Suspect in brutal murder of ‘joyful’ Filipino trans woman invokes abhorrent ‘panic’ defence

An investigation is being opened into the brutal murder of Cindy Jones Torres, a trans woman found dead with multiple stab wounds in the Philippines.

The 39-year-old was found dead on 28 July in her salon in Guiginto, Bulacan.

It is believed she was killed by a man who was allegedly borrowing money from her. A suspect has been arrested, however, according to CNN Philippines, he has claimed that he acted in self-defence.

It is believed the suspect will use the “trans panic” defence to justify the murder, a deeply damaging legal defence which shifts blame onto the trans victim for merely existing.

Filipino LGBT+ non-profit Metro Manila Pride told CNN: “The trans panic defence has been used to excuse violence against transgender people

“Any legal defence rooted in prejudice has no place in a just world.”

On Friday (6 August), the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) confirmed it will launch a full investigation into the brutal murder.

“We hold that the police will do their utmost best to ascertain the truth so that justice may be attained,” it said in a statement.

Activists have echoed calls to investigate the murder, and to push for much-needed legal change.

The CHR’s statement stressed the relentless violence experienced by the country’s LGBT+ community, saying: “The case of Cindy Jones, as well as other similar instances of reprehensible and senseless acts of violence, stresses the harsh realities faced by the LGBTQI community, who are more vulnerable to hate-motivated violence even in present-day society.”

The fight for LGBT+ legal protections continues

As it stands, there is no national legislation to protect LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in the Philippines, and as a result, transgender residents in particular report feeling “scared every damn day”.

A law – known as the SOGIE (the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression) Bill – to create these legal rights was proposed way back in 2000, and has since sparked a tumultuous, lengthy battle for LGBT+ rights in the Philippines.

For activists who have long fought for these rights, the death of Torres, described as a “joyful person” by her local community, comes as a huge blow.

Statistics rarely encapsulate the full extent of these realities, as transgender victims are often registered with their deadnames on birth certificates.