Human rights and LGBT groups say Makati police’s ‘Oplan X-men’ operations is problematic. Here’s why.

February 19, 2020 - 10:32 AM
Ped xing in Manila
Manileños walk on the newly-painted "LGBT-friendly" pedestrian crossing along Arroceros corner Natividad Streets (Photo from Manila Public Information Office/Christian Turingan)

The Makati City Police‘s move to profile transgender people received criticisms from both human rights and LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights organizations for supposed “targeted harassment.”

The police operations called Oplan X-men was first reported on the Facebook account called Scads Makati last January 22.

Scads Makati uses the logo of Makati Police but its social media account is different from the official page of the city cops. It posts several updates on the police operations of the city.

The controversial post has since been deleted. But the tweet version of it posted by @MakatiPSReact, the Twitter account of Makati City Police, can still be accessed.

Despite the deletion of the report, some social media users still managed to take screenshots of the original post and shared it online.

Based on the copy, Oplan X-men was described as an “intensified operation that aims to rescue ladyboys from exploitation and human trafficking.”

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The post also attached photos of the individuals they invited and profiled at 9 p.m. on that date. They were eventually released the next day.

It was not disclosed when this measure began. It only made it to the news after a video from a certain Anne Pelos reached the Commission on Human Rights last February 15.

CHR cautioned the public against accepting requests to be invited to the police station, as well as the police officers who conduct profiling without legal basis.

“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,” CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said.

“Our police officers are equally reminded that arresting individuals cannot be made based on whim and must follow strict guidelines, even detailed in the Philippine National Police’s ‘Know Your Rights: A Citizen’s Primer on Law Enforcement,’” de Guia added.

Gabriela, meanwhile, viewed the move as targeted harassment and discrimination against the members of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly the transgender people.

“The name of the police operation itself banks on a very derogatory tone that invites further discrimination and marginalization of trans people. We want this police operation probed and immediately stopped,” it said.

The women’s group asked the Philippine National Police to focus its resources on other pressing matters instead.

“We urge the PNP to focus its energies on profiling its ranks for possible more narco cops and on targeting illegal Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) and sex dens instead of embarking on transgender crackdown,” it said.

The University of Philippines-Babaylan, an LGBTQI student organization, also echoed that sex trade cannot be resolved by discrimination of minority groups.

“The complex problem of sex trade in the country can never be solved by discriminating against a minority and continuing to criminalize safe and consensual sex work,” the organization said.

The viral video that started it all

In the video posted by Pelos, a police officer was shown inviting her to the police station while walking along Makati Avenue at night.

When her friends asked him why, the copy only responded that is is “for profiling” and failed provide more details.

“FYI maranagal po ang trabaho ko para sabihin ko sayo and yet ayusin mo muna at explain ng maayos kung bakit need niyo ko huliin sasama ako with feelings kung naexplain mo ng maayos kaso muntanga e hindi mo masagot,” part of her caption read.

Aside from CHR, this clip also reached some bloggers such as Gigi Esguerra and Sass Rogando Sasot, who are also transgenders and LGBT+ rights advocates.

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Filipina transgender activist Naomi Fontanos, meanwhile, advised her followers working or living in Makati City to know their rights.

“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 said.

The proposed SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression) Equality Bill or Anti-Discrimination Bill which would keep people safe against specific discriminatory practices is still pending in Congress.