What happens to gay men when they're drunk? For a police officer investigating the Christine Dacera case, they act like straight men. This sparked a flurry of TikTok videos and memes. More importantly, it started a conversation on sexual orientation and gender identity.
For the police, it pointed to foul play: drunk gay men will still want women. For the men who were questioned over Dacera's death it's a defense: they couldn't possibly have sex with her because they're gay.
"It’s misinformed, misleading and dangerously malicious. Such hasty conclusion exposes the PNP’s lack of understanding and appreciation of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIE)," said Perci Cendana, president of Babaylanes, Inc., the alumni arm of UP Babaylan.
"How can the PNP ensure due process when they obviously have these preconceived notions against gay people? We call on the PNP to ensure due process, and integral to this is a correct understanding of SOGIE," he said.
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It's not that simple
The viral remark came from Col. Harold Depositar, the police chief of Makati City. It was among the first official comments after news broke that the PAL Express flight attendant was found dead in her hotel room bathtub after a New Year's Eve party with two rooms full of gay men.
"Lalake pa din sila. May instinct ‘yan, lalo na if you’re under the influence of intoxicating alcohol tapos kung may presence of drugs ‘yan, 'di lalo na," Depositar said.
One of the respondents, Gigo de Guzman, later responded on national TV: It's not that simple.
"'Yan po ang opinyon niya pero para sa akin po, ako po ay part ng LGBT community at sinasabi kong hindi ganon kasimple ang sinasabi niya," de Guzman told Teleradyo.
The exchange triggered a show of support from the LGBT community, in Tiktok videos and memes. Although it was done in jest, the message was clear: homosexuality isn't a light switch one can easily turn on and off.
Why it's not that simple
Apart from dismissing the diversity of sexual orientation, the police statement also normalizes such behavior by men towards women, the Commission on Human Rights said.
It also distracts from the task of properly inquiring into a possible case of gender–based violence, they said.
"Statements like this, especially if they come from state authorities, show utter lack of sensitivity and understanding on issues pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity," CHR said.
Where it went wrong
The Makati Prosecutor's Office ordered the release of the three detained persons linked to Dacera's death upon determining that evidence wasn't enough to charge them for rape with homicide. A new investigation started on Jan. 13.
The PNP's initial findings of a rape-slay also put Dacera's friends on trial before social media. Gen. Debold Sinas, the PNP chief, declared the case "solved" with the initial arrests.
In the Teleradyo interview, De Guzman said he did not make sexual advances towards Dacera, nor did he see anyone do it. He even disclosed his sexual history as further proof that he was gay.
"Never po akong nagkaroon ng sexual relations sa isang babae. Never po akong tinayuan sa isang babae. Palagi pong lalake, marami pong makakatestify niyan," he said.
Valentine Rosales, another person of interest, said the incident forced him to finally come out to his family just so he could justify his innocence.
While crime of rape can be committed regardless of the sexual orientation of the perpetrator, CHR said the police's initial statements on rape and sexual orientation were "hasty" conclusions with consequences that could have been prevented by a thorough investigation.
"The otherwise private lives of the victim and the alleged perpetrators would not have been thrust to the limelight. There would have been no need to talk about Christine’s actuations," it said.
"There would have been no need for the alleged perpetrators to disclose their sexual orientation in desperation to defend themselves," it said.
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Privacy rights lawyer Jamael Jacob said the PNP's disclosure of persons of interests' sexual orientation is also a violation of their privacy.
"The burden is on the police to explain their legal basis, and even the propriety or necessity of disclosing this particular bit of information to the public," he said.
"If the PNP cannot justify their actions, then any aggrieved party may also file a complaint with the National Privacy Commission or the Department of Justice, especially if it caused them harm or damage," he said.