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Makati's 'Oplan X-Men' profiling operation dangerous and discriminatory, groups say

Makati's 'Oplan X-Men' profiling operation dangerous and discriminatory, groups say

MANILA,  Philippines — Members and advocates of the LGBTQIA+ community were up in arms on social media Monday morning over 'profiling' operations conducted by the Makati Police Department went viral. 

A tweet by the Makati City Police Station's account on January 23 mentions the profiling through "Oplan X-men at Burgos, Poblacion, Makati City" and included a link to a post by Facebook page Scads Makati, which said that the police conducted an "Oplan X-men [...] through combined efforts of Station Operations, Women's Desk, Station Intelligence and Station and Drug Enforcement Unit, 9:00 PM, January 22, 2020."

It said that "Oplan X-men is an intensified operation that aims to rescue ladyboys from exploitation and human trafficking in ill repute areas," disclosing that "67 individuals were invited at Makati City Police Station for profiling and were eventually released at exactly 2:00 AM of the following day."

The term "ladyboys" is an outdated and derogatory term for transgender prostitutes in Southeast Asian countries.

GANDA Filipinas Executive Director Naomi Fontanos in a tweet thread urged transgender women in the area to be careful when in the area, reminding LGBTQIA+ members to assert their rights when put in similar situations. 

"Huwag sasama sa pulis kahit sabihing 'for profiling' lalo na kung walang warrant of arrest at walang ginagawang masama. May karapatan tayo sa malayang pagkilos (freedom of movement)," she wrote. 

"Dedma muna sa problematic use of language (i.e., X-men, rescue, ladyboy, etc.) pero huwag tayong matatakot at manatiling mahinahon kapag may lumapit sa ating mga pulis."

"Naming your operations 'Oplan X-Men' targeting TRANS WOMEN sex workers in Makati is not only misguided, it is also transphobic," Philippine Anti-Discrimination Alliance of Youth Leaders National Convenor Vince Liban said.

"Trans women are not former men. They are women assigned male at birth because of genitalia. Trans women are women. Sex work is work."

"Decriminalize sex work. Provide services to protect their sexual health. Save them from harassment and abuse. Save them from sexually transmitted infections," he added. 

Even the Commission on Human Rights on Saturday night issued a statement after the initial report began to circulate on social media, although it is unclear when the incident slammed by the CHR took place, nor where the video copy they mentioned was acquired. 

"While we recognize that there may be incidences when inviting individuals to a police station falls within the ambit of legitimate police duty, the public should, nevertheless, be cautious in agreeing to such request as it may be used to effect a warrantless arrest," lawyer Jacqueline Ann de Guia, CHR spokespeson, said.

"This recent incident further highlights the violence and harassment experienced everyday by the LGBTQI community because of their sexual orientation and gender identity and stresses the need to pass the SOGIE Equality Bill to bar and penalize all forms of discrimination against anyone, even including those who identify as straight."

The SOGIE Equality Bll lists and penalizes discriminatory practices that are carried out on the basis of gender expression and identity. President Rodrigo Duterte was reported to have promised that he would classify the bill as urgent although the Palace later clarified he meant a bill against discrimination in general.

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