It's back to barracks, pink soldiers. Contrary to what you've been hearing from your generals and the media, there is no clear go-signal yet for LGBT soldiers in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
First, some clarifications. There is no official ban for LGBTs in the military, hence no ban was technically lifted when top military officials made positive statements about allowing LGBTs in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. That said, it must be stated as well that the AFP has no policy explicitly allowing LGBTs in the military.
So the question to ask is: ano ba talaga, mga papa? We've been getting mixed and confusing statements from the military establishments. In several committee hearings in Congress for the Anti-Discrimination Bill filed by AKBAYAN, representatives from the AFP would always bring 'unofficial' position papers stating that lesbians and gays cannot be allowed to join the military. In one hearing, the reasons they provided were absurd - gay soldiers will trip and fall in the battlefield because they are wearing heels, or that gay soldiers cannot be trusted with confidential military information because they are tsismosa.
Last November, in an attempt to get the position of the government on various LGBT issues, AKBAYAN Rep. Risa Hontiveros wrote to different Cabinet secretaries and government high officials. The Commission on Human Rights was quick to reply, and months after the Department of Justice released its opinion on the matter. The AFP, on the other hand, has not responded to AKBAYAN's letter, which was forwarded to AFP's J1 unit (for personnel) then to its Discipline and Law and Order Division and finally to its Gender and Development Unit. No formal response has been released to date.
So next time the military says that it accepts lesbian and gay soldiers, read between the lines. It means nothing until the AFP itself comes up with a more concrete policy declaring that LGBTs - and here one must stress that the Bs and Ts must be included - are truly accepted in military service and that there are guidelines prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.
Our network, Project Equality, has already laid down specific policies that should be in place to ensure non-discrimination in military service. These include the following: a non-discriminatory policy in admission; penalties and sanctions on discriminatory practices and policies committed by soldiers against fellow LGBT soldiers or LGBT individuals; gender sensitivity training for soldiers, and; allowing transgender soldiers to wear the military uniform of their choice.
Enough with these confusing and confused messages. If AFP truly wants us in, then we should be in, no if's and but's, rainbow flags and all.