By Alisa Tang
BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the Philippines face extortion, violence and rape when seeking help from the police and do not trust law enforcement officers to protect them, a rights group said.
A report detailing police abuses against LGBT people says police officers often assume that gay men and transgender women are sex workers, and deny assistance to them.
It also noted police bias in domestic violence cases involving lesbian couples, in which the more "butch" partner is automatically assumed to be the perpetrator.
"It is really bad because you don't see the police as an institution where you can get protection," said Ging Cristobal, author of the report and prominent Filipina activist working with New York-based rights group OutRight Action International.
"The motto of Philippines National Police is 'to serve and protect', but in terms of the information we get, it's exactly the opposite," she said in a Skype interview from Manila.
Philippines Police Chief Superintendent Wilben Mayor said police are instructed to respect all people, regardless of race, religion and gender.
"We do not discriminate against the LGBT community in our police operations, in making arrests or in assisting them in whatever way the police could," he said.
"We have a human rights office that helps the leadership craft policies and operational procedures that protect and respect human rights, not only for the LGBT but for all people, especially the accused," he added.
The report said a lack of guidelines on dealing with LGBT people in the Philippines police's operational handbook means officers are "left to use their personal judgment" when frisking, making arrests and detaining LGBT people.
Transgender women may be patted down by male officers and detained in male cells without consideration for their safety. Transgender men may be groped to see if they have breasts, though some have not have had a mastectomy, Cristobal said.
The report said one gay man went to police after being raped was laughed at and asked, "Isn't that what you want?"
In another case, a gay man was picked up for sex by an officer, who ordered him to perform oral sex, then robbed him of his watch and money, the report said.
The victim reported the incident to his brother, an officer in another city, and the offending policeman was arrested to face charges of rape, robbery and usurpation of authority, it said.
LGBT people who have kept their sexual orientation or gender identity secret from family, school authorities, friends and colleagues are vulnerable to police extortion, the study said.
Yet many abuses go unreported.
"No one wants to file a complaint against police because they can't trust police will conduct an investigation against co-police officers, so impunity happens," Cristobal said.
The report called for the Philippines National Police to amend its operations handbook to include specific procedures for sensitive handling of LGBT people, particularly during body searches and detention.
It also recommends that police academies teach students about issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity.
(Reporting by Alisa Tang @alisatang, additional reporting by Manuel Mogato in Manila, editing by Ros Russell and Katie Nguyen; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)