "Happy Birthday" to the party and thanking a "dignified" Supreme Court.

The tribunal had reversed a decision by a Comelec majority to withhold accreditation to the group which it said promoted immorality, was offensive to established religions and might corrupt the youth.

Benedito said the group was determined to improve its campaign in 2013 because it failed to get a seat in 2010. It managed to get some 114,000 votes, placing 68th among the 187 groups that contested party-list seats. Benedito noted that in 2010, Protestant churches backed Ladlad, while the Roman Catholic hierarchy gave the party conditional approval.

Roman Catholic canon law regards homosexual desires as "intrinsically disordered" and homosexual acts as a sin against natural law, life and chastity. The church, however, condemns unjust discrimination against homosexuals.

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer.

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