By Oscar Atadero
28 May 1998
JOHN PAUL (not his real name)
finally came home from Qatar where he spent seven and a half months in
a detention cell on charges of sodomy. Fanning himself furiously to ward
off the sadistic heat of El Niño at his family's hovel in Tondo,
Manila, John Paul related his ordeal to Pro-Gay's Oscar Atadero amidst
the noise of a feast for a patron saint in progress last week.
The media reported a mass arrest of 33 Filipino males in October 1997.
Trying to prevent another case as controversial as Sarah Balabagan's dramatic
trial, the labor attaché assigned by the Philippine embassy repeatedly
reprimanded John Paul because he wrote his mother home complaining of the
have been a barber there for four years now, and not long after I came
back to Qatar, that was one day in November, the workers in the street
where my sponsor's salon is located came in to say the police were arresting
overseas contract workers (OCWs) for different reasons. From our door,
I saw them hauling many Filipinos and other Asians into police cars. The
next day, they came back and I was surprised when one policeman pointed
to me and without saying a word, gestured to me to take a ride in one of
those cars. I had no choice but to go with them, I didn't even have the
chance to say goodbye to my sponsor (employer)."
He said there were
no warrants of arrest for him and the many others taken to the CID, which
he thinks means something like "Criminal Investigation
Department." The detention cells were teeming with men and women from
different nations, arrested for charges of robbery, prostitution, trade
of liquor and drugs, substance abuse and homicides.
At the CID, he and others like him charged with the catch-all term "homosexuality"
was forced to submit to a rectal examination by a Qatari medical technician
in order to find out if he was engaging in anal sex. He was deemed positive
and ordered jailed until he can be deported back to the Philippines. Topping
his tribulations was 40 lashes on his buttocks with a whip, administered
by a police officer inside a jail.
"It could have
been worse, I heard in other countries, gays are whipped in public places.
Another Filipino arrested with me got 100. But I don't think the rectal
examinations are foolproof. I know a gay who was very notorious in having
sex most of his spare time, but he passed the test and went free. Another
man who is not gay, he does not even go out, he was tested and accused
John Paul said word
has it that among crowds in the after-hours, streetlife in Doha, the capital
city, people who want to earn extra, spy on their fellow OCWs and submit
to the authorities information about careless people, for about 100 dinars
per suspect turned in. Gay men cruise openly in the shopping areas abandoned
during night time and the spies may be gay or not.
The 32 other Filipino men arrested for the same charge got home as early
as January because either their sponsors or relatives back home were quick
to produce the air fare to get them home. John Paul had to beg his sponsor
to come up with the money, since he didn't earn enough in the two months
he worked, while back home, his mother didn't know where to get some. His
seven other siblings were either unemployed or earning just enough to feed
their respective broods.
His only alternative, attention from the case workers hired by the Department
of Foreign Affairs, was sorely lacking. He claims not being shown any documents
from either the Philippine or Qatari side all throughout his detention.
"I think his
bosses in Manila may have scolded him after my mother went to a radio commentator
to ask for help. He got angry at me, told me not to bring this to the attention
of anybody again or he will let go of my case totally. He said not even
the President can help me if I made another public noise again,"
John Paul said. Still, the frustrated gay OCW refused to reveal to us the
name of the case worker, because he is honoring a promise he made to shut
But the real motive behind his self-imposed silence is part economic, partly
because of the stigma that might pursue him if he decided to publicize
his case. Already he fears of being permanently banned from the Islamic
countries in the Middle East, because five copies of fingerprints and handprints
were taken from him.
"People say that
if they did that to you, the other prints will be sent to the other conservative
governments in the Middle East. If I try to go back to any of those countries
under a changed name, I may even be jailed again for falsification of documents.
My only choice is Italy or Japan, where the pay is not that attractive
and the competition is fiercer."
Part of his prison
diary was being raped by a Palestinian co-detainee. He didn't want to report
the incident, but the guards learned from otherprisoners anyway. Instead
of punishing the rapist, the jail warden threatened to torture John Paul
if he refused to reveal the details of the rape and admit it was his fault.
Like many migrant workers simply seeking a respite from the gross inability
to be gainfully employed here, John Paul viewed his misadventure as a part
of his fate over which an ordinary mortal has no control. "I
was just unlucky that I came back to Qatar during a promotions year in
the police force. They say that if a low ranking has an ambition but lacks
formal schooling, he has to compensate by catching more criminals."###