Transgender’s arrest in Quezon City mall causes stir

Emmanuel Tupas - The Philippine Star
Transgender�s arrest in Quezon City mall causes stir
Screen grab shows Gretchen Diez in handcuffs at the Cubao police station in Quezon City on Tuesday.

MANILA, Philippines — The arrest and detention of a transgender woman after she was prevented from using a restroom for women at a mall in Cubao, Quezon City caused a stir on Tuesday.

Gretchen Custodio Diez, 28, was placed in handcuffs and detained at a police station for 11 hours after she entered the women’s restroom of Farmer’s Plaza at the Araneta Center.

During a confrontation with janitress Chayra Ganal, Diez said she took out her cell phone and recorded the incident on video to document the discrimination made against her.

 “The complainant immediately sought the assistance of the security guard on duty,” Cubao police station commander Lt. Col. Giovanni Hycenth Caliao said in a report.

Security guard Meriegen Mauro, 31, along with Ganal and another janitress, Honeylea Joy Balili, brought Diez to the mall’s security office.

Ganal hurled slurs at Diez while she streamed the incident on Facebook Live.

As Diez continued with her broadcast, Ganal insulted the transgender woman and called her out because of her sexuality.

“Hindi ka maganda para maging sikat ka… Share at like ‘nyo para sumikat ang baklang ito,” Ganal said.

Diez was taken to the Cubao police station at around 4:20 p.m. where she suffered more humiliation after she was handcuffed.

After undergoing a medical examination, Diez was brought to the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) Anti-Cybercrime Team office at Camp Karingal.

She was brought back to the QCPD Station 7 as the only case that could be filed against her was unjust vexation.

Diez was freed after Ganal dropped the complaint against the trans woman.

They agreed to settle the dispute at the barangay hall.  

Ganal wrote a letter to Diez expressing her regrets, but refused to apologized in public.

In a television interview, Diez said she would pursue legal actions against the management of Farmers Plaza.

“I will file a complaint against the mall management because of the humiliation I suffered,” Diez said.

She said she never imagined she would suffer discrimination in Quezon City, which is known for its strict enforcement of gender equality ordinance.

“Hindi ko ine-expect na sa Quezon City ko pa tinanggap itong ganitong discrimination,” she said.

House sets probe

Lawmakers set a congressional probe on the discrimination against Diez.

Bataan first district Rep. Geraldine Roman and Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas yesterday filed a joint resolution calling for an investigation on the harassment of Diez.

“As a transgender woman myself, I find it unfair. Here (in the House), I am allowed to use the women’s restroom. Why are we depriving ordinary transgender women of the same right?” Roman said.

“She went to the mall’s comfort room because of her basic human need. But she was handcuffed and paraded as if she was a criminal,” she added.

Roman, the first transgender woman elected to Congress, said the incident underscores the need to enact her proposed Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Equality (SOGIE) bill.

Roman visited Diez at the police station where she admonished the mall’s employees for their actions.

Brosas said the incident was a clear case of discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+)community.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros urged her colleagues in the Senate to pass the SOGIE bill.

A restroom for LGBT members has been constructed in the Human Rights Affairs Office (HRAO) at the Philippine National Police headquarters at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

“We want to be gender-sensitive. So we put up a comfort room for the LGBT community,” HRAO chief Brig. Gen. Dennis Siervo said.

Workers’ group defends janitress

The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) defended Ganal, saying the mall management should be held accountable more than the janitress who merely followed the company’s policy.

“She may have acted excessively, but the poor janitress did not know how to respond to the situation,” the FFW said in a statement. 

The group said the mall lacks a clear restroom policy for transgender people.

The FFW said the mall management should have provided orientation on gender equality for their workers.

“Quezon City is known for protecting the rights of the LGBT+ community. The local government should compel commercial establishments to implement its ordinances on gender equality and anti-discrimination,” the group said. – With Mayen Jaymalin, Edu Punay, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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