LGBTQ+ rights

After a successful launch in Quezon City, what’s next for the ‘right to care’ card?

Russell Ku

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After a successful launch in Quezon City, what’s next for the ‘right to care’ card?
One year after its launch, bringing the ‘right to care’ card to as many Quezon City residents as possible and getting other cities to adopt it have become a challenge

In the middle of a city hall-run show back in June 2023, Quezon City (QC) Mayor Joy Belmonte made an announcement that would gain international attention for its innovative approach to upholding LGBTQ+ rights – the “right to care” card

The “right to care” card grants queer couples the legal right to make healthcare decisions on behalf of one another through a special power of attorney contract. 

An ordinance to institutionalize the program has been passed by the Quezon City Council and signed by Belmonte on October 2023, while the first batch of cards was distributed during the city’s fourth commitment ceremony for LGBTQ+ couples on February 17. 

Since the commitment ceremony, the registration for the card has been turned over from MullenLowe TREYNA, the ad agency behind the idea of the program, to the QC gender and development (GAD) office. Before the turnover, around 800 couples had signed up for the card. 

As of Saturday, June 22, 171 couples have attended at least one of the 20 orientations held by the GAD office. Meanwhile, a total of 116 couples were given their “right to care” cards. Around 38 of these couples received their copies on Saturday in celebration of the 2024 QC Pride march and festival.

Text, QR Code, Business Card
A sample of the final design of Quezon City’s “right to care” card. Photos by Russell Ku/Rappler

QC GAD head Janete Oviedo also told Rappler in an interview on June 18 that several hospitals have already called the GAD office to confirm whether certain queer couples are registered to the “right to care” program. 

Wala pa naman kami na-re-receive na complaints na dinisregard o hindi na-recognize ‘yung ‘right to care’ card, which is good news for us,” she added.

(We haven’t received any complaints where the ‘right to care’ card was disregarded or not recognized, which is good news for us.)

MullenLowe TREYNA senior art director Adrian de Guzman said he is glad that there have been continuous efforts by the QC government to bring the “right to care” card to its LGBTQ+ residents as it helps normalize the recognition of queer couples in legal matters. 

After a successful launch in Quezon City, what’s next for the ‘right to care’ card?

“I find the process normal now because like heterosexual couples that apply for a conjugal property or a marriage certificate, it also goes the same for us queer people that we can apply normally where our partner is named in [official] documents. It’s symbolic and emotional because the state sees and respects the love of LGBTQ+ people,” De Guzman said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

He added that even if 800 couples may seem like a small number compared to QC’s population of around 2.9 million, De Guzman believes what’s more important is “the visibility in those numbers… [that] those couples are willing to take care of their better halves.”

One year after QC successfully launched the program, bringing the “right to care” card to as many residents as possible and getting other cities to adopt it have become a challenge.

“It’s a new concept that has not been done by any [local government unit (LGU)], so we don’t have a basis on how to do it,” Oviedo said.

Bringing the card to more QC residents

Oviedo said the logistics of holding orientations for the “right to care” card has become a challenge for the QC GAD office alone to handle. Registered couples still need to attend an orientation to be able to get their cards.

Orientations are now held from every other Saturday to every Saturday of the month due to the demand for the program. A total of 15 couples are briefed every session on the benefits of the “right to care” card and the special power of attorney contract. 

“‘Yung orientation kasi, ayaw namin ng malalaking numbers.  As much as possible, gusto namin naiintindihan nila yung in-orient namin…kung ano yung pinipirmahan nila kasi this is a legal document,” she said. 

(For the orientation, we don’t want large numbers. As much as possible, we want every person we orient to understand what they are signing since this is a legal document.)

People, Person, Adult
FIRST STEP. First batch of queer couples attend the orientation for Quezon City’s ‘right to care card’ on August 4, 2023. Russell Ku/Rappler

The GAD office has experimented with various plans before coming up with in-person orientations every Saturday, such as holding online and weekday sessions. 

In addition, only five people, including Oviedo and one person from the city legal office, take charge in leading these orientations.

The QC government has also tried to hold sessions outside the Quezon City Hall, such as call centers, but realized that it’s hard for the office alone to get every single LGBTQ+ person in the city to sign up for the program.

“Since these are every Saturday, we do not have overtime pay. This is voluntary work,” Oviedo added. 

Oviedo said the QC GAD office hopes to work to streamline this as they plan to hold seminars with LGBTQ+ organizations in the city so that they will instead hold their own orientations of the program with their members. 

After this, interested couples would then go to Quezon City Hall and talk with representatives from the city legal office for a briefing and signing of the special power of attorney contract. 

“We really need a big help from the LGBTQ+ community. Help us to spread this program and explain that it’s beneficial for them,” Oviedo said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

Adoption by other cities

Meanwhile, De Guzman and the MullenLowe TREYNA team also have been working to replicate the success of the “right to care” card in Quezon City by pitching it to other LGUs who may be interested in the program. 

De Guzman is optimistic that more local governments would adopt the card as he said that two cities have shown interest in the program.

One personally approached the MullenLowe TREYNA team, while another is under talks to potentially adopt the program after the “right to care” card was presented to several offices in that city.

However, he realized that getting the card adopted by other cities and provinces in the Philippines depends on whether local officials “are willing to be brave” to implement the program.

Meron silang vision for their own cities and I think if the mindset for that vision is ‘di kasama ‘yung progress for queer people. I think medyo mahirap ma-i-lobby ‘yung right to care,” he said.

(They have a vision for their own cities and I think if the mindset for that vision doesn’t include the progress for queer people. I think it will be hard to lobby for the right to care card.)

De Guzman shared an experience when he was asked by another LGU about how the “right to care” card would benefit incumbent officials in the 2025 midterm elections and worried about the reactions of local religious groups if the program was implemented.

Since that meeting, the “right to care” team has set two key indicators to see whether the program is feasible to pitch to an LGU. The local government should ideally have a gender and development office and should have implemented an anti-discrimination ordinance.

“We’re just happy if a city even considers our presentation or us showing what we have. As long as we’re there or the team is still intact, it goes on. The pitches to the cities will continue, regardless if there is any positive effect or outcome,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Future of ‘right to care’

While both De Guzman and Oviedo work to expand the right to care’s reach, they have plans in the immediate future to make the program more accessible. 

Oviedo said the QC GAD office will work on placing a copy of the “right to care” ordinance on the links embedded in the QR code of each card. 

Meanwhile, De Guzman and the “right to care” team are working to launch a website called “Right To Care Everywhere,” which aims to gather data on interest for the “right to care” card nationwide by making advocates pin their cities to make a demand for their local government units. 

“Imagine when the pins keep coming and the numbers keep growing, it’s much faster to track the numbers so that it’s so much easier to present it to the next city because we can provide data [that] there has been an increase in demand for them to follow suit. We find that small effort to be so much useful,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

People, Person, Plant
ALL SMILES. Some of the first 15 couples who received Quezon City’s “right to care” card gather after the city’s fourth commitment ceremony for LGBTQ+ couples on February 17, 2024. Russell Ku/Rappler

De Guzman believes that the “right to care” card and recent programs implemented by QC such as the first “Graduation Rights” event give hope to more queer-inclusive programs, which could lead to growing momentum to finally pass the SOGIE equality bill

However, while the bill continues to languish in Congress, he hopes that more cities will make a move to adopt the card to inspire more local officials to act on LGBTQ+ policies.  

Oviedo also echoed De Guzman’s call for other cities and provinces to follow suit with the “right to care” program. 

“Don’t be afraid because our LGBTQ+ [community] is part of the constituency. So they have the right to be protected and to recognize equality. How can we push forward or advance their rights if we don’t try these kinds of programs,” she said. – Rappler.com

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Russell Ku

Russell Ku is a digital communications specialist at Rappler who believes in the power of stories to build an empathic society.