Yearender: Human rights protection in RP sinks to 'terrible low'

Yearender: Human rights protection in RP sinks to 'terrible low'
By Katherine Adraneda (The Philippine Star) Updated January 01, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The country’s dismal reputation on human rights promotion and protection got worse in 2009.

After declaring a “dismal” state of human rights defense in the country in 2008, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) affirmed that 2009 was not any better.

CHR chair Leila de Lima said the prevailing culture of impunity by allies of the Arroyo administration saw the Philippines “sink to a terrible low” in terms of human rights protection.

De Lima said the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao last month can be considered as “a foreshadowing of even worse things to come.”

The massacre has been blamed on a family of politicians that are allied with the Arroyo administration.

“That slaughter offers us a foreshadowing of the other horrors and brutalities we will continue to face, if we do not find meaningful and lasting solutions to some of our grave, systemic problems,” De Lima noted.

“We were already aware that a culture of impunity continues to be pervasive. We already knew for some time that the rule of law was being weakened, and that our elections were being hijacked by the powerful, the wealthy, and the corrupt,” she said.

De Lima stressed the brutal mass murder in Maguindanao made it clear that if no effort is made to preserve and sustain human rights protection, “we will see more brutal murders, individual and en masse, in the coming years.”

According to De Lima, even before the Maguindanao massacre, there already were numerous incidents and “credible allegations” of enforced disappearances, torture, and unexplained killings in the country.

De Lima mentioned that even human rights defenders, as well as members of the media, continued to be harassed and became targets of violence.

De Lima also noted that the government’s counter-insurgency program continued to vilify civil society organizations and their members, branding them as fronts of communist rebels.

This kind of move, she said, is an attempt to transform civilians into legitimate military targets.

The human rights group Karapatan agreed with De Lima’s assessment.

Karapatan reported an increase in the number of victims of unexplained killings in the country during the first 10 months of 2009.

Karapatan said they documented 77 victims of extralegal killings from January-October 2009, which is more than the 53 cases that the group recorded in the same period in 2008.

Karapatan said there are now 1,118 documented victims of unexplained killings.

Karapatan also reported three cases of enforced disappearance from January to October this year, bringing the total number of victims of enforced disappearance to 204 in the eight years and 10 months of the Arroyo administration.

Karapatan also reported the total number of torture victims reached 1,026 in the first 10 months of 2009, while there were 94 cases of illegal arrests in the same period.

De Lima, on the other hand, lamented that thousands continue to be internally displaced by the armed conflict while so-called death squads or vigilante groups continue to operate in some of the country’s major cities such as Davao.

De Lima also expressed disappointment over a Commission on Elections (Comelec) decision against a gay group seeking party-list accreditation, which she said only sustained the prevailing social bias on sexual orientation.

“The dismal state of human rights in 2008 was being perpetuated into 2009, notwithstanding the good faith efforts of many individuals, both within government and outside of it,” De Lima said.

Just like in 2008, De Lima again declined to give the Arroyo administration a numeric grade in terms of its promotion and protection of human rights in the country for 2009.

She stressed that there are men and women in the government who continue to work hard in improving human rights conditions in the country amid criticisms from both local and international groups.

But there still others, De Lima said, who only pay lip service to human rights protection, and there are some who are even willing to disregard human rights for expediency.

Though De Lima made no mention of any group or individual in government, she said the actions and decisions taken by the Arroyo government are “disturbing from a human rights point of view.”

De Lima cited the government response to the Maguindanao massacre, including the poor system of collecting and preserving evidence gathered from the site, charging the suspects of the massacre with rebellion, and the declaration of martial law in the province.

Positive accomplishments

De Lima, on the other hand, lauded the government for the enactment of laws such as the Anti-Torture Law, the Magna Carta of Women, Anti-Child Pornography Law, and the Law on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and other Crimes Against Humanity, among others.

De Lima also commended the Philippine National Police (PNP) for its Memorandum of Understanding with the CHR in committing to respect the human rights body’s visitorial powers and allow access to police detention facilities.

De Lima also hailed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for its efforts to coordinate with the CHR to improve the human rights training of military personnel.

“Again, while there are those individuals in government who see human rights as a threat, there are also those who would like nothing more than to see human rights truly respected and protected in the country,” she stressed.

Vested interests

De Lima encouraged “persons from all walks of life” - from government and civil society, business and academe, the media, other organizations, and the public at large - to put on a united front and demand the protection of the human rights for all people.

De Lima stressed that one of the reasons why it is so difficult to ensure that human rights are truly upheld in the country is the fact that there are many vested interests who benefit from human rights violations and abuses.

She warned that these individuals would not give up their “entrenched positions” of power and wealth without a fight.

“The vested interests are many, so we should be too,” De Lima said.

She said amending or changing some of the laws concerning the issues would be proper, such as laws that discriminate on the basis of gender.

De Lima said administrative issuances which undermine the ability of the different branches of government to act a check and balance on each other should be reversed.

De Lima further called on the government and Congress to approve pending measures enhancing human rights protection.

She pressed the national government to pass the proposed charter of the CHR to allow the body to carry out its constitutional mandate and formalize the effort of human rights protection and enlist support in international forums.

“The fact that the proposed CHR Charter was not prioritized by the government speaks volumes about its position on human rights,” De Lima pointed out.

“That Charter... would have helped our relatively small organization better carry out its broad and rather extensive mandate, with respect to human rights throughout the country. But the Charter was not prioritized, and has not yet been passed,” she lamented.

The CHR has been conducting public inquiries into some of the worst alleged human rights violations brought to its attention, including the inquiry into the alleged Davao Death Squads, as well as other vigilante groups operating in major cities in the country over persistent reports of summary executions of even petty offenders.

The high profile inquiries conducted by the CHR included the killings in Samar, which victims include Fr. Cecilio Lucero; militarization, harassment and internal displacement in Surigao del Sur; violent demolitions within the context of mining in Nueva Vizcaya; reports of abduction and torture in Tarlac; and the recent events unfolding in Maguindanao, among others.

In Davao, the CHR’s efforts in partnership with other government agencies and security forces led to the unearthing of human remains in a private property.

The CHR also advocated the right to vote of vulnerable sectors, such as persons with disabilities, internally displaced persons, the elderly, indigenous peoples, detainees, first-time voters, and migrant workers.

On the international front, the CHR participated in proceedings before United Nations treaty bodies on human rights protection.

While the government tends to paint a fairly rosy picture of the human rights situation in the country, the CHR made a “shadow reporting” and gave the UN bodies a clearer and more complete picture of the human rights reality on the ground.

“Through all these inquiries, we seek to uncover the truth, to accumulate evidence and testimony, to end instances of violations, and to bring these situations to the attention of the public at large, so that they too may judge for themselves the true state of human rights in the country,” De Lima said.

“We seek to fulfill our constitutionally-entrenched mandate and functions, and thereby help ensure respect and protection for the human rights of all Filipinos, and all people.”

Tagubilin at habilin

Tagubilin at Habilin

Sa pagtatapos ng taong 2009, gusto ko dito ibahagi itong tula na sinulat ni Pete Lacaba na binigkas ni Armida Siguion-Reyna. [Mula sa]

Mabuhay ka, kaibigan!

Mabuhay ka!

Iyan ang una’t huli kong

Tagubilin at habilin:

Mabuhay ka!

Sa edad kong ito, marami akong maibibigay na payo.

Mayaman ako sa payo.

Maghugas ka ng kamay bago kumain.

Maghugas ka ng kamay pagkatapos kumain.

Pero huwag kang maghuhugas ng kamay para lang makaiwas sa sisi.

Huwag kang maghuhugas ng kamay kung may inaapi

Na kaya mong tulungan.

Paupuin sa bus ang matatanda at ang mga may kalong na sanggol.

Magpasalamat sa nagmamagandang-loob.

Matuto sa karanasan ng matatanda

Pero huwag magpatali sa kaisipang makaluma.

Huwag piliting matulog kung ayaw kang dalawin ng antok.

Huwag pag-aksayahan ng panahon ang walang utang na loob.

Huwag makipagtalo sa bobo at baka ka mapagkamalang bobo.

Huwag bubulong-bulong sa mga panahong kailangang sumigaw.

Huwag kang manalig sa bulung-bulungan.

Huwag kang papatay-patay sa ilalim ng pabitin.

Huwag kang tutulog-tulog sa pansitan.

Umawit ka kung nag-iisa sa banyo.

Umawit ka sa piling ng barkada.

Umawit ka kung nalulungkot.

Umawit ka kung masaya.

Ingat lang.

Huwag kang aawit ng “My Way” sa videoke bar at baka ka mabaril.

Huwag kang magsindi ng sigarilyo sa gasolinahan.

Dahan-dahan sa matatarik na landas.

Dahan-dahan sa malulubak na daan.

Higit sa lahat, inuulit ko:

Mabuhay ka, kaibigan!

Mabuhay ka!

Iyan ang una’t huli kong

Tagubilin at habilin:

Mabuhay ka!

Maraming bagay sa mundo na nakakadismaya.

Mabuhay ka.

Maraming problema ang mundo na wala na yatang lunas.

Mabuhay ka.

Sa hirap ng panahon, sa harap ng kabiguan,

Kung minsan ay gusto mo nang mamatay.

Gusto mong maglaslas ng pulso kung sawi sa pag-ibig.

Gusto mong uminom ng lason kung wala nang makain.

Gusto mong magbigti kung napakabigat ng mga pasanin.

Gusto mong pasabugin ang bungo mo kung maraming gumugulo sa utak.

Huwag kang patatalo. Huwag kang susuko.

Narinig mo ang sinasabi ng awitin:

“Gising at magbangon sa pagkagupiling,

Sa pagkakatulog na lubhang mahimbing.”

Gumising ka kung hinaharana ka ng pag-ibig.

Bumangon ka kung nananawagan ang kapuspalad.

Ang sabi ng iba: “Ang matapang ay walang-takot lumaban.”

Ang sabi ko naman: Ang tunay na matapang ay lumalaban

Kahit natatakot.

Lumaban ka kung inginungodngod ang nguso mo sa putik.

Bumalikwas ka kung tinatapak-tapakan ka.

Buong-tapang mong ipaglaban ang iyong mga prinsipyo

Kahit hindi ka sigurado na agad-agad kang mananalo.

Mabuhay ka, kaibigan!

Mabuhay ka!

Iyan ang una’t huli kong

Tagubilin at habilin:

Mabuhay ka!

An Estrada surge on eve of campaign

I said this earlier, in my blogs last year, that if Erap runs, he might win. Mr. Tony Gatmaitan, an astute political analyst, concurs. Let us see where Villar's billions and Noynoy's minions will be picked up after the Erap juggernaut is over.

Ain't I glad, finally, that I am not running in this election. I am writing a novel about it, though. Satirical, but I hope also sweet. And the politicians running in 2010 will have a field day gleaning who they are among the characters in my novel. The Comelec included. Ha!

The best revenge, said Oscar Wilde, is to write well.


An Estrada surge on eve of campaign
Antonio Gatmaitan
Daily Tribune

At about the time when things were winding down, Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations, the two respected and widely accepted pollsters published assessments of the 2010 presidential elections, two days apart, a fortnight ago.

Electoral track record

Absent any satisfactory measure of performance, every candidate would have to deal with the figures, except Joseph Estrada. He has the electoral track record as a gauge of voter performance for him. In fact, his basis is not the opinions of 1,800 in the case of Pulse Asia or even 2,000 respondents in the case of the SWS survey, but actual votes he received in 1998, the first time he ran for president.

10.8 million votes

In 1998, Joseph Estrada’s votes were 10.8 million. This was the very reason he felt confident overtaking his opponents come election time. When he was interviewed over radio he simply said, it was too early, knowing fully well his drawing power bolstered by large turnouts at his sorties of late.

Composite survey results

The composite survey results of Pulse Asia and SWS are instructive. First is Noynoy Aquino, followed by Manny, and close behind is Joseph Estrada. In fact, a few percentage points spelled the difference between the second and third slot. Villar and Estrada could have been in a statistical tie already.

Noynoy replaces Manny

And that would be devastating for Manny Villar. All these months prior to the death of Cory Aquino, Villar was the main game in town. But with the passing away of the Philippines’ democracy icon, Villar’s numbers plummeted and in his place was an unlikely successor. Thus far, Manny Villar doesn’t seem to make a dent. Noynoy Aquino’s lead in the polls has been consistent at 20 points or so. Financial backers are pragmatists, they will not stay for long, unless something dramatic happens in the coming weeks.

NP’s meritocracy

Given the way the Nacionalista Party (NP) and the Villar forces are conducting their campaign, it will be difficult for Villar to overhaul Aquino’s lead in the polls. Villar’s campaign emphasizes meritocracy. He attempts to project himself thus. Appeals to the brain rather than to the heart are hurting him. Moreover, his leaders are virtually all politicians. No cadres of upper middle class and middle class volunteers like the Aquino campaign, crucial in the urban areas where the national party machines are weak. In Luzon, there is hardly any province where Villar’s forces or the Nacionalista Party is known to be dominant or controlling, except arguably for Camarines Sur, where former Speaker Noli Fuentebella is also working for the Estrada ticket. There are exceptions in the Visayas. There is Bohol. The conventional wisdom is the elected officials will mostly side with the NPs. But the margins may not be large enough to offset the projected losses in Cebu and elsewhere.

Fight for the local machines

The fight for the local political machine will be between the Lakas, the LPs, the NPs and to a lesser extent, the PMP. They will be contesting for the local political elite among themselves with Lakas having the upper hand. But the PMP is the most loyal of the lot. They make up for their lack of numbers with the intensity and the passion needed in a multi-cornered fight.

Estrada’s masa votes

The Estrada loyalist votes can already be gleaned from Pulse Asia and SWS. The support for Estrada hovers around 20 percent. This is partly due to the masa vote. There is always hesitancy for this sector to express their sentiments at the early stage. They are for the most part suspicious and would hide their preference until they feel “safe” to express them. The masa vote is definitely more than 20 percent. How much more, we can’t tell at this stage. Suffice it to say, it exists in large numbers, given our impoverished state. And as far as the masa are concerned, there is only one real champion. Not Manny Pacquiao who is revered nonetheless, but Joseph Estrada.

Villar today, Aquino tomorrow

By the start of the official campaign on Feb. 9, 2010, expect Joseph Estrada to tie and ultimately overtake Villar. Noynoy Aquino will follow soon after.

Liberation through education

Liberation through education
(The Philippine Star) Updated December 30, 2009 12:00 AM

There is reason to celebrate the memory of national hero Jose Rizal today. This year education took center stage in national life after a teacher received international recognition as a “hero” for his novel way of bringing education to the poorest of the poor. Efren Peñaflorida, CNN “Hero of the Year,” struggled out of poverty and became a teacher to help others less privileged like him.

Rizal would have approved. The inspiration for many Filipino rebels against Spain famously refused to endorse an armed uprising, instead advocating liberation for the masses through education. Well-traveled and educated in Europe, Rizal knew the value of a good education and wanted it for his compatriots. He was an early advocate of non-violent change, but the Spanish colonizers saw him merely as a threat and executed him 113 years ago today, triggering the Philippine revolution.

The commemoration of Rizal’s death, and the honors heaped on Peñaflorida, should trigger another revolution, this time in education. His “kariton” or pushcart classrooms are being replicated to reach poorly served communities nationwide. The informal, mobile setting greatly reduces the costs of sending a child to school. Those costs are among the biggest reasons for the high national dropout rate despite the fact that basic education is free and mandatory.

In addition to improving universal access to education, the government should complement private initiative with efforts to improve the quality of Philippine education. This includes training more top-quality teachers and upgrading the quality of textbooks, a number of which continue to be riddled with factual and grammatical errors, as Antonio Calipjo-Go will attest.

Peñaflorida led the way in innovation. There must be other innovative ways of expanding education facilities. The country continues to suffer from an acute lack of classrooms, computers, textbooks and other basic school supplies. Teachers, overworked and underpaid, complained of delays in the release of their Christmas bonus this year. A commitment to improving the quality of education would be a fitting way of remembering Jose Rizal.

The scalpel's tip

The scalpel's tip
LODESTAR By Danton Remoto
(The Philippine Star) Updated December 28, 2009 12:00 AM

The Highest Hiding Place is the first book of L. Lacambra Ypil, but it already bodes many good things for this young poet. Just published by the Ateneo de Manila University Press, this book of poems is a young man’s book. It deals with what T.S. Eliot called “memory and desire,” which fuses the past and the future. It deals with childhood and adolescence and young adulthood, the personas in the poems trembling with new discoveries, with singular fears and dreams.

Ypil was born and raised in Cebu, earned a BS in biology at the Ateneo de Manila University, and spent a few years at the UP College of Medicine. He has won the prestigious Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature in 2006 as well as the Philippines Free Press Award for Poetry in 2001. He has just finished his MA in Literary and Cultural Studies at the Ateneo and writes a bi-monthly column, “Dog-Eaters in the Wrong Notebook,” for Sun Star Weekend Cebu.

“The Discovery of Landscape” is the first poem. It is set apart from the rest of the book, and functions as an extended introduction. Ypil has the Swiftian gift for telescoping far and near distances. He uses bridges, cliffs, and edges — especially edges — as slippery metaphors for connections that are solid but in the end are also tentative. In “At the Beach,” the edge of the sea becomes “wide arc of the sky that was/ uninterrupted bridge. . . .”

Ypil was one year short of finishing a medical degree at UP when he finally left it all behind to take a graduate course in Literature at the Ateneo. Like Arturo Rotor in his fiction, Ypil has a medical eye that is almost microscopic in its attention to the smallest detail. He notices the sea is littered with “the dear dioramas of the dead,” then proceeds not to catalogue them but to point them out, each tiny detail hooked at the scalpel’s tip.

From the womb of the sea — which is the source of all life —the persona talks about his mother, asking her to draw a mermaid’s tail again, so they could capture “the morning sun on (the) page.” Even the house in seemingly calm suburbia is full of edges — “edge of the bed/ Edge of the world as I knew it.”

Where lies redemption? The poet recalls for us the story of Thomas, who doubted Jesus Christ would come back to life. If the eyes do not believe what they see, and the ears do not believe what they hear, how to decide if the dead person come back to life is indeed palpable, alive? “The hands, they knew/ what faith was—/ the held object/ holding you.”

But the object of one’s affection, whether religious or romantic, is also fraught with danger, with knife-edges. The persona asks: “Oh, affection/ Can’t you feel its shiny splinters/ in your steps?”

“Paradise Village Sketches” and “Esteban Abada Street” come to life in the form of their inhabitants, in the same way that Edgar Lee Master’s Spoon River Anthology painted the characters of his place and time.

Ypil is also adept not just with the short lyric utterance but also with longer poetic forms, as shown in “Five Fragments: A Confession,” where the language throbs, capturing the pulse points of the persona giving a voice to the unutterable.

The unutterable is same-sex love, what the notoriously obsolete Commissioner Ferrer of Comelec calls “immoral.” And it finds perfect expression in the poem “The Love of Books,” which deserves a complete reprint.

“I’ve seen far better pictures/ of this love between two men:/ two legs entwined, two hands/ held tight, a whisper in the ear/ that’s meant to mean we close/ our eyes when no one’s looking close./ Yet still, I find myself/ returning always to this picture/ of two boys who don’t know well/ each other yet, but choose/ to read two books/ together under the same lamp./ Who’ll turn the page at just/ exactly the same moment/ when the page of one, says Bless/ and then the other ends: me, Father/ for I’ve sinned. The sin that says/ it’s wrong to end another brother’s/ sentences. Or to decide it’s time/ to turn it off: the light, the lamp./ The book that’s still not done,/ that’s left half-opened face to face/ that’s meant to mean we read/ what can’t be said by hand/ when we’re not reading.”

Remoto's dilemma and Comelec's Political Homophobia

Remoto’s dilemma and Comelec’s Political Homophobia
December 16th, 2009 by Patricio Mangubat

Now, let me write about Danton Remoto. Remoto, as you know, is the chairman and founder of Ang Ladlad, a partylist organization.

Remoto has just been dealt with two devastating blows—his partylist org was disqualified and just yesterday, he was also stricken out of the list of qualified senatorial candidates. The second division chaired by no less than Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer handed a fatal blow to Ang Ladlad when he disqualified the organization for being “redundant“. Now, Remoto was also disqualified as a senatorial candidate because of his alleged lack of organization and resources.

This is clearly a sign that the Comelec is suffering from homophobia. How in the world did they determined that Remoto does not have a machinery to use for a national campaign? Remoto’s name alone attracts millions of votes.

Remoto, undeniably, has already established a name as a gay rights activist. His exposure is definitely beneficial for any campaign. His name has been published in most broadsheets and tabloids and people know him by name and by the cause he espouses. Why consider a name such as Yasmin Lao eligible when a Remoto is not?

Lao, pardon me, is a relative unknown, though she is a Liberal party candidate. Remoto can actually launch a campaign all by himself, since he already established political stock.

Do you mean to say that people will vote for a Lao or an Ocampo (a senatorial candidate of the Bangon Pilipinas) instead of a Remoto? I will definitely vote for Remoto rather than waste my time shading that box next to these two names: Lao and Ocampo.

This surely is a justiciable question—whether or not the Comelec has the power to define what a “national campaign is” and what qualifications an individual must possess to be eligible to run for a national post like the Senate.

This decision to strike out Remoto’s name is a clear case of political homophobia. People who love the law must contest it before the Supreme Court and allow Danton Remoto his day in court.

It's final, Comelec denies gay groups party list bid

By Lilita Balane, Newsbreak | 12/17/2009
5:00 PM

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)

Church not anti-gay, says priest | 12/09/2009 12:24 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Gay party list group Ang Ladlad has seemingly found an ally in the Church.

Father Melvin Castro of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said in a statement on Monday that homosexulity "does not equate with immorality", contrary to a Commission on Elections (Comelec) decision saying that gays are immoral.

And Ladlad claims to represent gays, lesbians, and transgender communities in the Philippines.

The Comelec refused to accredit the Ang Ladlad as a party list since the group reportedly promotes immorality and gays are threats to the youth.

Castro's seeming defense of gays ends there, however, since he opposed same-sex marriage in a statement dated December 7.

He added that the Church's stance against same-sex marriage is not "a hate position" or "anti-gay."

"The Church is only trying to defend marriage as an exclusive union between a man and a woman. Same-sex marriage contradicts the clear teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage and sexuality," said Castro, executive secretary of the CBCP's Commission on Family and Life.

He said gay marriage "goes against the basic purpose of marriage [which is] to produce children."

"No matter how proponents of same-sex union would put it, It would still upset humanity and society," Castro said.

Questioning decision

Ang Ladlad Chairperson Danton Remoto said the group's platform does not include pushing for same-sex marriage.

He said they are fighting for equal rights for LGBTs in schools and workplaces.

"The issue is not religious morality, we are fighting for human rights here," Remoto said.

Ang Ladlad filed a motion for reconsideration at the Comelec, questioning the agency's use of morality as a basis for junking their accreditation.

"The Comelec has no right to make decisions on morality because it is not a moral or religious institution. It is a political institution, and hence, should confine itself to politics," Remoto said in a previous interview.

The gay group said various rights organizations and advocates had supported their cause. Remoto, who plans to run for Senator in 2010, said they are willing to take the issue all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Comelec is set to meet en banc to decide on the group's motion for reconsideration. With a report from Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News.

as of 12/09/2009 1:17 AM

Gays, lesbians to hold 'Pride March' in Manila

Gays, lesbians to hold ‘Pride March’ in Manila

By Abigail Kwok
First Posted 19:04:00 12/04/2009

Filed Under: Gender Issues, Human Rights, Eleksyon 2010, Inquirer Politics

MANILA, Philippines—Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community are set to hold a colorful parade Saturday to promote equal rights for all genders in the Philippines.

The march is also meant to protest the Commission on Election’s decision rejecting the party-list bid of gay and lesbian group “Ang Ladlad”.

This year’s theme, “We Dare. We Care,” signifies the LGBT community’s proactive stance in addressing the human rights issues confronting the sector, according to Great Ancheta, head coordinator of Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines 2009.

“We shall no longer be complacent. We dare to remind the Philippine government and the rest of society that we have an obligation under international human rights law to promote and protect the rights and well-being of all people, including LGBT Filipinos, who are being threatened by the looming economic crisis, natural disasters, armed conflict, religious intolerance and lack of political will of some government officials,” Ancheta said.

The group will hold the parade in Manila’s Malate district and assembly begins 3 p.m. at Remedios Circle. The program will start with a grand parade, which will be followed by pageants and partying, the group said.

The TFP said the march was set in time for international observance of the Human Rights week.

“The LGBT community will march to show their indignation and concern over the lack of human rights protections for LGBT Filipinos as shown in the recent decision of the Comelec not to accredit Ang Ladlad, a party-list group for LGBT Filipinos, the non-passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill and the increasing incidence of violence and discrimination committed against them in large-scale because of their sexual orientation and gender identity,” Ancheta said.

The “Pride March” was the Filipino’s expression of solidarity with other members of the LGBT communities in Taipei, Hong Kong, Tokyo, London and other parts of the world to “fight discrimination, homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia and transphobia at the national and international levels,” said Naomi Fontanos also of TFP.

The march has gained support from various human rights groups.

Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree, the Thai representative to the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights, said in her solidarity message, “the rights of everyone [have] to be guaranteed and the space has to be equally created without which the building of ASEAN Community could not be fully realized.”

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) of the Philippines also endorsed the 2009 Manila Pride March.

CHR Chair Leila De Lima in her message of solidarity said, “We laud TFP Philippines for organizing this annual Pride March, and we recognize the courage of those who choose to participate in it. The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines stands ready to offer whatever support it can, not only in relation to this event, but also in order to generally advance respect for, and the protection of, the human rights of the LGBT community.”

The 2009 Manila Pride March is organized by Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines, a network of LGBT and LGBT-supportive groups and individuals who seek to promote positive visibility for the LGBT community.

Gay rights activist files senatorial bid

By Izah Morales
First Posted 19:25:00 12/01/2009

Filed Under: Gender Issues, Eleksyon 2010, Elections, Politics

MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE) Gay rights activist Danton Remoto filed his certificate of candidacy for a senatorial seat Tuesday at the Commission on Elections office in Manila.

Remoto heads Ang Ladlad, a national organization of Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders. The group was denied partylist accreditation by the Comelec therefore, ineligible in its bid for next year’s elections.

Remoto, who works as communications officer for the United Nations Development Program communications in the country, taught for more than two decades at Ateneo de Manila University.

“I filed my candidacy because we need to inaugurate a new moon in Philippine politics. Kelangan natin ‘yung hindi trapo at hindi dinastiyang politika (We do not need traditional politicians nor political dynasties,” said Remoto.

Remoto said his group has filed a motion for reconsideration asking the Supreme Court to reverse Comelec’s decision.

Being a former associate professor Remoto said he wants to focus on education for all, especially primary education.

“I’m running to win but I’m still open to coalitions or alliances,” said Remoto, adding, “Malapit ako dun sa magbibigay ng campaign funds. (I am close to people willing to fund my campaign). We’re giving ourselves a week to finalize who we’re supporting.”

Thin again

Thin again - Danton Remoto

People who haven’t seen me in the past month noticed I had lost weight. Something like five pounds. Excitement like electric current in their voices, they asked: “How did you lose weight? Share naman your secret with us.”

Well, it’s a “secret” I would not wish on anybody, even my enemies. You see, my father – a retired soldier in the Philippine Air Force – died last October 18 at the age of 76. And exactly a month later, my mother – a retired Music teacher – died at the age of 77. Losing a father after seeing him struggle to live in the intensive care unit with, in his own words, “ a sack of rice crushing my chest,” was traumatic enough. Losing both is beyond words.

I could not eat for two days after Father died. My main worry then was how to tell Mother, who had just undergone angioplasty and was undergoing dialysis three times a day – that Father had gone ahead. It was the most sleepless night of my life. And so the morning after, when Mother asked us why we left Father alone in the hospital, my sister, my cousin and I formed a tight circle around Mother lying on her sickbed. The words choked in our throat, but we managed to inform her, slowly, that Father had passed away.

A trickle of tear ran down her face. Sadness shrouded her eyes. It was a sadness that would never leave her. Not during the funeral wake, when she came in her wheelchair, dignified and calm, asking only to see Father and uttering his name in her broken voice. It was a sadness that would never leave her. Not during the vigil, when a succession of Philippine Air Force soldiers in light blue uniforms stood in attention before my father, in his casket draped with the Philippine flag. It was a sadness that would never leave her, after the soldiers fired their 21-gun salute in the memorial park, and my siblings and I finally erupted into the tears that we had kept in our hearts for many days and nights.

I resigned from my job, to take care of her and to prepare for the coming elections. But stay at home I did, especially when she was more sick than usual, making sure she had all her medicines, was cared for, and comfortable. We went to a nephrologist for her check-up, and her health was beginning to improve: her skin was no longer as pale as paper, and she was gaining some weight.

When my mother was in her sickbed I would sometimes think of my father, and my memories of him revolve around him telling us to be brave, never to run away from a good fight. My father sent himself to college when already a soldier with a young family, commuting 30 kilometers every day to night school, and back. Later, he sent himself to law school, taking the same route for another four years. One of my deepest memories of him is graduating from law school, and the whole family taking a dusty ride home, and finally entering the military base, walking under the sheer brilliance of the stars.

Two days before Mother died, she wanted to stop taking her medicines. My cousin and I would cajole her, brush her forehead with our hands, whisper in her ears. I think she didn’t want us to worry, and took the medicines. But the sadness never left her eyes.

Two days before Mother died, the orchids she had tended with uncommon care bloomed – yellow and lavender and white – their petals like clearest skin. Two days before she died she waved to me and I went to her and I hugged her, kissing her face and her now-bony hands.

The night she died she told my cousin she was already OK, we should not worry anymore, and she gave one of her rings to my sister with Down’s syndrome. She said it was time to sleep so everybody could rest, and from that deep repose she never woke up again.

Now I walk around the city with nothingness in my chest. To lose one parent is devastating. To lose both within a month of each other is beyond words. I try to be brave for my brother and sisters, and for my adopted daughter. In my mind I remember my parents, outside my Grade Six classroom. Under the green translucence of leaves, Father was trying to reach for a star-apple fruit. The fruit was ripened by the sun, and he gave it to Mother. My classmates nudged me, and I felt embarrassed by it all, but that was how Father was toward Mother – always protective, a warm hand around her shoulder. And now they are together, enjoying the fruits of paradise, like the soul mates that I think they are. It’s a thought that lessens, somewhat, the pain lacerating our hearts.