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So who painted their hands black? Bench did

Do you want to know what I think about lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders? I think that they have the right to stay true to their identity and to determine the way they want to be treated by those around them. I think they should have the right to decide whom they want to spend their lives with, to raise children if they wish - pretty much to do, feel, or think whatever they fancy. I don't think of them as "other" or "different". They are who they are, just like everyone else. I respect that and wish them well.

Now, I've been following the new Bench Love All Kinds Of Love campaign since it came out last week. I thought it was brilliant, to bring forth an idea I wholeheartedly agree with: that love comes in many forms, and must all be valid and equally respected. The campaign included familial love, heterosexual love, and homosexual love between gays and lesbians. No message could be more simple or delivered in such an elegant manner. 

Then last Friday, social media was abuzz with the "discovery" that the hands on the billboard of Vince Uy and his boyfriend Nino Gaddi were painted black. The "vandalism" sparked a bit of outrage and a hashtag, #PaintTheirHandsBack, as LGBTs protested the "hate" against their community. Who could do such a thing, they ask? How can there be so much discrimination against people who just want to love who they are and who they're with? 

Image credit: Stylebible.ph

Image credit: Stylebible.ph

My first thought was, wow, how could Bench stoop so low? I believed that Bench was behind the blackening out of the gay couple's hands to score some sympathy, more eyeballs on social media, and ultimately, better sales. I mean, who else would do such a thing? The resources required to paint a huge section of that Guadalupe billboard are not to be laughed at. Only a well-coordinated group with enough paint and seriously high ladders could paint those hands black!

It had occurred to me that an ultra-religious and/or anti-LGBT group could be behind it, but if they were, shouldn't they have also painted over the two lesbians hugging? Why only two hands? They could've run out of paint and didn't have enough time, it's possible, but something just didn't seem right.

I was not wrong in thinking that the Bench billboard was in fact NOT defaced. Bench today admitted that the billboard was printed that way, to supposedly follow the requirements of the Ad Standards Council. According to Jojo Liamzon, Advertising and Promotions Manager at Suyen Corporation:

"Prior, the governing body had rejected photos of the couple looking lovingly at one another, citing ‘traditional Filipino family values’ as a reason.

The approved version with hands obscured is the billboard that Bench had printed and that now stands on EDSA. A digital mockup of the EDSA billboard showing the unobscured hands of Uy and Gaddi had been disseminated to press and is what likely led the public to assume the billboard had been defaced.

Despite its deviation from the original idea, Bench decided to move forward with the billboard showing obscured hands because the company believes that its message was still intact: that of well represented diversity, and the message that same-sex relationships are just as substantial and valid as heterosexual romantic love and familial love."

However the council says that they did not censor the ad at all. So who's telling the truth? 

From Rappler: "We are always adhering to prevailing moral and social standards of the country. We believe advertisements should not be offensive, derogatory nor should [they] alienate certain sectors of the community," said Executive Director Mila Marquez.

"This particular series was not blurred by ASC. We were surprised they blurred it... Possibly because they think they will be given approval if they do that."

"We had discussion with them particularly because they put up the billboards without clearance to display. If at all, they were given approval to produce it. If ever there is violation, the violation is more procedural than conceptual."

"The ASC is not a censorship body. What we're promoting is self-regulation, meaning clients and ad agency are the ones who should also regulate themselves," she adds

If Bench did want to censor themselves then why didn't they just crop the picture before printing?

It still doesn't add up and there's still a lot of questions that need to be answered. I wonder if anyone got to see the hands not black - it would prove that Bench in fact did do it on purpose to get people riled up, on the expense of LGBTs who are being played for fools. Perhaps Bench is telling the truth and they were just honestly trying to follow what they perceived were regulations. 

Does it matter, though. Bench basically admitted that they do not have the conviction to stand up for their own message - to love all kinds of love. Still, the campaign's message was not completely lost, as it sparked support for the LGBT community on social media. 

What do you think?

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