By Lilita Balane, Newsbreak | 12/17/2009
Gay community is not special, and therefore not marginalized, says poll chief
The election chief broke the tie in the poll body's vote on Thursday to deny with finality a gay group's bid to participate in the party-list election in 2010.
The first division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec)--composed of Commissioners Gregorio Larrazabal, Rene Sarmiento, and Armando Velasco--voted to grant Ang Ladlad’s appeal to get accredited. The second division--composed of Commissioners Nicodemo Ferrer, Lucenito Tagle, and Elias Yusoph--maintained their earlier ruling disqualifying the group.
Chair Jose Melo sided with the second division to junk Ang Ladlad’s appeal.
Melo countered Ang Ladlad’s argument that the November 12 ruling of poll body applied religious beliefs instead of using public or secular morals in deciding the gay group's application for accreditation. Melo said that what the second division members used were “moral parameters and precept that are generally accepted."
In its ruling, the second division said Ang Ladlad advocates same-sex relationship that offends religious beliefs.
Ang Ladlad, in its motion for reconsideration, cited the 2003 Supreme Court ruling on Estrada vs Escritor case. The Court explained that the terms "immorality" or "morals" referred to in the law, including those in the Civil Code and the Revised Penal Code, are not of religious nature but of public and secular sort.
Though the morals applied are religion-based, Melo said the hundred years of influence of Muslim and Christian beliefs had become an accepted norm in society.
Ferrer, who had been threatened with impeachment for his ruling, said that there is nothing wrong with resorting to what he learned from his religion when judging what is moral and what is not. "How do we resolve matters of morality? Through our background," he said.
Melo reiterated the second division's position that publicly expounding or proclaiming doctrines, including indecent shows and exhibitions, are punishable under the Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code.
Melo, in a separate opinion, said that the community of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders (LGBT) is not a “special class,” and is therefore not marginalized or underrepresented.
“Thus, even if society’s understanding, tolerance, and acceptance of LGBT is elevated, there can be no denying that Ang Ladlad constituencies are still males and females, and they will be protected by the same Bill of Rights that applies to all citizens alike who are amply represented also by the males and females who compromise our legislature,” Melo said.
The poll chief said that homosexuality is not a protected right under the law.
Since gays enjoy the same rights as other citizens, Melo gave assurances that they can also seek elective posts, as long as they meet the requisites for the position.
Ang Ladlad’s president Danton Remoto was disqualified in his senatorial bid on Tuesday. According to Remoto, it could have been his way of proving that Ang Ladlad has the support of the sector it wishes to represent.
Earlier, Ang Ladlad held a rally in front of Comelec’s office in Intramuros, alleging that the poll body's ground for not accrediting the group may be used against gay rights advocates who would wish to seek other elective positions.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said that it might not be possible for Ang Ladlad to elevate its case to the Supreme Court, since the SC only hears appeals where there are “grave abuse of discretion” or if the election officials abused their power in denying the Ang Ladlad’s application. Jimenez said it did not happen in Ang Ladlad’s case.
Jimenez, however. said that the group may still ask the Comelec officials to allow them to file another motion. (Newsbreak)