Aftermath: The Future for Ang Ladlad

I have never shed any tears for this election, just now, after reading this piece written by Ang Ladlad's second nominee, Atty. Germaine Leonin. And it is not just my dream, but the dream belongs to all of us.

The Board of Trustees of Ang Ladlad has also chosen its new set of officers. I am happy to report that I am no longer chairman of Ang Ladlad. A new set of younger leaders will take over from where we have left off.

I am now ready to prepare for my journey for the senatorial elections of 2013. Watch us make our moves ;-)

Aftermath: The Future for Ang Ladlad
By Atty. Germaine Trittle Leonin

By and large, I believe AngLadlad and the Filipino LGBT Community won a great battle in this past elections. While AngLadlad’s real story began in 2006 (when it first applied for partylist accreditation and got denied by COMELEC for failing to show its national membership), it was the last six months prior to the May 10, 2010 elections which proved most significant to its ultimate aspiration of respect and equality for Filipino LGBTs.

AngLadlad had always played by the rules. It relied on clear Constitutional mandates for marginalized sectors and took advantage of the opportunity that the Philippines’ Party List System provided. AngLadlad gathered its LGBT membership from all around the Philippines and documented its relevant activities, as well as the required qualifications of a Party List under the law. However, certain “powers that be” in the COMELEC chose to be more obvious with their biases and homophobia to outrightly deny AngLadlad’s application.

Everyone saw through the blatant injustice being done to AngLadlad, since various “bogus” organizations claiming to represent certain sectors were getting accredited at the snap of a finger by simply forking over a couple of hundred thousand pesos. These supposed sectoral organizations did not even fall within the same category of similarly disadvantaged groups enumerated by the Constitution and the Party List law. I mean, honestly, “sabungeros” or cockfighters and LPG-users as a marginalized sector? Give me a break! And maybe balut-vendors, security guards and tricycle drivers may fall within the contemplation of the economically-marginalized “informal industry or underground economy”, but to have the Presidential sister-in-law and a Presidential son represent such sectors as its intended nominees? Come on! They should have been the first to be disqualified.

But as is our wont, in the LGBT Community, we took everything in stride. We are used to these types of prejudice after all. The only difference is, we are no longer so willing to endure it. AngLadlad challenged the COMELEC and sought the judicious guidance of the Supreme Court in the name of human rights. With the fiasco surrounding COMELEC’s erroneous decision, the everyday discrimination Pinoy LGBTs actually experience in their lives became more real for other people in the straight world. Our own families and friends, or even mere acquaintances came to understand our plight more.

Fortunately, the Highest Court in the land showed incredible progressiveness and upheld our basic rights under the law. Quoting the Solicitor-General’s own Comment to the petition, it practically chastised the COMELEC Commissioners for their gross ignorance of the law. I personally think that, had it not been a critical election year, these as..h..les should have been impeached already!

While we in AngLadlad just grinned and bore it, unbeknownst to us, there were more people supporting us and declaring themselves as our allies. They may not be as vocal since they do not completely understand our struggle, but instinctively, Filipinos knew something was not right and it was not fair to LGBTs. Touted as an underdog, the sympathy generated for AngLadlad ultimately worked in our favor. Apathetic and indifferent LGBTs finally came out in solidarity to speak in behalf of LGBT rights.

But the greater revelation came on election day when we realized our own families and relatives, classmates and workmates all came out to vote for AngLadlad. Just when we thought our parents and siblings would never come to accept or understand us, they came out in full force to make their votes count even with the long queues under the sun, risking heatstroke as they did so. We were so surprised – shocked even! We were so overwhelmed by the support they showed us, most of us were driven to tears.

In my case, my own sisters and very religious mother (who would never challenge Catholic dogma), donated some stickers as AngLadlad campaign materials. My youngest sister and cousin hung AngLadlad tarpaulins at their homes even when they never fully understood my advocacy. As a result, our whole parish in Kamias came to know about AngLadlad so that neighbors were enjoined to vote for us. My mom could have been arrested for electioneering when she continued to campaign on election day within the polling areas!

The total votes we eventually got, albeit lacking to garner us a seat in Congress, was a decent number. Our ranking was considerably dignified compared to other partylists which had greater resources. Given the late release of the SC decision, we had a mere three (count that 3!) weeks to campaign formally. Thus, all five nominees, including Danton himself, were simultaneously deployed around the Philippines to campaign – Bemz to North Luzon, Danton to the Bicol region, Cris in Mindanao proper, Dex in Leyte and Samar, and I was sent to Cebu and Davao. We alternated with press duties – giving various interviews to TV, radio and print media. Meanwhile, we had Edmond, Gelo, Patrick, and Naomi holding the fort in Manila. Malu, Ging and the rest of the lesbians from LEAP, together with Ceejay and MCC-QC pulled off three weekends’ worth of mini-motorcades around the Metro, including an LGBT Flores de Mayo.

Within this very short time, I know many others from the LGBT Community were also working, doing whatever they can do to help out. From Cagayan de Oro (c/o Norms, Louie and the rest of PLUS) to Cebu (c/o Tisha, Jubelle, and Orly), Davao (c/o Pidot and Shielfa) to Laguna (c/o Kearse and Bron), our LGBT networks and friends were hooking us up with local media and providing us whatever exposure is available.

And sorry if I will fail to mention all of you due to memory gap, (I know Marlon went to Dumaguete, Abra and Pangasinan to campaign, as well LIKHAAN within their communities), but I believe this genuine unified effort for AngLadlad galvanized something within the LGBT Advocacy Movement - a great achievement in itself! Besides the true solidarity these different LGBT groups around the country showed us, we were amazed by the support local politicians in the provinces gave us. If people are still wondering whether Abalos was correct in calling us “phantom voters”, the clear visibility we displayed proved this disgraced ex-COMELEC chairman was so wrong about us.

We must remember that we also didn’t have enough financial resources and relied mostly on donations from friends and supporters. We welcomed and are thankful for all the support we got from different people, national and local candidates alike. And while tough choices had to be made, the leadership assured everyone that final decisions were made without losing focus on our main goal – and that is, to do everything it takes to represent Pinoy LGBTs in Congress.

Yet criticisms still abound, differences and misunderstandings will continue long after this election is over. But all I can say is, Filipino LGBTs should know where their loyalties should lie because no one else can do this better than a fellow LGBT. We may all have our political leanings, but after everything is said and done, this option has already been presented to you, that your own marginalized sector should be recognized in the political realm – will you stand by and simply watch when what we are fighting for are your own rights?

This early, there is a clamor for more LGBT groups in different parts of the country for AngLadlad to visit them for proper orientations on the partylist’s goals and plans. There is also an expressed desire to organize themselves better so they can serve as better campaign mechanisms in the future. Well-off LGBTs don’t seem so complacent anymore and entrepreneurs have shown interest in helping out with fundraisings. Our families and friends have become stronger allies and supporters. Already I feel Philippine society has already changed significantly and it gives me goosebumps.

Danton Remoto’s dream for AngLadlad and of greater political participation for Filipino LGBTs will continue. On the eve of the Philippine LGBT Advocacy Movement’s 15th year this June 2010, we celebrate our diversity and remain steadfast in our desire for equality and respect. Mabuhay tayong lahat, mga kapatid!

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