Last edited: November 08, 2003
Shameful Arrest Silences Gay "Bagong Bayani"
Philippines, May 28, 1998
By Oscar Atadero
JOHN PAUL (not his real name) finally came home from Qatar where he spent
seven and a half months in a detention cell on charges of sodomy. Fanning
himself furiously to ward off the sadistic heat of El Niño at his
family's hovel in Tondo, Manila, John Paul related his ordeal to Pro-Gay's
Oscar Atadero amidst the noise of a feast for a patron saint in progress
The media reported a mass arrest of 33 Filipino males in October 1997.
Trying to prevent another case as controversial as Sarah Balabagan's
dramatic trial, the labor attaché assigned by the Philippine embassy
repeatedly reprimanded John Paul because he wrote his mother home
complaining of the negligence.
"I have been a barber there for four years now, and not long after
I came back to Qatar, that was one day in November, the workers in the
street where my sponsor's salon is located came in to say the police were
arresting overseas contract workers (OCWs) for different reasons. From our
door, I saw them hauling many Filipinos and other Asians into police cars.
The next day, they came back and I was surprised when one policeman
pointed to me and without saying a word, gestured to me to take a ride in
one of those cars. I had no choice but to go with them, I didn't even have
the chance to say goodbye to my sponsor (employer)."
He said there were no warrants of arrest for him and the many others
taken to the CID, which he thinks means something like "Criminal
Investigation Department." The detention cells were teeming with men
and women from different nations, arrested for charges of robbery,
prostitution, trade of liquor and drugs, substance abuse and homicides.
At the CID, he and others like him charged with the catch-all term
"homosexuality" was forced to submit to a rectal examination by
a Qatari medical technician in order to find out if he was engaging in
anal sex. He was deemed positive and ordered jailed until he can be
deported back to the Philippines. Topping his tribulations was 40 lashes
on his buttocks with a whip, administered by a police officer inside a
"It could have been worse, I heard in other countries, gays are
whipped in public places. Another Filipino arrested with me got 100. But I
don't think the rectal examinations are foolproof. I know a gay who was
very notorious in having sex most of his spare time, but he passed the
test and went free. Another man who is not gay, he does not even go out,
he was tested and accused of homosexuality."
John Paul said word has it that among crowds in the after-hours,
streetlife in Doha, the capital city, people who want to earn extra, spy
on their fellow OCWs and submit to the authorities information about
careless people, for about 100 dinars per suspect turned in. Gay men
cruise openly in the shopping areas abandoned during night time and the
spies may be gay or not.
The 32 other Filipino men arrested for the same charge got home as early
as January because either their sponsors or relatives back home were quick
to produce the air fare to get them home. John Paul had to beg his sponsor
to come up with the money, since he didn't earn enough in the two months
he worked, while back home, his mother didn't know where to get some. His
seven other siblings were either unemployed or earning just enough to feed
their respective broods.
His only alternative, attention from the case workers hired by the
Department of Foreign Affairs, was sorely lacking. He claims not being
shown any documents from either the Philippine or Qatari side all
throughout his detention.
"I think his bosses in Manila may have scolded him after my mother
went to a radio commentator to ask for help. He got angry at me, told me
not to bring this to the attention of anybody again or he will let go of
my case totally. He said not even the President can help me if I made
another public noise again," John Paul said. Still, the
frustrated gay OCW refused to reveal to us the name of the case worker,
because he is honoring a promise he made to shut up.
But the real motive behind his self-imposed silence is part economic,
partly because of the stigma that might pursue him if he decided to
publicize his case. Already he fears of being permanently banned from the
Islamic countries in the Middle East, because five copies of fingerprints
and handprints were taken from him.
"People say that if they did that to you, the other prints will be
sent to the other conservative governments in the Middle East. If I try to
go back to any of those countries under a changed name, I may even be
jailed again for falsification of documents. My only choice is Italy or
Japan, where the pay is not that attractive and the competition is
Part of his prison diary was being raped by a Palestinian co-detainee.
He didn't want to report the incident, but the guards learned from other
prisoners anyway. Instead of punishing the rapist, the jail warden
threatened to torture John Paul if he refused to reveal the details of the
rape and admit it was his fault.
Like many migrant workers simply seeking a respite from the gross
inability to be gainfully employed here, John Paul viewed his misadventure
as a part of his fate over which an ordinary mortal has no control. "I
was just unlucky that I came back to Qatar during a promotions year in the
police force. They say that if a low ranking has an ambition but lacks
formal schooling, he has to compensate by catching more criminals."
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