By Patrick King Pascual, VERA Files
"Bukas Isip, Bukas Puso," the new campaign slogan of Ladlad partylist, envisions a society or country that has an open mind and open heart.
Junking the old slogan "Pantay na Karapatan Para sa Lahat (Equal Rights for All)," Ladlad's plan for the coming 2013 elections is to be "more inclusive" in its campaigns and reachable whether a person is part of the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) sector or not.
"We have to explain our platforms, mission and vision not just to LGBT Filipinos but to our heterosexual supporters as well, like our parents, brothers and sisters, friends, officemates, neighbors and classmates," Ladlad former chair Bemz Benedito explained.
In line with this new campaign strategy, Ladlad will conduct several forums and gatherings to be able to reach out to the general public. Ladlad (a Filipino term that means to come out) was recognized by the Supreme Court as a legitimate LGBT political party in the Philippines in the 2010 elections.
"Our campaign will differ in many ways from the 2010 elections," Benedito said. "I am optimistic that we will win three seats in the coming elections. That is our goal and we will claim it!"
Ladlad, revealed the following four platforms it wants to pursue if it wins a seat in Congress:
- Re-filing of the Anti-Discrimination Bill that gives LGBT Filipinos equal opportunities in employment and equal treatment in schools, hospitals, restaurants, hotels, entertainment centers, and government offices.
- Re-filing of the bill to repeal the Anti-Vagrancy Law that some unscrupulous policemen use to extort bribes from gay men without ID cards.
- Setting up of micro-finance and livelihood projects for poor and handicapped LGBT Filipinos.
- Setting up of centers for Golden Gays, as well as young ones driven out of their homes. The centers will also offer legal aid and counselling, as well as information about LGBT issues, HIV-AIDS, and reproductive health.
It believes that the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill, which has been pending in Congress for more than 10 years now, will address the root of all LGBT-related problems by ensuring that their rights would be recognized and protected by the state and society.
According to Ladlad, the bill reflects the yearning of many LGBT Filipinos to be treated equally and to be judged not by their sexual orientation or gender identity but by their capabilities, skills, integrity and dignity.
"Hopefully, the passage (of the Anti Discrimination Bill) could translate to acceptance of LGBT Filipinos in society, because tolerance, which is our present state now, doesn't parallel to equality of opportunities and of the law." Benedito said.
Benedito, a transgender woman from Abra who has been an LGBT rights advocate for nine years and a master's degree holder in Sociology at the Ateneo de Manila University, is Ladlad's first nominee for the 2013 elections.
Ladlad's other nominees are: lawyer Germain Leonin, a lesbian and founding president of Rainbow Rights Project; lawyer Raymond Alikpala, a gay man and book author; and Pidot Villocino, a gay man who works for the Integrated Gender and Development Division of Davao City.
These Congressional nominees, who will represent the LGBT Filipinos in the 16th Congress next year, were chosen at Ladlad's February 18, 2012 national convention.
Ladlad also elected a new Board of Trustees, namely: Danton Remoto of TV5, Ladlad media relations officer Dexter Macaldo, Rev. Ceejay Agbayani of Metropolitan Community Church-Quezon City, Ivanka Custodio of Lesbian Activism Project, Rica Paras and Santy Layno of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP).
Appointed officers by the board were: Remoto, chairman; Edmond Osorio, vice chairman; Ivy Krystel Hapitan, secretary; and Raffy Aquino, treasurer.
"We are more prepared now in terms of time, logistics, resources, network building and membership drives," Benedito said. "Unlike 2010, we were faced with so many challenges in terms of our accreditation and legality as a sectoral organization."
To finance their rigorous election campaign, the partylist will depend on dues collected from their members estimated at more that 50,000, and from donations of their members, friends and supporters. The party is also exploring the possibility of endorsing some senatorial wannabes, provided that they are LGBT rights advocates willing to carry the platforms of the party.
"If elected, our first step is to consult our constituents and chapters to assess what we learned in the whole process of the campaign," Benedito said. "It's always a necessity to go back to your members and coordinators in every step because we are the voice of every individual, who yearns to be heard and understood."
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")