Those who dare come out for LGBT partylist

VERA Files

By Patrick King Pascual, VERA Files

There is no lack of enlightened politicians who support the cause of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT). But not many dare to come out in the open about it.

For most politicians, supporting the cause of LGBT could spell suicide for their political career. “When other politicians learn that you are supporting the ‘third sex’ they will veer away from your projects and bills and not support you with anything, because for them, LGBTs are not a priority in Philippine politics,” one congressman once said.

But three senatorial candidates say the LGBT cause is a human rights issue that should be the concern of each and every human being, regardless of gender.

Independent senatorial candidate Teddy Casino, formerly Bayan Muna Representative, supports the LGBT’s struggle to attain equal rights and treatment. In his privilege speech delivered in Congress last year, he said: “ is true that many Filipinos do not really want to talk seriously about the (LGBT) issues. Kadalasan, 'pag tinatanong ko sila kung ano ang tingin nila sa mga bakla o lesbian o transgender, ang madalas na sagot ay ngiti o kaya'y biruan... Kailan pa natin pag-uusapan ito ng matino? LGBTs and the LGBT issues are a twenty-first century reality. Anong gagawin natin sa mga problema nila? Ang isyu ng LGBT ay isang realidad ng ating panahon.”

Re-electionist Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, who is with Team PNoy, joined a photoshoot campaign organized by Bahaghari Center and Outrage Magazine during last year’s celebration of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Escudero said: “All of us were equally born albeit not born equal, hence we should not treat each other differently. It is our duty to ensure the equality of each person--- in our own eyes and in the eyes of the law --- is protected.”

Akbayan partylist Representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, who had been vocal about her concern for the LGBT community, showed her support by joining LGBTs in their pride marches and gender equality awareness events.

LGBT members value the support of politicians for their cause but they believe they need to have their own partylist to ensure the protection of their rights and ensure their equal treatment in Philippine society.

“The LGBT community cannot forever rely on other sectors fighting for our interests; that is such a patriarchal view,” Raymond Alikpala, Congressional nominee of Ladlad partylist, said. That’s the reason behind the formation of Ladlad partylist.

Ladlad's foray into politics had been a contentious issue. Its first attempt to be in Congress was in 2007 when it was disqualified as a partylist. The second time was in 2010 when it was again disqualified (and labelled by a Comelec commissioner as immoral) only to be recognized later by the Supreme Court.

Ladlad has served as a network of various LGBT organizations since 2003, or in the past 10 years.

“Ladlad's role in the Filipino LGBT community at this time is unique, and with our impending victory in the May 13, 2013 elections, we hope to expand Ladlad's role in providing greater support and assistance to LGBT Filipinos nationwide,” Alikpala said. “You can be sure that once Ladlad sits in Congress, the resources that will become available to us will be used to address important problems, i.e. the welfare and betterment of the LGBTs in the grassroots, as well as all other segments of society and other pressing concerns that surround the community.”

For Ladlad, connections and ties with other partylist groups and multisectoral alliances are important.

Victory in the coming elections may not be the answer to all the problems of the LGBT Filipinos, especially with the existence of allies that have the same platform and plans on the same issues. But what makes Ladlad unique is that it offers proper representation of a marginalized sector.

“It is important to have LGBT representation in Congress--- in discussing and articulating related issues--- because only LGBTs know the real feeling of being discriminated against and being humiliated because of their sexual orientation and gender identity,” Bemz Benedito, first congressional nominee of Ladlad, said.

For his part, Alikpala assured: “You can expect that Ladlad's first term in Congress will be focused on uplifting the needs and interests of the LGBT community. But we will of course also speak out for other marginalized sectors and link arms with other persons and groups fighting for the good of the Filipino people.”

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true".)