Volunteers carry sacks of rice on March 20, 2020 in Quezon city, Metro Manila, Philippines (Ezra Acayan/Getty)
The LGBT+ community in the Philippines has been recruited to distribute coronavirus relief after packages reportedly went missing in the hands of corrupt officials.
Mayor Sara Duterte of Davao City in the southern Philippines noticed a “recurring problem” that sacks of rice from the city government’s food relief programme were not reaching the villages hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
When an incident involving a “fixer” in a government department caught her attention, she turned to local LGBT+ networks to deliver 4,315 sacks of rice to those in need.
Duterte said the LGBT+ community were specifically chosen for this task because they understand how to be inclusive, having experienced marginalisation and exclusion themselves.
“We have a recurring problem that the rice was given to favourites, close friends, and acquaintances. So, the fifth round of rice distribution in barangays [villages] is out of the political structure,” Davao Today reported the mayor saying on local radio.
“We needed to do this for those who are skeptical of the political structure or those who were missed out by barangay officials. We needed to find another structure to help find those who need rice assistance.”
In spite of the persecution LGBT+ people routinely face in the Philippines, the volunteers came out in force to deliver over 4,000 kilograms of rice to all but one of the 182 villages.
One village refused to accept the help, but their share of the rations was simply added to that of the other villages.
“[The LGBT+ volunteers] deserve a round of applause because they are finally finished,” the mayor told The Mindanao Times, praising them for coming forward in this time of need.
“Thank you very much. We know a lot of members from the LGBT+ community are also affected by COVID-19 but they still helped.”
She also warned local officials to follow guidelines on coronavirus relief going forward, saying: “This is not the time to make money and burden other people in your community.”