Thursday, October 6, 2016

from deathbed and beyond

I was going boing boing boing at 4 a.m. a while ago because efavirenz high is taking over me. Until a fellow pozzie (let's call him A, hereafter) messaged me, "Si partner na stroke."

There was a sudden stop to whatever fantasizing I'm having in my head. It turned out that what I read was real and A's non-positive partner is in the hospital's ICU--already revived twice.

If that is not already heartbreaking, what was more devastating is that A (as I grasped it from his story) could be somewhere in the waiting room of the hospital because of a "family-only" policy. Sakit 'di ba? For eight years of love and bliss, still you are not a "family."

At 4 a.m., while I am floating in my head with stupid ideations, here I have a friend whose heart is crushed when he told me: "I don't know what to do without him." The weight of those words decimated my entirety.

It didn't take too long when I recalled this one discussion the class had in Persons and Family Law--area of civil law where we discuss relations of the family from cradle to grave. We were already at the last stretch of the course, talking about "Provisions on Funerals" when I, in my curiosity and operating from a same-sex point of view, asked my professor if only legal spouses are allowed to have the finaly say about the funeral rites of their beloved.

My professor agreed. Jurisprudence-wise, the Supreme Court in the recent case of Valino v. Adriano (G.R. No. 182894, 2014), the Court said that "Even if a deceased person has validly expressed his wish to be buried at the mausoleum of his paramour’s family, the deceased’s legal wife has the legal right to bury the deceased elsewhere, because the deceased’s wishes are compulsory only with respect to the ‘form’ of his funeral" (Link here).

The reason is simple: Philippine family law does not recognize common law unions, except in the case of co-ownership. But in the sentimental and often highly emotional area of funeral and last wishes, it will be the legal spouse which will have the final say.

At this rate, who are those who should fix the funerals? In the strict order given by the Civil Code (Art. 305 in relation to Art. 199), the following are: (1) The spouse; (2) The descendants in the nearest degree; (3) The ascendants in the nearest degree; and (4) The brothers and sisters.

Unfortunately, the "spouse" there must be the legitimate civil spouse, not the common-law spouse. So imagine yourself being entrusted with your lover's final words and after your lover's passing, you tell his mother (your "mother-in-law), "Tita, gusto daw po niyang ipa-cremate." With a blink of an eye, you can expect that what you just said will be thrown at the backburner because being only the gay lover of your gay husband, you are not the legal spouse. Sounds like, Mano Po, right? Yes'm.

It's not a stretch of thought to consider that two men living under one roof beneath the banner of eternal love is still common law union. Common law unions are those only consented between two people without the benefit of any law. Short to say, they just shacked up; cannot avail of tax breaks, the surviving spouse do not have the strong right to enforce what the deceased spouse said in articulo mortis (at the point of death), and other benefits accorded to man and woman who tied the knot with the sanctity of law (i.e. civil union). Nil. Nada. Zilch. Because they're only common law and the law still looks at their civil statuses as "single" persons.

The few slivers of my wakefulness went out to A and his partner on the context of civil unions. I've had too many what if's that tired my brain and fortunately lulled me to sleep. But the fact remains that sometimes, even if no matter how proud we are to put into Twitter trending #LoveWins, still Love is short when the might of Law is flexed.

For common law unions (and here is where same-sex unions are right now because we don't have same-sex marriage or civil unions yet) even if, say, I can attest to the truth that my hubby wants to be cremated, I have no right if my words are pitched against the family of my lover, who may want the body of my hubby otherwise like buried in their family lot or wherever.

My point being is, factor in the sentimentality of "til death do us apart" in most marriage vows, same-sex unions cannot fully have this advantage because Philippine laws do not recognize them. And I think that let alone the squabbling over tax, co-ownership, adoption and whathaveyou's, the bitter end of it all is that, isn't it human nature to leave our final words about what to do with our corpse to the person who has this infinite and immeasurable respect and love for us from deathbed and beyond?

Let's not quibble over what it's supposed to be called: same-sex marriage, legal partnerships, civil unions. The lawmakers are off to that debate. But what we need just about now is the protective mantle of law so that at the end, whatever happen to our bodies, that one great love in our lifetime is honored enough to do it for us--respected by the people around us and supported with what the law vests.

P.S. A's partner is now in a better condition. And his story is posted here with proper permission.

P.P.S. Dami kong feels while writing this. Shet.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

drunken ambition

I talked to a poz who was a former law student and somehow all the stress that I endured since the start of law school was validated. As much as misery loves company, blood brothers are thicker than water. Short of it, all this studying is really a CD4-count stressor. It's literally draining

Just about right now, my lymph nodes are swollen again. No illness. No colds. No cough. I just figured while I was taking a bath that my nodes were swollen. I’m way past hypochondriac already. It’s wasn’t yesterday when I just submitted to the heaven that for whatever I have to endure, may the Heaven provide where I am falling short of.

But this semester is just unbelievable pressure. Worth it, but stressful. As much as I’m keeping up with my academic demands, my insomnia has gotten worse from 4 a.m. to a sorry breaking dawn. I kind of pity-partied one afternoon when I had to absent for Civil Procedure because I really cannot get up. And that one time, also during a Monday, when I was awake for 40 hours straight.

I told A that I have high regards for him for not bargaining his health. As for me, I do not know yet. I do not know the source of this illusory confidence that makes me overwhelmingly confident to put my health at the brink of what is also a noble pursuit to finish my legal studies. I just don’t want to feel cheated on an opportunity, I guess.

I am in love with what I am doing. And in the advice of a good professor, I think I am still built for this because I cannot see myself elsewhere anymore. Even my gift for words kowtow with this study. Then again, as I told A (and as I am equally surprised for having said it) I hope this won’t be, in the end, a drunken ambition.

2.13 a.m.
Somewhere in Manila

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

unsent letter #1009

I stand here before the acrid smell of flame as I watch in dismay your red flag hoisted over the horizon. A heart belonging to everyone; hence, to no one. What led me to this cleansing fire was a semblance of bliss. You, who are forever engulfed by the whirlwind of failed attempts, who caressed hearts because of your faulty devices--and mine too. Whitewashed walls insulating the entire forbidding of the city noise, the tolling of a portentous omen. Even my own conscience gone unheard against the faint ticking of these ungodly hours. But we were atheists; without god, just men, and our hands that snaked through each other's valleys which appeared to have been traversed a million times--well, a million it was, but by different snakes.

I would have prayed and finally asked for God's forgiveness before making the leap of faith. I could have. I would have. I was willing. And still to this day I am. But as I stand before this pyre that will forgive my penchant to break hearts, and as well, will beatify the bottles of glue I turned inside out for putting mine back to its peace, still I am never too sure. Trust was something so inspirational it's priceless. But ours came in a box of three. Or at least, a better brand of it.

4:09 p.m. Somewhere on Taft Avenue.

Thursday, August 4, 2016


One plus one is two. Two plus one will not always be three.

I was reading Resident Marine Mammals v. Reyes during a date* because somehow he made me feel secure that even if I would go back to my reading in what is supposed to be a date, it doesn't matter to him. Somehow though, I feel queasy because I never learned how to divide my time between a person who I like who's just sitting across me and my work. Felt like every underline I make, I was moving towards the edge of my seat. I was gaining track in my reading when he said, I'm not sure if this is the right time to tell you this.

From those words alone, that seems to be a bad news. And bad news does not have any good time. I felt a cold fire draining in me. That "arctic perspiration, bugs in your feet, shovels in your guts" kind of self-awareness and said: "Okay, c'mon let's hear it," I said. He fumbled for a while and guess what, I was thinking to myself, "Please, tell me your positive too." But of course that's long shot because I knew since that he was not.

I and my boyfriend are not yet technically off.

"RIGHT." I placed back the cap of the pen, rested it in front of me, and God I was looking at him and at the same time can't see him. I rested for a good second trying to marinade myself through the words he just uttered. And somehow it felt like if I did one more underline on that paper right at that moment of revelation, the end of that stroke will push me off the edge of the universe.

I'm no scene maker. In every problems I face I try to be very diplomatic, compromising and level-headed. Like every obviously nerve-wracked guy but trying to calm and compose himself, the first question is why. Finally, he opened up like a book. He toured me around the edges of his scars. He showed his vulnerable side (or at least he tried to because he said he never like looking like a vulnerable saint to anybody) and somehow I got it. But I saw how we both pined. How our pains showed in our forced smiles. Truly, not all smiles are happy ones.

Of course, for someone like me who's really attracted to this sweet guy, I have to protect my lot. But it's no brainer. I saw the line, and being the would-be lawyer, right-versus-wrong, black-versus-white kind of guy that I am, I have to observe proper formalities. There is no dude in distress in this setup. There's no knight in shining armor. Only men who are trapped in what is a confusing and sad mid- to late-twenties dilemma.

(Don't ask about us right now. I invoke my right to privacy and to be let alone.)

Looking back, what actually makes me chuckle as I write this is that, somehow the order of problems that I can take has be shuffled. When he told me that he had something to tell me, the first thing that crossed my mind is he could have my condition too. But I was wrong. There was a far more unnerving problem that I could only imagine.

I guess that's the beauty of time healing us. For one person, he's much equipped to handle a third wheel dilemma than the guy he likes having HIV. But since it's been years that I have this condition, it's like the order of the "problems-I-can-handle" has been re-stacked. Imagine every kind of problem as a piece of wood in Jenga and HIV is now at the topmost. It's not as crushing as it was before. It's not hard for me to accept someone who has HIV anymore.

But surely, there are more problems to this world. I still can figure in a sideswipe accident as if I'm walking on the blind side of the road.


Yesterday night, I'm reading Ui v. Bonifacio. I know the story from before because it was already used as a reading in one of our classes. I laugh at the humor the world is telling me.

Essentially, what happened is Carlos Ui told Atty. Iris Bonifacio that he is single so they hit it off and had two kids. Later on, here comes now Leslie Ui confronting Atty Bonifacio and revealing to the lawyer that Carlos is a married man. Upon knowing the truth, broken and damned Iris fled to Hawaii and cut off all his relations and connections with Carlos, save it for the necessary support and filiation over her two daughters with Carlos. On the other side of the world, Leslie, a woman as hurt as Iris is, filed a disbarment case against Atty Bonifacio for immorality.

The Supreme Court ruled that Iris needed more compassion than condemnation. Reminds me of Haruki Murakami's line in Kafka on the Shore: "In travel, companion. In life, compassion."

Now tell me: should I head now for Hawaii and clear my head? Haha!

*Date /n/ : I am all about semantics. I don't call the first meet-up as "date." It's only a meet-up. So since I used the word "date" it's not the first time we went out. The connection is somehow there. We're just trying to figure things out.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

unsent letter #0913

Dear You,

I'm not sure how many times someone wrote you a letter on a random blog. And I hope it is as frequent enough so you can tame whatever thunder it is in my chest right now. I hope it is as frequent enough because I do not know how to handle myself right now the moment the sunlight seeped through my window.

There's a different kind of pain in my left wrist. When I would rotate it, it gives off a certain kind of mild discomfort. And a certain kind of addiction. An addicting pain, if I must say, that if I forget its feeling, I'd rotate my wrist again and welcome the sedating anguish it brings. Sometimes, I would want to feel a controlled level of pain to know that I'm alive.

At this hour yesterday, all my senses are heightened. Notwithstanding the film before us, I was searching for you through the dark. But I wasn't looking at you. If I must say in the creepiest way you can think about me, I was figuring you out through the blindness. I was listening if you were breathing. I was catching the air around you, searching for your scent that mixes with popcorn in the air. (You see, I have always believed that the sense of smell brings the most nostalgic memories of all the senses.) And I was at the edge of my existence whenever you'd shuffle your feet, as if two more layers of myself need to restrain me. I don't know why. Or maybe I do? Ask my wrist.

You see, it took me months to be there before you. For the longest time I taught myself to make amends with the man who I really am, the man I am afraid of. The same man who held hostage my heart and the only bargain that I have to do to get it back is to promise him that I will take care of myself, of my heart, this time. That I will keep it behind high walls and just allow it to spend a quiet time on its own.

But yesterday afternoon, my walls were breached. Every piece of brick is giving away. The fault line that is my chest starts to move: as you breath, as you chuckle, as you shuffle your feet, as your scent descends, as I see some of your wounds throughout the afternoon. You see, it is hard to leave a man in peace when the war is something in him. And I cannot demand any apology from you. I brought it upon myself. Or maybe, I wasn't too strong for myself. I could have pacified myself for the stir you bring in me but I cannot blame you for starting the silent wars in me over something as natural as the way you exhale. It is no one's but my fault. I wasn't too strong for you.

So allow me to pine in the most gentleman of way. To begin myself with a prayer each morning, asking God to shut down my inner eyes. Because my memory searches for you in the orbit of your absence. The way you smiled. The way you looked far off as if gazing at a lingering thought that appears 50 feet away from you. The way your face caught the yellow somber light of the cafe. Or how honest you are as you tell me about the wounds of your heart.

I could only hold back myself for far too long. I could only keep my pretensions at bay. When you asked, "Ihahatid mo ko?" God knows that I would want to even there right before your doorstep, even if it takes me past midnight. But my angel was alarmed that I could be heading off to a ravine that I cannot climb out of. So I'd rather said I'll just walk straight ahead and find my way back home. You should have seen how a legion of God's army saved me from a portentous crash. So I went on to choose what's right over what's happy. I always do. And you know what? It sucks most time.

You do not owe me an apology. I owe myself one. I owe myself for being too overconfident enough about my feelings, about my gilded lies, about my cocky idea of self-preservation but allowing myself to be a bait for the trap. For an ISTJ, I was overwhelmed by you and so my Thinking flew right off the window only to find myself drowning with so much emotions in my chest I don't even know how to stay afloat.

A while ago, as I lay in bed, drenched in a late morning thought,  I asked myself, why does it rain? And for some goddam reason, I thought, maybe because the sky has taken so much water and magnificence out of the sea, that all it wants is to embrace the vast blue, but his reach couldn't hug him; and for that failure, he weeps; it rains.

The sky is dark. Probably it will rain again. Maybe the sky just wanted to be thankful for seeing so much beauty from the sea, it doesn't know how to pay back because it is afraid of himself. It made a pact with the universe not to dip itself too close to the sea lest the cosmos would turn topsy turvy. So he allows it to rain. To remind himself of his beautiful hurt. Like the pain in my wrist whenever I'd rotate it: a pain that resembles my defeat whenever I'd remember how you smile, how you smelled like, how everything in you was too much for myself.

So you see, should we meet again, and see me rotating my wrist, humor me. Do not ask. Do not point it out. Act as if you saw nothing. I just want to make sure that I'm alive, that I know how pain feels like and how remembering you when you're gone, when some Friday night is over once again, should be as natural as the rain pouring.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

the man

Be afraid of the man who you really are. The one that lurks in the crevices of this city at broad daylight. He who waylays past the corner of the street waiting to ambush you with the truth you hide so well. Be afraid of him whenever you go out with your friends on a Saturday night. Whenever you're asked about the matters of your heart, you scoff. A scoff that laments the history of your jaded heart. A scoff punctuated by a manufactured strength, a strength, or a pretense which prophesies to the world that you need no loving arms to caress you or to listen at your whims before he doze off to sleep.

But that man who you really are, the man that peeled himself off of you, oh he, he laughs at you with derision. "Are you kidding me?" He knows you melt whenever you receive a random message from a boy. He knows you trail off with wishful thinking. He knows and has observed how you bleed with pride. He knows your truth. He knows that for every scrub of soap you do when you take your morning bath, you cannot wash off your desire from your skin. The man who you really are knows how many lies got stuck in your throat, how you reel in surprise whenever he doffs his hat to greet you on a random night through an attractive face, how many songs you still want to believe that underpins love as your prime virtue, how you pine for a name, how bad you want for Pandora's box to finally open itself wide and find love with his strong hands receiving you.

Be afraid of the man who you really are. The tall, lanky man that trips you whenever you feel like everything is falling in place. He who tucks you in at night with a blanket of thoughts. The things that you repress hence the things that you dream about. He who has bloodshot eyes and grating voice. He who taunts at all your bedtime prayers, saying, "But by Jove, I am your final honesty alight in the dark." Be afraid of him. For only you know him. And he knows you. And your lifetime familiarity has bred loving contempt between the two of you, especially when you and him meet eye to eye before the mirror.

Be afraid of him. No one else but him. No one else.

And for all this pretense, I am, and always been, afraid of him.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

unsent letter #5430: An Open Letter to the HIV Negatives I will Reject in the Future

Dear You,

I am issuing this apology because I know by the time I suddenly went dead in your radar, I haven't given you an explanation nor a clue about my sudden coldness and eventual disappearance in your life. You see I have a Ph.D. in slinking away through the night from a person whose attraction is too enormous for me, and what I only have for him are a couple of pennies and dimes.

But for you, yes you, you beautiful healthy HIV-negative you, I have nothing to offer you except the silent footfalls or the ominous clinking of the wind chimes upon your door frame or the last cryptic text message. And suddenly I'm gone. I am writing this to calm my nerves, to put up my defenses that what I did is right because I know I will be leaving you without any closure whatsoever. And I hope that by writing this, whether it reaches you or not, I may pat myself at the back for doing what's best.

At this point, you Sir and I may have gotten past our second date, or have had hundreds of text messages sent or have labored through phone calls lasting until the larks lift the dawn. It doesn't take a genius at this point that somewhere along the lines of our chuckles and hair scratching, the taming process has begun for the two of us. But suddenly I have left you. Not because you're too chatty for my introversion or your flawed (who is not?) or you don't come at par in some of my "Future Boyfriend" checklist. Sometimes, and on this occasion, it's just me.

Everybody stands to be rejected. So much so that it sometimes becomes the core of shame and lack of self-confidence. I have you to know though that for someone like me who's grappling with the love department, I would have not spent so much time with you if I don't like you. I do like you. But I guess, "we" cannot be a word in our dictionaries.

I have my ways of knowing if you want to enter into a relationship with someone like me, a person living with HIV. Of course, take it from me, I'm not going to drop that fact as soon as we start talking. But I assure you I'm extra-sensitive about your position about this health issue. I will listen closely and intently about how you perceive this reality and maybe I can know how you would deal someone like me who is a PLHIV.

Or, if you don't tell me outright, I will have to do it stealthily. I will resurrect names or scenarios to pick your brain out. Maybe I'd tell you (or have told you already) that I am having a dilemma about advising a friend who met a guy who's PLHIV. Maybe I will tell you that my friend likes this PLHIV guy but is afraid of a possible commitment. And somewhere between the lines of hope and fear, of wishing and denying, I will solicit from you a "false" advice which I can give my "friend."

I'm sorry if I have to do it covertly; that is the only way for me to have the purest form of your position about love and HIV, about entering into a relationship with a guy like me. And if I surmise that you fear into committing yourself with a PLHIV like me, what is there for me to hold onto.

I may have not given you the benefit of the doubt, I may have not heard you before I arrive to a decision, I may have banged my gavel one too quickly--because what are the possibilities that I could be your exception to the rule--but the lethal venom of truth cannot be made any gentler by the contortion or bargaining of truth itself. Truth, like bad news, comes boldly; no good timing is enough to prepare for it.

It is for this reason that I have to resort to self-preservation: to preserve you, to preserve me, to prevent us. I could not anymore offer an explanation for walking away because that would defeat my desire to keep my status under wraps. I will just walk away. In the middle of the night. From you. Without a word. The deadest of the night always cloaks whatever intention man has for another. Good or bad, the night remains amoral, conniving, therapeutic. But know in my heart of hearts, I could have wished for you and I. But my walls stand in the way.

I'm sorry if I have to reject you. I know how bloody rejection could be. A good soul tarnished with his crimson tide all over him and feel unworthy. Rejection never comes easily that it becomes the core of shame and lack of self-confidence. But it was not you that I rejected. It was us. If only things were different, I would have not thought twice. Why pile up the walls around me for someone who wants to knock on my door and offer a heap of his soul?

You will never understand why I rejected you when everything seemed to have blossomed. But know that if there were already tiny confessions or bare admissions like roses or petunias or fire trees blooming, they all still grow outside the fortress of my heart. My heart is a secret garden and all my histories built around me high walls. I do walk outside for the sun, to entertain you as a gardener, but my walls remain here to preserve you. My rejection is a self-preservation thing.

So take heed of this: if I reject you, it's not as if I can walk away without any limp or laceration. You are too good that your stars do not deserve an inch to be blackened out. My rejection will first hit you and it will furiously drive itself home to me with a booming thud in my heart.

So I'd rather take the pleasure of being the traitor, the Judas, the "pa-fall." I'd rather take the hit of furious words and never mumble a thing for whatever frustration or pain I may cause you. I'd rather take arrows than have you dragged into this black hole, which even sometimes I am finding it hard to climb out of. You have your light and I'd rather you keep it steadfast for the right person. I am not the right person, and only I know and will ever know that.

I wish you the best and the fittest of health with someone you can always turn to without reproach. Because the last thing I can do is to make you feel as if every kiss is a risk.

Your Could-Be

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

case doctrines in escarcha case

These are the case doctrines--meaning, the teachings which the Supreme Court have laid down in a certain case--in Escarcha v. Leonis Navigation Co. Inc. and World Marine Panama, S.A. (G.R. No. 182740).

Read the full text of Escarcha case here.

The Escarcha case is definitely ruled against the PLHA who already passed away at the time of the ruling. Fair warning, reader: cases filed before the Supreme Court are always read as if such is the first time. So, if there will be another HIV/AIDS-related case that the Court will decide, the Escarcha case is not an automatic stare decisis.

Here are the case doctrines of Escarcha case in relation to our Labor Laws (again, only in relation to Labor Laws):

1. The general acceptation of Republic Act 8504 (HIV/AIDS Law)  is that no discrimination in the workplace should exist.
Section 35 of RA 8504 provides that "Discrimination in any form from pre-employment to post-employment, including hiring, promotion or assignment, based on the actual, perceived or suspected HIV status of an individual is prohibited. Termination from work on the sole basis of actual, perceived or suspected HIV status is deemed unlawful."

2. Substantial pieces of evidence will refute the liberal construction of the Labor Code and special labor laws in favor of employees.
Any conclusion that the the courts or quasi-judicial agencies arrive at with the proper application of the law cannot be swayed by the intent of our laws and jurisprudence to be read liberally in their application to our overseas Filipino workers. Liberal construction is not a license to disregard the evidence on record or to misapply our laws. Stated otherwise, if an employee is found to be transgressing laws despite his condition, the Supreme Court will rule against his favor even if the RA 8504 aims to protect PLHAs and the Labor Code provides protection to employees.

3. Acquisition of HIV/AIDS due to an incident which is not work-related is not compensable, as an exception to RA 8504's general acceptation of non-discrimination. Stated otherwise, any demand of benefits as regards HIV/AIDS against an employer should be work-related.
Death arising from a pre-existing illness, like HIV/AIDS, is not compensable or rewardable especially when it is found that the illness was suppressed or undisclosed as a means to circumvent the law to gain employment. Even if RA 8504 includes "post-employment" as a phase where a person living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA) cannot be discriminated against, if an employee acquired HIV/AIDS through sexual relations with an infected person and not because of his working conditions during the employment period, benefits cannot be rewarded.

4. There must be a rational connection between the worsening condition of a PLHA and the work-related condition or environment the PLHA is in.
AIDS is not listed as an occupational disease both under the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency-Standard Employment Contract (POEA-SEC) and the Employees Compensation Commission (ECC) Rules. Thus, the claimant (e.g. the employee with HIV/AIDS or his/her heirs) bears the burden of reasonably proving the relationship between the work of the deceased and AIDS, or that the risk of contracting AIDS was increased by the working conditions of the deceased.

5. Employer not liable to pay benefits against a PLHA if there is circumvention of the law on the part of the PLHA to gain employment.
If an employer has come to know of an employee's HIV status long after the employee was employed and whose progression did not result in the worsening of his condition--as HIV is a disease of the immune system that does not progress to the point of attracting opportunistic infections until the immune system has substantially been weakened by the progress of the disease--the employer is not liable for any benefits due the employee, who did not suffer the illness due to work-related reasons.

Monday, March 21, 2016

world poetry day and HIV

In celebration of World Poetry Day, here's a blackout poetry on HIV. It's my first time to do this. I found it quite hard because there is just so little to work with. Unlike freestyle poetry where I would just sit to contemplate for the right word, blackout poetry already serves the word making the serving limited; and in that limitation, I had to make sense.

I used the book of Greg Louganis, the famous HIV-positive American Olympic diver, titled Breaking the Surface.

I had accepted that I was afraid
when I really didn't want
HIV, a dumb secret 
I was sure to be a scandal.
Yet HIV was no way to be.
It turned out I had it together
all on my own, one cold morning.
I wanted to scream at my life,
to be thankful and to stop moaning about
the weather.

Postscript: All rights of the book goes to Mr. Louganis and his publisher.

Friday, February 19, 2016

on enrile and LGBT

Someone needs his jail time back.

It's not for me to lose patience over political issues. I can say that what with my limited patience have for our politicians, I still can spare deep sighs and heaving breaths to understand where they are coming from should they issue some statements which are highly controversial.

The whole Twitterdom exploded when Pacquiao made that scathing statement against the LGBT community. But really, it's not Pacquiao that I want to talk here, but the old man beside him. The old man who, for the amount of luck that he has for being a nonagenarian, now has the liberty to issue another pathetic statement if it were not for the Supreme Court to accord some due respect to him.

Sen. Johnny Enrile was quoted by Rappler as saying that members of the LGBT may go find "another planet" to live. If that suits him, fine, I think I'm better off to some Goldilocks planet. But what I find highly incredulous is his statement that Manny Pacquiao will win even if the entire LGBT will not vote for him. There may be truth in that, yes, but only "may."

True. It may be true that that the entire LGBT electorate is too insignificant a number for Pacquiao to prevent Pacquiao from snagging a senatorial seat. But what is good Enrile missing out on is that the LGBT is not the entire electorate. "Common sense" (pun intended) dictates that there is no gender requirement under Batas Pambasa Blg. 881 or the Omnibus Election Code for an individual to be a voter. Inasmuch as college degree and only an ability to read and write makes for a decent qualification for elective officials, the same vein that no gender requirement is imposed on a voter. In the same vein, no "specific-vote for clause" is in the Section 117 of the Election Code. Nary there is a statutory provision pointing for a voter to specifically vote for someone. It doesn't take a genius to know that we can vote for whoever we want and not vote for who we do not believe deserve our exercise of suffrage. It doesn't take a genius. That's "common sense" (again, pun intended).

Just plain logic. Any registered voter can or can not vote for any senatoriable, which means even a straight person can not vote for Pacquiao. This leads to a nothing but a mere exercise of syllogisms, permutations and premises that even your mother or father or grandfather or grandmother may not vote for Pacquiao. What loss Pacquiao may have with what the entire LGBT community not voting for him may suffer the same with straight people should they choose not to believe in Pacquiao.

What point that Enrile is sorely missing is that if straight people gets tired of all these crass and sick political circus vis-à-vis gender issues, any straight man or woman who are compassionate enough to align with the sentiments of the LGBT community on the most humanitarian basis of social justice will jeopardize Pacquiao's higher ascent to the Senate given that the LGBT are not the only electorate but also the straight community. Plain logic lang, hindi ba?

No provisions in law and in jurisprudence hinders a straight person from not voting a specific candidate. That is the very essence of right to suffrage and political exercise. It may be true that it is a fancy thought for the entire electorate to revolt against a candidate who does not support LGBT causes but the possibility is always there because it is not only members of the LGBT who vote but straight people too.

That's why reading the news piece, I really find it quite taxing, why Enrile, for all the mental tenacity that he has displayed both as a statesman and as a lawyer, have not thought of that. But the question is: should Pacquiao be really threatened by such possibility of straight people not voting for him? Two scenarios: the ideal and the real.

The ideal, he should be threatened. Because what with Pacquiao has done at the heels of his damning statement to put the fire out of the emotional wildfire already eating up people's chest, here comes Mang Johnny who is terribly worsening things. Instead of trying to help Pacquiao boost the Boxer's image as an apologetic athlete, here you have a senator, a former military official, an alleged crook and an extraordinaire macho philanderer taunting the populace that his bet can win the elections without the LGBT's help. And if get in the nerve of the straight people and incest them, they will only belatedly realize what bad mishap Enrile did for not shutting up when good opportunity calls for it.

The real, he shouldn't be threatened. Firstly, Because Manny Pacquiao has cemented himself as a national icon in this society too soft to be reminded of its transgressions against its people. After more controversial issues pick up the primetime news, everything will be forgotten and Manny Pacquiao will always be known as the boxer, not the senatorial candidate who issued a statement too unfitting for a legislator. Secondly, we have a culture of misguided electorate. We confuse national agenda with candidatorial prominence. We confuse legislative performance with regional biases. We confuse great mind with great names. We are a confused electorate--easily bought and easily swayed. (Trust me, I've seen worse during elections day because of my previous work.) And that confusion never allows us to hold on to whatever fear or anger that we have against an unfitting candidate. At the end of the day, when the Internet hubbub died down and the ebb of the political tsunami has receded back to the abyss of pardon and parole, we forget and default to being confused again.

This is why Enrile has had the opportunity to make his statement in the first place. Because we forgot the allegations surrounding him. We forgot about--at this point allow me to legally talk--the strict applications of the Revised Penal Code. The Supreme Court ruled that because of Johnny's old age, he should be given the chance to be excused from serving his temporary jail time while his plunder case is being heard. No intention to criticize the collective wisdom of the Supreme Court but the application of Article 13 (mitigating circumstances) in the bail petition is, in my humble submission, a stray application. In effect, we ushered into a novel jurisprudence and case law--a bad and dangerous precedent at that, and made the equal protection clause under the Constitution questionable? Is it only because of "humanitarian consideration" should Enrile be given the standing in law to not serve his detention when in fact, plunder is a non-bailable offense; and the Sandiganbayan dismissed the bail petition?

I still cannot understand why the majority reached that decision. Asked, I'd rather side with the minority. Anyway, it is already an operative fact that Enrile is out on a hefty bail and now challenging gay people to go find another planet. Tongue-in-cheek, why won't he go back to jail first, before I dispatch for another planet? Quid pro quo.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

compulsory testing?

What about compulsory HIV testing in extreme cases?

One kind soul approached me at my PlanetRomeo HIV account, let's call him F, and asked about the early symptoms of HIV onset. Since I am no doctor but a disciple of law, I could not be too exact as to what the "symptoms" are regarding HIV. HIV could be asymptomatic. But it could also show early signs when we are properly informed about HIV literature as applied to how raunchy we are in bed.

Fast forward, I told F that I had rashes back then in my chest area which actually were not itchy. He inquired if I have had fever. None, I said. The conversation went on and finally into its climax. F said that his late partner died, but up until now he and the people around him and his late partner cannot be fully sure if it were AIDS behind the late partner's passing because the significant other refused treatment. Even refused to take the HAT or the HIV Anti-bodies Test. The only speculation he had, and mine as well, was that it was AIDS as it already shown dire complications (as what F told me at least). I asked F if he tried talking down his partner to at least get an HAT; he did to no avail and no change of heart. One then can only speculate as much--even the doctors who I think at that moment had the hunch--because the patient waived his right to treatment. At that point and on hindsight, I saw how doctors could be bound by what is only permitted by the patient. A more existential question then: In cases like that, where do we draw the line for doctors to truly heal and to strictly adhere the decisions of their patients? I am in absolutely no position to answer.

Enter law. It is well-within the Philippine Patient's Bill of Right for a patient to refuse treatment, as can be gleamed in paragraph 5, "The patient has the right to refuse treatment/life-giving measures, to the extent permitted by law, and to be informed of the medical consequences of his action."

But, take heed readers of the one important passage: "to the extent permitted by law." That is an important statutory phrase in paragraph 5 because then we ask, which law permits refusal and which law overrides a patient's refusal to treatment? I think there is none yet to date because it would be highly controversial to think of the least if a doctor, who in his utmost good faith and impelled by the good intent of the law, to do what the patient otherwise permits.

Apply it to the scenario of F's partner, what if his doctors, with their healthy medical reasoning, conducted a HAT despite the stern refusal of the patient? Would that be allowed?

Be that as it may, weeks passed and F's story had me thinking, what if there is a law that actually does not permit refusal of patient as regards their care management when life and death is on the line? Are we to look at it on a moralistic viewpoint or on a legal philosophical view of crafting laws for people's sake? I bet it would be a tough consideration because moralists have been on the look out as regards our health laws in this country.

It fancy me to think about the unpopular opinion. Let's give compulsory testing a chance to save lives in dire cases of death. But right now, no law actually permits that unsavory opinion of mine. The rule under the Philippine HIV/AIDS Law (Republic Act 8504) is that it is prohibited to conduct compulsory testing. The last thing I've heard as regards development of RA 8504 is an amendatory bill filed by Rep. Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao province. As to the bill's content, I am not privy to it.

But again, take heed, because Sec. 2(b)(1) of RA 8504 admits of an exception to prohibition against compulsory testing, that is, unless otherwise provided in this Act.

Down in Section 17 of the Act, there are three instances where the Act may allow compulsory HIV testing: criminal charge of rape and injurious substance; relevant issues as regards the Family Code; and compliance as regards organ and blood donation.

The exceptions, in legal parlance, methinks, are not a closed-list exception, which means, instances to allow compulsory testing may still be added as lawmakers have the good faith to include those new instances as worthy exceptions, and, in my whimsical thoughts, in articulo mortis.

The way I see it, if our lawmakers only have the balls to consider--of course, always reaching out to public consultants and experts--the need to have a compulsory testing to determine if a patient's disease is caused by HIV, it will make care management more efficient. Of course, what is only made compulsory is the testing, not the treatment. If after testing and results showed that the patient is reactive to HIV anti-bodies, then this information may be used to properly inform the patient of his situation. Only then will the patient be allowed to choose whether to opt for treatment or not because with HIV now a reality after testing, doctors can now move to explain how HIV in these day and age can be manageable as diabetes or hypertension.

What is important, methinks, is that there is a testing done per se. This may give the patient a new perspective as to his survival if done with the guidance of doctors. Unlike if the testing--not the treatment--is made to depend on the decision of the patient, doctors have no slim chance to fight for the survival of the patient. Doctors are immediately bound to wait for the patients to die.

Surely, after testing, and reactivity, a patient can still choose whether to move on to the treatment. If he opts to, good. If he doesn't, the doctor has done his fair share.

If this is the way, we can save people such as F's partner. If we are to include in articulo mortis as an exception in RA 8504, we can save lives. And since the Patient's Bill of Right is a general law, and HIV Law is a special one, any first year law student will know that special law overrides a general law.

If this is a way to save lives and truly make doctors as lifesavers we can fancy the thought of how long the shot is and try to shorten it by making it a reality. This is where HIV/AIDS and law intersects. This is HIV policy-making and lawmaking. This is where the law can actually respond to a medical phenomenon.

So I ask, how about compulsory testing urgente mortis periculo, any takers?

Friday, January 15, 2016

i'm on Twitter

Yes, I am still alive and kicking. But this blog has been seeing a dearth of content, not because overcoming HIV meant the end of milking the Muse of Tragedy. The hectic schedule of graduate studies just do not permit that extra time.

I'm on Twitter: @hivlawstude

I cannot promise a more vibrant online presence there but yeah, if you have queries, maybe we can hear it out there. Salut!