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MANILA, Philippines – Queer couples in Quezon City (QC) took the first step towards their right to make medical decisions on behalf of their partners by signing on Friday, August 4, the special power of attorney contract and consent form for the city’s “right to care card”.
Most of the couples who signed the documents Friday pre-registered for the card during QC’s commitment ceremony for LGBTQIA+ couples on February 14. The couples were given an orientation on the card before signing the documents.
MullenLowe TREYNA senior art director Adrian de Guzman, the creator of the program, said the orientation and document signing was “a huge testament…that love wins.”
QC assistant attorney Carlo Austria also explained to attending couples during the orientation the terms stated on the special power of attorney contract, also known as “health care proxy.”
Austria said that queer residents can file cases on behalf of their partners if the rights granted by the special power of attorney will not be honored by the hospital or medical facility.
He added that the Quezon City government should be notified in case of instances, such as the separation of the queer couple, that would revoke the contract.
The “right to care card” was first introduced by Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte during the city’s “Love Laban” march and festival on June 24.
Quezon City gender and development head Janete Oviedo said more than 300 couples signed up for the “right to care card.”
The city’s gender and development council office planned to hold orientations for the “right to care card” every other week, hoping to reach 100 queer couples per event.
Registered couples need to attend the orientation to know the rights and benefits of the program before signing the special power of attorney contract.
After first batch of queer couples signed their documents for the “right to care card,” these would need to be notarized for the special power of attorney contract to take effect.
Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte also said in an interview with Rappler that she hoped the ordinance for the implementation of the card will be passed by the QC city council “in two months.”
“The city council is all in favor, every single member…as far I know…. The draft is being made by the [QC Pride council]…. And I have already stipulated it as a priority measure so hopefully in two months time, at the latest, it gets passed,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.
She added that the ordinance would include a monitoring system to check on the number of queer people availing of the card and hospitals recognizing the program.
“If we see that it is gaining ground and our work has been recognized, is being accepted and there [are] more people availing of the card, then we have more power to do more for the [LGBTQ+] sector,” she said.
Oviedo added that the focus of the proposed ordinance would be an “advocacy campaign” to convince Quezon City residents to recognize the card and persuade queer couples to apply for the program.
“The real challenge po siguro [is] ‘yung family members mismo ng queer couples. Baka sila mismo ay hindi matanggap [sa card] (The real challenge is really on the family members of the queer couples. They might not be receptive on the card),” she said.
Belmonte also said that she talked to health undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire about getting hospitals under the Department of Health to recognize the card, adding that her staff was working with Vergeire to make the decision official.
Vergeire recognized the “right to care card” during a convention held by the Quezon City Medical Society.
‘Hindi siya biro’
Jenina Mae Racal and Miselle Bulocan, one of the couples who signed up for the “right to care card,” said that the Quezon City government was clear in explaining the terms of the special power of attorney contract.
“Inaadvise din nila na kailangan aware…kung ano ‘yung consequences once madecide [i-apply] for the “right to care card”…. If ever gagawin kami ng ganyan, kailangan sigurado kami kasi hindi siya biro,” Racal said.
(They advise us that we need to be aware on what are the consequences once we decide to apply for the “right to care card”…. If ever we do things like these, we need to be certain since it’s not something we can take for granted.)
Meanwhile, other queer couples felt happy that their local government finally gave them a right that is automatically granted to others.
“Ito kasi masasabi na may legal na karapatan na…magdesisyon para sa isa’t isa (We can say that we now have the legal right to decide for one another),” said Espie delos Santos and Ma. Celeste Pleras, who have been together for more than a decade.
Mark Anthony Olesco and Joe Marie Malto, meanwhile, said that while they were happy that they signed their contracts for the “right to care card,” they hoped that the program can be expanded nationwide.
“Hindi lang Quezon City sana magkaroon ng ‘right to care card,’ pero sa buong Pilipinas kasi maraming LGBTQ+ ang kailangan ng card (I hope Quezon City is not the only one to have the “right to care card,” but the whole Philippines since many LGBTQ+ people need this card),” Olesco said.
Note: Some quotes in Filipino have been translated into English.