Another Ople in the Senate

By Ernesto Herrera
Manila Times
23 February 2010

After seeing their priorities not given full attention in the legislature in recent years, the labor movement and its supporters are hoping their fortunes will change in 2010, with the election of a genuine labor representative in the Senate in the person of Susan “Toots” Ople.

Toots Ople is of course the youngest daughter of my best friend, the late Senator and Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas F. Ople. She’s also a former undersecretary in the Labor department, who holds a master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University.

I am happy that Toots, who always accompanied Ka Blas, helped him in his work and continued his advocacies after he died, is now prepared to rise to the challenge of national leadership, as a vanguard of labor and OFWs. Her passion for helping OFWs is something that she undoubtedly inherited from her father, who authored the Labor Code and is the recognized father of OFWs.

Overseas Filipino workers and organized labor who have found a common ally in Toots Ople have recently mobilized their ranks to promote her senatorial bid. They started the Maka-Manggagawa Movement, or MMM, which is chaired by OFW-turned-businessman Jun Aguilar, one of the founders of the Partido ng Pandaigdigang Pilipino, or PPP. Members of MMM include UP Professor and former Dean Rene Ofreneo, Linda Manabat of the Philippine Transport and General Workers Organization, an affiliate of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, Dr. Ernita Santos, chairman of the NCR Federation of OFW Family Circles, Boy Desierto of the Alliance of Independent Hotel and Restaurant Workers, and Annie Geron as representative of public sector unions under PSLink.

During the launch of MMM, held at the UP SOLAIR Building in Diliman, Quezon City, among Toots Ople’s well-wishers were OFWs, like the bus drivers from Dubai whom she helped bring home after they were duped by their licensed agencies. She led the way in filing charges against the 12 licensed recruitment agencies that victimized the 137 bus drivers, and they came in full force to show their appreciation and support for Toots Ople.

Toots has helped a lot of OFWs through her NGO, the Ople Center. For instance, in 2006, she was able to secure the freedom of 17 trafficked victims in Damascus, Syria. Her lobbying also led to the establishment of an embassy in Syria, giving 17,000 Filipinos easy access to government help and protection.

The Ople Center also provides free computer literacy programs for OFWs and their dependents nationwide. The oldest graduate of the program is an 80-year-old grandmother who now maintains her own Facebook account to communicate with her loved ones abroad.

It’s about time we elect another senator who can genuinely represent workers and their families. I am confident that if elected Toots Ople can round up the votes needed in the Senate to pass worker-friendly labor initiatives.

Toots Ople vows to work for tougher laws against illegal recruitment and human trafficking as well as reforms in OWWA and other institutions that help OFWs. She also expressed concern over the growing trend towards agency-hires or labor-only contracting practices that include even jobs deemed essential to a company’s core operations and services.

For OWWA reform, she will work to make sure that six of the 12 members of OWWA’s Board of Directors are bona fide OFWs, because they are the ones who can genuinely represent the needs of their sector.

To stop the abuse of contractual workers, she will work for measures that would make it more difficult for companies to fire employees indiscriminately at the end of their six-month contract.

To beef up local employment, she said the government needs to study trends in employment and come up with a six to 10 year national employment strategic plan. This employment plan should not have a bias for what jobs will be in demand overseas; rather, it should also give equal attention to local industries that when developed would employ a lot of people.

For the youth she will reintroduce and strengthen the Study Now, Pay Later program, where students can borrow money from the government for their studies, and pay it back once they already start working.

She would also work for the inclusion of financial literacy in high school and college curriculums. She said high school and college students, no matter what course, should be taught the basics of saving and investing. They should know how to open a bank account, what a time deposit is, how to buy shares from public companies, and the like. This is practical education that will serve them well once they start earning their own money.

In these economic times, you want to reward hard work in this country. You want to put as many Filipinos back to work as possible, and you want them to be able to have a decent living, with good wages and good benefits. I know Toots Ople if elected in the Senate will work for these things. That’s why she has my vote.

Journeys and destinations

LODESTAR By Danton Remoto (The Philippine Star)
February 22, 2010 12:00 AM

Exeunt is the third part of Carmen Guerrero Nakpil’s trilogy of memoirs. In stage direction, “exeunt” indicates that a character is about to leave the stage. And the sense of finality, of elegiac beauty, is found in this book.

Mrs. Nakpil’s two earlier books are titled Myself, Elsewhere and Legends & Adventures. The first brought back to us genteel Ermita before World War II, while the second showed the author’s colorful life from 1946 until the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1986. Both won the National Book Award from the Manila Critics Circle.

As befits a book called Exeunt, the last part of the trilogy is also the thinnest volume, like the books of Samuel Beckett, which became thinner and thinner as he became older. But the signature wit and wisdom are still there, as when she deftly answered questions for four hours from a dour Hong Kong immigration officer, who mistook her for the mistress of General Ver. Or when she recalls her meeting with the infamous Ben Abalos, former chair of the Comelec. This set piece sparkles, and is worth the price of the book.

“We were sitting having coffee at the (Hotel Intercon’s) Jeepney when in rushed this very flustered, slight, dark-skinned man to dump his political woes on Mayor Yabut. He was carrying several posters and charts which he showed the Mayor as evidence that he had been cheated in the recent election… He must have misheard something in my question (about my friend Narda Camacho) because he replied: ‘I have nothing to do with her. She’s too old and ugly for me to bother with her!’ I was stunned by his boorishness and replied angrily, ‘Well, then, you’re a cad! Saying offensive things about a woman who’s been helping you.’ Mayor Yabut disposed of Abalos… He stood up and gestured, addressing Abalos in peremptory Tagalog, ‘Umalis ka na. Go and take all your charts with you.’ When I watched Abalos, already the well-connected Comelec chairman, perjuring himself on the floor of the Senate over the Chinese ZTE scandal, I was not at all surprised.”

Well, well, well. Trust Mrs. Nakpil to remind us that divine justice does exist after all, in what Shakespeare called “our mortal coil.”

And as in the earlier books, she gives us a ringside view of history, of how Cardinal Sin deftly maneuvered the Marcoses, and of how Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile kept on blaming the Americans for the crown of leadership that did not sit on his head after the People Power Revolution of 1986. What is Mrs. Nakpil’s take on the event? Ever the nationalist, she digs deeper and shows us the roots of the problem.

“EDSA as revolutionary reform failed because, from its inception, it was tainted by foreign interests, and even its native elements were blighted by self-serving motives. EDSA crumbled from its impurities . . .”

Her health also takes center stage in this book. It took a turn for the worse after her two brothers’ deaths, and her tedious work at the Technology Resource Center. We all know this deep in our bones: as journalists and creative writers, we feel we are in a Procustean bed the moment we work in the strict confines of an administrative job in a government corporation. It is against, as what Mrs. Nakpil said, “my own free-wheeling and bohemian nature.”

But work she did, being a stickler for punctuality and trying to twist her face into a smile even if she wanted to gouge out the eyes of the politicians who were pressuring her to do this and that. Still, she wrote under the byline of Aurora Cruz (part of her real name), worked for the Marcoses to save her activist daughter Gemma and son-in-law Tonypet, and labored to push for micro-finance and solid-waste management projects at the TRC.

In the end, you can feel the hilarity and melancholy of old age in these well-polished lines.

“If you are an octogenarian Filipina like me who has never migrated, it is the present (and not the past) that is like a foreign country. . . Why is everyone dressed for the beach, or for winter in New York? Sandals and bikinis, or black tailored suits and pumps? Why is it increasingly difficult to tell men from women?… Which flying-saucer space ship beamed me to this never-never land? Why have all the Asians gone blond; my fellow Pinays pale and red-haired, macabre as death, and the Caucasians dressed like Africans?”

In the end, she calls old age “just a slow form of death.” As the clock ticks and time passes, she has begun to understand the nature of our compassionate God, the slippery mysteries of our Christian religion, and the importance of an all-sustaining peace. “I surprise myself by quoting to a distraught son, daughter or friend Teresa of Avila’s comforting lines which I learned when I was 9, ‘Nada te turbe. Nada te espante.’ Let nothing disturb or frighten you. Everything passes. God never changes. Solo Dios Basta. God alone suffices.”


Love at first sentence

Views and analysis

The Book That Changed My Life, subtitled “71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books That Matter Most to Them”, is the kind of work you can dip into during a languid weekend and feel you have learned something. Edited by Roxanne J. Coady and Joy Johannessen, the book features mostly American writers talking about the book that led them round the bend — out of boredom, out of loneliness — into a brave, new world. In The Art of Possibility, Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander write that reading books “is about rearranging us, creating surprising juxtapositions, emotional openings, startling presences, flight paths to the eternal.”

The notion of books as a form of transport — as a way of freeing us from the prison of the room, of our own skin — lies at the heart of this book. Small-town Carolina girl and National Book Award-winning author Dorothy Allison sees a parallel between herself and the young, black girl in Toni Morrison’s early novel, The Bluest Eye. “I knew absolutely that Claudia was black and that The Bluest Eye was most of all about the hatred and contempt directed at little black girls, but in my white heart what rocked and shifted was my sense of great contempt directed also at me. . . .”

As a young girl, the English writer Kate Atkinson read “books.” Later on, in school, she was forced to read “literature,” something that she did not merely read for the pleasure of the text, but something she studied in great detail, like specimens under a microscope.

And how was the experience? “It was magnificent, it was transcendental. It was the light at the end of Daisy’s clock, it was the wind howling above the moors above Howorth, it was the whale, for God’s sake.”

All of the writers here first learned to love books as children. James Atlas of Chicago was visiting Paris for the first time, and entered the iconic Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, where Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein used to hold court. The young man bought three books — all of them dealing with Chicago – so he could hear its accents, view its vistas once more, while on a trip to the Old World.

He bought the novel Dangling Man by Saul Bellow, Studs Lonigan (the first volume) by James T. Farrell, and Selected Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks. Brooks wrote about the black slums of South Side Chicago, but she did so in a formal voice, her poems following the strict forms of sonnets and quatrains. If not that, she wrote very modern poems where echoes and internal rhymes piled up on each other like the wrecks of junked cars. Listen to “We Real Cool,” written for the pool players at the Golden Shovel.

“We real cool. We/ Left school. We/ Lurk late. We/ Strike straight. We/ Sing sin. We/ Thin gin. We/ Jazz June. We/ Die soon.”

Its brief, terse lines with their one-syllable words sound like bullets bursting in a borough of Chicago hardened by poverty.

If that is short, then The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is long and epical. When Graeme Base first saw the tome that his brother owned, he thought, “I will read all 1,086 pages of it? Are you kidding?”

But read he did. “I can’t remember starting the book, but I can remember finishing it. I cried. How dare it come to an end? Only 1,086 pages? I wanted it to go on and on, not because I had escaped into another world — but because I had been utterly captivated by the romance, the fantasy, the sheer epic enormity of the thing. More a prisoner than an escapee!”

And if Tolkien’s opus was vast and meandering, another favorite of the writers here is J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, for the intimacy of its voice. Before Salinger burst onto the American literary scene like a firecracker, the reigning novelists were Hemingway, with his macho works, and William Faulkner, with his novels of doom and decay in the American South. Sure, the self is also present in their novels, but the thumb mark of the “I” character, with its distinctive voice, captured the attention of an American reading public after the Second World War.

Elizabeth Berg is one of them. Her English teacher, Mrs. Yeatman, had assigned Chaucer and Beowulf, which she dutifully read. "I read about J.D. Salinger because I’d heard about The Catcher in the Rye. I’d heard that it was dirty. My friend, Donna, who’d transferred to our lame school after being kicked out of her fancy private one, said no, Catcher was good . . . I opened the book and read the first sentence and thought, Huh!? And then I devoured the book and when I finished I went right back to the first page and started over again. I kept thinking, I didn’t know you could do this! I didn’t know you could write this way! It was so open. So close to the bone. . . "

That was the same experience many of us Filipino writers had when we first read the Latin Americans. When I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, I thought to myself: You can write like this? Put together your grandmother and your yaya’s supernatural tales and the headlines blazing in the newspapers, and call this magical stew a novel?

Yes we can, and that was the bend that drove us away from the strict, formal realism that came from the American West. Time for the marvelous real of the everyday world to find flesh in our fiction, where the natural and the supernatural are one, like fins to water, and like nose to air.

Ang Ladlad Party List tarpaulin

The Dazzlingly Delightful and Lush Ladlad

by Roger B Rueda

The Ladlad series is one of my much loved books. For one, the books have been with me in my formative years as a writer. They have made me sensitive of my orientation and understand myself. Ladlad 1 and 2 were bought for me by my father in SM Fairviewk, without his knowledge. The money I bought for the books was my father’s very last money in his wallet, but since he really did not know what I was going to pay the money for, he gave his two crisp one-thousand-peso bills. Perhaps, he thought that I was going to buy books I would need come June. I was excited that summer of 1997 because I thought that I would not borrow my roommate’s copy of Ladlad any more. Then certainly when I arrived in Iloilo City, I was the first person to have a copy of Ladlad 2, with its beautiful crimson cover. Many of my friends borrowed my books, especially the two books of Ladlad. I covered them with plastic and took care of them not so they wouldn't be soiled or crumpled. But my books were not returned. The two friends of mine seemed to have forgottem to return my copies.

The Ladlad series explores the emotional life of gays in a heterosexual world; they are brilliant expositions on the gay experience. For gay readers, the enjoyment of Ladlad can be simply in seeing their lives—too frequently disregarded—reflected back at them on the pages of the series.

The two earlier series made me dream of becoming a writer, too. My early influences are the best contemporary writers in the country: Danton, J. Neil, Ronald Baytan, Ralph Semino Galan, and Felino Garcia. Reading them, I found out how beautiful their minds are and how imaginative they are/ I must really have to endeavor hard to be like them: artistic, vocal, confident, intelligent, perceptive, and fascinating. Their poems and short stories or even their essays are classics that every gay must read and find delight in.

By living outside what are considered gender norms because of the experiences I have gotten from the Ladlad books, I am now more open to seeing across boundaries of sexual category and gain admittance to a less dualistic attitude on the nature of life. Because of Ladlad, I am far more attuned to the needs of a fast evolving society in which quickness and nimble thinking are in demand and traditional religions are beleaguered with internal conflicts, exposing inherent contradictions between organized religious conviction and the true nature of God. Thus, I am more positive of myself as a human being and as a child of God.

Ladlad made me buy Panorama, Free Press, and Graphic every week and Star every Sunday and Monday. I need to follow these writers who write for these papers. After reading and savoring the works of the Ladlad writers, I have now become a published writer, too, in some national papers and the Mantala, an NCCA anthology edited by Leoncio Deriada. And I have developed a reading habit since then. Now I am crazy about Cirilo Bautista and his Breaking Signs—and Butch Dalisay, too, after reading his Oldtimer. I like Krip Yuson’s column, too. I have become aware of other writers, even if they are not gays.

Moreover, I began to attend writers' workshops. There I met Vicente Groyon III and Jaime An Lim. Well, recently because of the Ladlad, I have published my grammar book for my university/foreign students. And since the germ of Ladlad’s influence has mutated, I now have an assemblage of English-Hiligaynon/Hiligaynon-English vocabulary in order to help students in the West Visayas in their translation work.

Last year, after stopping hoping that my two friends would return my books, I decided to buy new Ladlad copies. Well, since there was only newsprint copies of Ladlad 1 and 2, I did not have a choice but to get the newsprint copies. Actually, the reason that I was able to buy the books was that one student of mine gave me a new, hardbound edition of Harry Potter. But since I have read it already, I went to National Book Store in SM City-Iloilo and had the book changed to Ladlad and other gay titles.

In Ladlad3, I like the rewriting of Alice in Wonderland into a poem, the gay children’s story, and the account of a beauty salon employee who is part of the underground movement. The book also contains legends, allowing the downbeat elements that traditional society and religion have placed on homosexual identity to be transformed and given a lift.

A lot of gays have suffered from the typecast that homosexuality is a terrible blight and source of sorrow and suffering, but because of the brilliant writers of peculiar sexual orientation and discovered their sexuality can also give them great elation, talent, success, and love. So, I really hold the three Ladlad books in the highest regard.

The Ladlad series showcases the many shapes and faces of being gay. And what I am now—an ESL teacher and a writer—is because of the Ladlad books that made me see the writer and individual in me.

Roger B Rueda has a degree in mass communications from the West Visayas State University before going on to study governance in graduate school. Now, he divides his time between editing, teaching writing/grammar, and doing his own writing. He has contributed to several magazines and an anthology and is hard at work on his first novel and his Hiligaynon-English/English-Hiligaynon dictionary. He’ll soon be all of thirty-one.

A few good men

Well, I did not file an appeal when Comelec disqualified me for running as senator because I am an independent candidate. The three old men of the Second Division does not like me. As simple and as unequivocal as that. As for Ladlad, we filed a well-written and well-documented appeal with the Supreme Court, and had Ladlad reinstated in the list of party list candidates, pending final decision of the SC which I hopoe would be soon.

Am in Cebu not to eat lechon but to attend a writers' festival and to talk to the many many members of the LGBT community here, in the City of Queens in the South.


There's The Rub
A few good men
By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:33:00 02/10/2010

THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT NICKY PERLAS, Danton Remoto and Danny Lim are running again. Or are being allowed to run again. They are the three people I wrote about last December, who had been dropped from the official roster by the Comelec on the grounds that they were nuisance candidates. Or specifically in the case of Perlas and Lim, on the ground that they had no chance to win.

It was worse in the case of Ladlad. The Comelec ruled that Ladlad, a gay group seeking a party-list seat, which Remoto represents, went against the grain of public morals. The Comelec cited Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code, which forbids the glorification of criminals in movies, violence in shows, and obscene publications, and lustful or pornographic exhibitions. An astonishing judgment, lumping gayness with pornography and criminality, which reflected more on the judge than on the judged. The Supreme Court reversed the Comelec last month, saying its judgment had no place in a democracy, which forbade discrimination on the basis of race, creed, belief, and, while at that, sexual preference, and clamped a restraining order on the Comelec’s ruling. The restraining order allows Ladlad to run until such time as its case may be ruled upon with finality.

The Comelec revised its opinion about Perlas and Lim last month as well, brought on by no small amount of public protest and pressure. Perlas made a very good case about the voters being the judge of things—it ain’t over till the fat lady, or the 4’11” one, sings—who the hell was the Comelec to presume to think for them? And Lim’s supporters pitched tent, not completely metaphorically, at the Comelec grounds, refusing to budge till they got justice.

The good news is that all three may now run again. The bad news is that not too many people know about it. Because while the news of the three having been disqualified was big news, the news about them being re-qualified was small news. Except for Perlas, who has appeared in the presidential debates, thereby giving the voters to know he’s still very much alive and kicking, the other two have been buried in forgetfulness. For all practical purposes, Remoto and Lim may not be running at all.

Remoto is not powerless to do something about it. He is at large and at it, spreading the good news that gay is not sad, or at least that they have as much right to public office as anybody else. Ladlad has not ceased to unfold, and may yet contribute a thing or two to the unfolding of the history of electoral politics in this country. A pity though that “Milk,” which told the story of the first openly, or ladlad, gay man to win a seat in California, Harvey Milk, got to be shown well ahead of our elections. It might have scored a few more points for the group. I wish them well.

It’s Lim who is less well-positioned. The unfolding of his candidacy has been imperiled by the twin whammy of the literal prison GMA threw him into and the figurative one the lack of publicity about his being able to run again has hemmed him in. Antonio Trillanes suffered the fate only of the first when he ran, although he continued to suffer that fate well after he won. He himself will find his vindication when the fat lady, or the 4’11” one, sings, which won’t be very long now.

As things go, Lim’s bid for senator is far less problematic, legally and morally, than Trillanes’. That is so not just because while Trillanes led a mutiny—twice to boot, once at Oakwood and once at Pen—Lim merely called for a withdrawal of support by the military from the GMA government. It’s also, and far more so, because while Trillanes did so when GMA was still arguably a legitimate president, Lim did so when GMA had become a perfectly illegitimate one. I have no problems with Trillanes’ second mutiny, I have a problem with his first. When he carried out the Oakwood mutiny in 2003, GMA still carried the mandate of Edsa. When Lim called for his withdrawal of support in 2006, GMA merely carried the mandate of Garci. It was not that the cheating in the elections was never proven, it was simply that GMA’s allies in Congress prevented it from being proven—or even spoken about.

That Lim has been languishing in jail for it, well, government may call it the law but everybody else calls it the lie. They should be able to shout it with their votes.

I met Lim many years ago, and he’s one of the very few RAM members I respect. That is so because he is one of the very few RAM members I believe took up arms against the government for reasons other than the pursuit of power and self-aggrandizement. Indeed, he’s one of the very few members of RAM who truly meant it when he said, “Our dreams will never die.” If those dreams had to do with country rather than self, it died long ago with his comrades-in-arms who proved their dreams consisted only of advancing themselves. If those dreams had to do with ideals rather than expedience, then it died long ago with his comrades-in-arms who proved only that their dreams were for sale, at bargain prices.

Lim defies the typical image of the general, which he has been for many years now. That image being of one who is loud, abusive, and rich—the last no longer raising eyebrows, the public having been inured to the thought that a general deserves his take from jueteng. Lim is soft-spoken, principled, and poor, the last being almost a natural consequence of the first two. To say he is respected by the soldiers is to say GMA is not by the people, an understatement of epic proportions. Lim enjoys iconic status among the soldiers for reasons that have nothing to do with spreading the gravy. They have to do with embodying the gravitas of the true soldier.

These are a few good men, Remoto very much included. Spare them a thought.

Comelec to bets: Take down those ads now

By Reynaldo Santos Jr.
Friday, 05 February 2010
Newsbreak Magazine

Comelec rules on pol ads take effect Feb.9

MANILA, Philippines--Candidates for national candidates in the May elections will have to start taking down their advertisements that don't follow prescribed guidelines before February 9, the start of the campaign period.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has released its set of campaign guidelines for 2010, which takes into consideration the new modalities of campaigning that are not specifically address by current laws.

Most national candidates have started promoting themselves since 2008, although the campaign period officially starts February 9 yet for national positions and March 26 for local positions. The campaign period ends May 8.

Politicians have been advertising on billboards and busses, which violate the rules on the size and placement of advertisements. However, the Supreme Court ruled that advertisements produced and released before the campaign period will not constitute premature campaigning.

All this will change now, when election regulations start taking effect on February 9. Under the Fair Election Practices act, the poll body will only allow the following:
Pamphlets, leaflets, cards, decals, stickers or other written or printed materials the size of which does not exceed 8 1/2 inches in width and 14 inches in length.
Handwritten or printed letters urging voters to vote for or against any particular political party or candidate for public office.
Posters made of cloth, paper, cardboard or any other material, whether framed or posted, with an area not exceeding 2 feet by 3 feet.
Streamers not exceeding 3 feet by 8 feet in size displayed at the site and on the occassion of a public meeting or rally.
Mobile units, vehicle motorcades of all types, whether engine or manpower driven or animal drawn, with or without sound systems or loud speakers and with or without lights.
Paid advertisements in print or broadcast media.

Candidates running for national position will be given 120 minutes for television advertisements and 180 minutes for radio advertisements. Candidates for local position, on the other hand, will be given 60 minutes for television advertisement and 90 minutes for radio advertisement. Air space does not include guestings of candidates in various TV and radio shows.

In print, advertisements can occupy 1/4 page in broadsheets, and 1/2 page in tabloids.

A common poster area will be assigned for all promotional posters and streamers. Candidates are not allowed to post their campaign materials outside this common area, “except in private properties with the consent of the owner” like campaign headquarters.

"Certainly, a lot of posters that you have been seeing right now fall far outside the allowable sizes for posters and streamers. So, they would be well-advised to start taking down or to stop showing their ads," Jimenez said.

Jimenez said that, theoretically, ordinary citizens can take down posters that they find not following the guidelines. The act, though, is not being encouraged by the poll body.

“There might be a danger to them from the supporters of the people who put up these posters. If it’s a private property, they might face charges for vandalism. Obstruction of private property is a serious offense,” he said.

With the rise of new methods for campaigning, the poll body said that they would be “probably not strict” in regulating it.

Jimenez said that individuals can apply to the Comelec the new modalities for campaigning. "The idea is if a new modality comes out and it is not prohibited by law, then we will allow it," he said.

But the poll body said that they won’t be liberal either with this. Jimenez said that the poll body is open to accept applications for a new campaign method from the public, but still subject on a hearing.

Even with the blatant use of Internet lately as a new venue for advertisement by candidates, Comelec did not include its regulation in its guidelines for campaign regulations this year.

Jimenez said in an earlier interview that Internet use in campaigning is a “virgin territory” that demands a lot of definitions and discussions.

"There's no law on cyber campaigning therefore we could have not made guidelines on it," Jimenez added.

Presidential and vice-presidential candidates are mandated to spend in their campaign 10 pesos for every voter. For other candidates, those supported by political parties should spend 3 pesos for every voter, while independent candidates should spend 5 pesos for every voter.

The poll body has 50,723,734 registered voters as of January 15. (Newsbreak)

Danton Remoto: The Rainbow Warrior

The Sunday Times Magazine
of the Manila Times
Janury 24, 2010

Even in his youth, Danton Remoto knew that he wasn’t allowed to run away from a fight. His father, an honor-bound military man, was against that. And in his small but charming home cramped with books, souvenirs and unfinished manuscripts, this journalist, poet and educator could still recall what his old man used to say—the simple yet striking words of wisdom that are more relevant in this time of his life.

“When somebody bullies you, fight back,” he repeated to The Manila Times. “If he is bigger than you, get a bamboo stick and hit him to even things up. If you ever go home crying, I’ll scold you myself.”

Now at 46 years of age, the self-professed “military brat” is in another battle that he can’t run away from. It was one that he lost back in 2007. During that time, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) rejected the party-list bid of his group, Ang Ladlad—an organization for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the Philippines.

Now, as the country draws near to the pivotal 2010 elections, even after the commission initially denied them for the second time around, things are looking brighter for him and his controversial party-list. And as posted on his blog, Remoto proudly states that he is both “happy and gay.”

“When we registered last year for the 2010 elections, the Comelec rejected it because of religious immorality,” he told The Times.
“Actually, its first division sided with us, however, the second division ruled otherwise saying that our group advocates immorality. They quoted the Holy Bible and the Holy Koran. The one who broke the tie was Chairman Jose Melo whose argument sided with the second division. When I got the news, I was laughing so hard.”

To counteract that resolution, Remoto and the lawyers of Ang Ladlad—volunteers from Ateneo de Manila and the University of the Philippines—brought their party-list bid the Supreme Court. Focusing on international human rights laws, they fought for their right to participate that led to the Supreme Court issuing a temporary restraining order (TRO) in favor of the group. As of this article’s publication, they are still included in the race.

“With all due respect, I’m a practicing Catholic,” Remoto stated. “When I went to the US, I took up Islamic Mysticism which is the literature of the Sufi and I studied Islam. They took the passages from those books out of context.”

“When the Comelec stated that we are immoral, that is the state discriminating on a group of people,” he added. “And the constitution states that there should be an equal protection of the law for all Filipinos. We are also citizens of this country. We are tax payers too.”

Remoto, however, maintains that they have won a battle and not a war. While the TRO includes their groups in the ballots to be printed, it still does not guarantee that they will be allowed to run. But even with this, the pre-law graduate of Ateneo de Manila remains confident.

“I have a strong belief that we will make it because our petition was based on the rule of law,” he said. “Based on the constitution and based on the Supreme Court’s decision, they cannot invoke religious morality because that’s like favoring one religion over another. They can only invoke secular morality, otherwise, they are disregarding the separation of the church and the state.”

As religious practices rooted in an alien culture and a brutal time—the Middle East of some 2000 years ago—becomes confused with the laws and principles of a modern, pluralist and secular democracy that the Philippines strives to be—Danton and his allies delineate the difference between what is considered a sin by the believers of a particular religion and what is considered a crime under laws that apply to all regardless of gender or faith.

In defending the rights of the segment of society they represent, the likes of Danton uphold the rights of all marginalized Filipinos—those whose gender, religion or culture are being imposed upon by the majority. The fight for gay rights is the fight for women, indigenous peoples and the poor. Danton and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are the first in a line of dominos that valiantly refuses to fall despite the blows from conservatives who wish to turn back the clock some 2000 years.

Remoto remains adamant about fighting the good fight. Their campaign color will be pink—a homage to the pink triangle that the Nazis used to segregate homosexual prisoners; a badge of shame turned to a badge of honor. Their flag will be the trademark rainbow banner of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community—a symbol of diversity. And their core supporters, according to him, comprise no less than 10 percent of the general public.

“Alfred Kinsey and other researchers said that across countries, across cultures, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population is generally 10 percent. So our voters are 49 million. Ten percent of that is 4.9 million. If we get only 20 percent of that, that’s still enough for three seats,” Remoto told The Times.

The supporters of Ladlad extend beyond the gay community. It encompasses all who are willing to stand up against prejudice. And that may well be the vast majority.

“Our voters are not only members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. I have met people who want to vote for us who are not necessarily part of it. There are priests, educators and military men who said that they will support us because ours is a human rights issue and we fought it cleanly,” Remoto says.

‘Gay’ advocate
With numerous supporters backing him, Remoto remains positive that they will triumph. According to him, the stint with Comelec does not even deter him. It is merely a taste of things to come. And if anything, it would be one of the things he and Ang Ladlad wishes to change should his party-list land seats in the Congress.

“Our number one platform really is to help the AKBAYAN party-list push for the anti-discrimination bill,” said Remoto before retelling one of the examples of unfairness he could remember experiencing.

“I remember the time when a commissioner mocked me,” he said. “It was one of the commissioners during our hearing. He said,
‘Should we call you ma’am or madam?’ And I just looked at him and said, ‘Wow. So these are the commissioners who get paid from my taxes.’ I paid like P 400,000 in taxes last year. And the money went to these people who cannot even treat me fairly. These are our commissioners.”

Another showcase of discrimination involves the media. While he states that the portrayal of the LGBT community has improved in the Philippines, he still thinks that there is more to be done in order to improve it.

“The treatment of the LGBT community is getting better in the cities because of the media scrutiny, people are more vigilant and the LGBT groups are here. It’s no longer an issue of visibility. The main issue now is portrayal like the shows in Channel 7,” he said. “I wrote to them because they keep on portraying gay men getting hit in the head, made fun of. These portrayals are one layered. There’s nothing wrong with effeminate gays but that’s not all that we are. Joey de Leon and his son make a lot of money playing stereotypical gay roles. I think it’s about time that they show the other side of gay men—less noisy, less loud, less hysterical, more rational, more focused. That’s my problem with Channel 7. Their writers, I think, are so old.”

Besides the pushing anti-discrimination, Remoto stated that he also wishes to further give aid to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. He plans to do this through economic empowerment and establishing necessary facilities for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community both young and old.

“The poverty of the LGBT community reflects the poverty of the general population, we’re focusing on the poor and the handicapped members of the LGBT community. We’re going to set up micro-finance for them as well as projects and cooperatives focused on them,” he said.

“There is also a rising number of teens in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community committing suicide so we also want to have counseling centers, libraries and audio-visual facilities for them,” he added. “As for the old members of the LGBT community, we also want to make a ‘golden gays’ center to provide medical, emotional and psychological help.”

Power of the pen
With the number of issues he wants to tackle paired with the number of detractions standing in his way, one might think that Remoto is in the fight of his life. But even with its magnitude, even with the stakes, he still believes that losing it will not be something that he should take personally. After all, he only entered politics recently. Before that, he was an accomplished writer and an educator—two job titles that bring him joy.

As an educator predominantly in Ateneo de Manila University, Remoto takes pride in the number of letters and calls he has received from both parents and students who have praised him for his teachings.

As a writer, Remoto has contributed various literature concerning the LGBT community. Among his published works include: Skin, Voices, Faces, Black Silk Pajamas / Poems in English and Filipino, Pulotgata; The Love Poems, Seduction and Solitude, X-Factor, and Gaydar, as well as their Filipino translations: Buhay Bading and Rampa: Mga Sanaysay.

For his writing, he has accumulated numerous literary and cultural awards. These include the Association of Southeast Asian Nations prize for the essay, 1979; the Galian sa Arte at Tula award for poetry, 1983; the PLAC award for poetry, 1986; the Palanca for the essay in 1987; the CCP literary award for poetry (three times); the Stirling District Arts Council award for poetry (twice) and the short story, 1989 and 1990; the Procyon Prize for poetry, 1993; the Cultural Center awards for film and video for the screenplay of House of the Crescent Moon documentary and The Last Parian film; the Philippines Free Press Award for the essay, 2004; the National Commission on Culture and the Arts award for translation (poetry), 2006; and the Philippine Graphic Nick Joaquin Award for the Short Story, 2007.

“Some politicians can’t imagine themselves powerless,” he said. “As for me, how can I be powerless if I write books? Remember, the Philippines is the only country in the world whose national hero is a novelist and a poet. We’re the only country like that—a novelist and a poet shot for his books.”

But even as he states that losing this battle is not a reason for him “to commit suicide,” it does not justify short-handed efforts. After all, winning the campaign would help a lot of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. It would also justify the support shown by his parents—from his cradle to their grave.

“My father was an intelligent man and my mother was a sweet person,” he said. “It’s a shame that they died before they could see the campaign. They were in the [intensive care unit] ICU when my father said that we should continue the campaign for Ang Ladlad and my aborted senatorial run. They were campaigning even in the ICU telling the doctors and the nurses to vote for me.
I told my father to focus on his oxygen tank because he’s hardly breathing.”

But even with their passing, their legacy lives on. It is manifested in this 46-year-old man named Danton Remoto—a beacon of many shades like the rainbow flag waved by the community he represents—fighting a battle he just can’t run away from.

Can Estrada still catch up?

By Demaree J. B. Raval
The Daily Tribune

That is the question posed by my friend Fel Maragay in his article on former President Joseph Estrada’s chances as a consequence of the decision of the second division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) throwing out the disqualification cases against Estrada.

The question wrongly assumes that the survey results showing Estrada to be lagging behind in the presidential race are true and correct. Corollary to that wrong assumption, too much reliance is made on the unsubstantiated claim of Estrada’s detractors that he will continue to lose supporters, and not even gain any, upon the unfounded fear that their votes might just be wasted if he would be disqualified by the Comelec, or by the Supreme Court eventually.

Fel did cite incontrovertible reasons supporting an affirmative answer to his question, and I cannot but agree with him.

Estrada, relegated by the mercenary surveys to a poor third place, has always been there slugging it out with the frontrunners anointed by the surveys, and he will be slugging it out with them until election day.

Former Senate President Ernesto Maceda views Estrada’s triumph in the first round of the disqualification case as a key factor that would turn the tide of the presidential contest in Estrada’s favor.

Another good thing going for Estrada is the resolution of the Department of Justice striking out Estrada’s name as a suspect in the November 2000 murder of publicist Bubby Dacer and his driver, even as it recommended the indictment of Sen. Panfilo Lacson, against whom a warrant of arrest has already been issued.

And Estrada, in the latest round of television advertisements, has vowed to project himself as “presidential,” a complete departure from the song-and-dance routine of his opponents.

To prove that we will have Estrada slugging it out until election day, read this account of Maceda: “Weeks before the Dec. l deadline for the filing of certificate of candidacy, Aquino met with Estrada at the Makati residence of a common friend, businessman and former Finance Secretary Jose Pardo, in the hope of persuading the 72-year-old ex-president to pull out from the presidential derby and secure Erap’s backing for his own candidacy. Estrada candidly told him that he could not accede to his proposition because he was determined to seek political vindication after his term as president was cut short by Edsa II. He said he wanted to resume his programs that were abruptly disrupted and discontinued by his unceremonious ouster from the seat of power.”

At the Kapihan sa Sulo yesterday, Cavite Rep. Boying Remulla accused Sen. Noynoy Aquino of “having blood in his hands” for his complicity with what Boying calls the “SCTex Massacre” and the decades long and often violent oppression of farmers in the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.

Remulla said he dubbed the scandal over the construction of the SCTex as a “massacre” because it involves slowly murdering the farmers of Hacienda Luisita by paying them starvation wages, limiting their workdays and the area of the land they till.

Remulla disclosed that hearings at the House of Representatives elicited the fact that Noynoy used his influence as a legislator not only to push the SCTex project, but specifically the interconnection of Hacienda Luisita to it, at a stupendous cost to government and taxpayers.

The net effect of Noynoy’s machination is that from its original cost of P18.7 billion in 1999, the SCTex project cost ballooned to a whopping P32.808 billion, or double the original price, by the time it got finished.

Noynoy is being marketed as a presidential candidate with integrity and one who is not tainted by corruption and scandals. But with the SCTex Massacre, this claim of the Liberal Party violates the cardinal rule requiring truth in advertising.

Remulla distributed copies of DBP Check No. 17026953 dated April 16, 2004, made out to “Hacienda Luisita Inc.” in the amount of P50 million as part of the SCTex right-of-way payment. He thereby raised the very distinct possibility that Noynoy may have won reelection as congressman in 2004 (against Victor Yap, the present governor of Tarlac) through the use of “blood money” extracted by his family from the overprice in the right-of -way payment.

When the House of Representatives resumes sessions on May 31, 2010, it should proceed, as its first item in the agenda, to the ratification of the bicameral conference committee report on the Freedom of Information Act. The Senate, despite the intramurals over the C-5 report, managed to ratify the report on Feb. 1. For lack of quorum on the last day of sessions on Feb. 3, the House of Representatives failed to ratify the report.

The Right to Know, Right Now! Campaign, which has pushed the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act since 23 years ago upon the ratification of the 1987 Constitution, has vowed to see to it that Speaker Prospero Nograles will do as he promised to support the ratification on May 31.

Those who wish to join the Right to Know, Right Now! Campaign are invited to attend mass to be celebrated on Feb. 14 at the Sto. NiƱo de Tondo Parish on Chacon Street in Tondo, Manila.

No longer on the margins of the page

Views and analysis

(This is a shortened version of the 26-page petition filed by Ang Ladlad before the Supreme Court last Dec. 5 to reverse the Comelec ruling. The counsels were Attorneys Nicolas Pichay, Clara Rita Padilla, and Ibarra Gutierrez.)

Suddenly, we are back in the Middle Ages! The Comelec Resolution denying accreditation for Ang Ladlad to run under the party-list system is an example of society’s marginalization of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender (LGBT). The Resolution demonizes the LBGT community by accusing us of indulging in imaginary acts of immorality that the Comelec deems as “a threat to the youth.” More importantly, the resolution violates rights guaranteed under the Constitution and laws of universal application.

Thus, Ang Ladlad filed a Petition for Certiorari with application for a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction, to the Supreme Court last Dec. 5. We are asking the Supreme Court to annul the Comelec Resolution dated 11 November denying the accreditation of Ang Ladlad and the Resolution dated 17 December 2009 denying our Motion for Reconsideration. The issues, especially on the application for an injunction, must also be settled soon, given the 25 January 2010 deadline for the printing of ballots.

The Facts At Hand

Ang Ladlad is an organization of men and women who self-identify as lesbians, gays, bisexuals or trans-gendered individuals.

On 17 August 2009, Ang Ladlad applied for party-list accreditation with the Comelec. In a hearing conducted on 24 September 2009 before the Comelec Second Division, Professor Remoto testified. He presented evidence to prove Ang Ladlad’s : 1) SEC registration; 2) The number and location of its members; 3) That it is a marginalized group within the intendment of the law; and 4) possession of all other qualifications/lack of any disqualification.

In its Resolution, the Second Division declared that although the organization has complied with all the requirements needed for accreditation under the party-list system, Ang Ladlad is being denied accreditation because it tolerates immorality. Proof? The Comelec cited passages from the Holy Bible and the Koran, adding that Ang Ladlad offended religious beliefs.

As if sharing the outrage of the LGBT community, institutions/corporate entities from both domestic and in the international domain, public figures and/or prominent personalities immediately issued separate expressions of support to Ang Ladlad and lambasted the Comelec resolution. The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) offered to intervene either in the Comelec or in the Supreme Court, while the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and Forum Asia also wrote their respective Amicus briefs.


Ang Ladlad maintains that the petition to the Supreme Court should be granted based on the following grounds:

1. The Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack, or excess of jurisdiction, when it made conclusions unsupported by records.

2. The Comelec’s resolution violates the following provisions of the Constitution:

A. Article III, Section 5: "No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights."

B. Article II, Section 6: "The separation of the Church and State shall be inviolable."

C. Article III, Section 1: "No person xxx (shall be) be denied the equal protection of the laws.

D. Article III, Section 4: “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

3. The Comelec t violated international law which the Philippines is bound to observe.

Factual and/or legal conclusions unsupported by the evidence on record

The Resolution capitalized on our definitions of "LGBT" on the one hand, and "sexual orientation" on the other, in refusing registration on moral grounds. It said that Ladlad tolerates same-sex relations, which allegedly goes against the teachings of certain religions. Citing the Comelec Law Department's comment, it further declared that Ladlad advocates sexual immorality.

Just a cursory perusal of the Comelec’s point reveals that the Commission equated Ladlad's tolerance of the beliefs of those “differently-oriented” with Ang Ladlad’s supposed acts or practice of immorality. The Comelec invoked Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), which deals with the glorification of criminals, violence in shows, obscene publications, lustful or pornographic exhibitions. It used said Article 201 to support its point that Ang Ladlad espouses doctrines contrary to public morals.

It may not be amiss to say that the principle of ejusdem generis is enough to declare that homosexuality per se does not fall within the ambit of the penal law. That one's affections towards people of the same sex easily translate to lust and immorality is a non-sequitur.

On a deeper analysis, Ang Ladlad may not be charged of the felony because first, the element of publicity in its purported adherence to the said doctrines is lacking. It must be remembered that Professor Danton Remoto, the Chairman of Ang Ladlad, gave the definitions in the context of the questions asked of him during the hearing.

Moreover, the Resolutions failed to see the focal point of Ang Ladlad’s objective to represent a marginalized sector of society, disadvantaged merely because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. In other words, Professor Remoto defined "homosexuality" or "sexual orientation" within the protected zone of the constitutional right to privacy.

Neither a sin nor a sickness

Even the Vatican has publicly condemned violence and discrimination against homosexuals, including penal legislation against them. In a Vatican statement dated December 10, 2009, and read before a United Nations General Assembly meeting, it stated that it “opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person. . . . The murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State.”

Furthermore, 30 years ago, homosexuality has already been de-listed from the books as a medical/psychological aberration. Homosexuality is neither a conscious choice nor a contagious illness that is transmitted as in the leprosy of old, or in HIV/AIDS now (although the stigma and discrimination is present in these conditions as well). To put it mildly, the view asserted by the biblical scholar Lehman Strauss that Comelec cited is obsolete. Strauss was a scholar whose heyday was in the 1950s. He lived at the start of the past century and his pronouncements could not have been backed up by scientific evidence. As Professor Remoto succinctly remarked, "How would I have taught in the one of the country's exclusive Catholic schools (Ateneo de Manila University) for 22 years if I were a threat to the youth?"

No deceit or falsification

Quite preposterously, too, the Comelec stated in its Resolution that:

"Petitioner should be denied accreditation not only for advocating immoral doctrines but likewise for not being truthful when it said that it 'or any of its nominees/party-list representatives have not violated or failed to comply with laws, rules, or regulations relating to the elections" (Italics supplied)

How the poll body drew its inference that Ang Ladlad made untruthful statements of fact is simply beyond fathom. It seems to be trapped in a whimsical world where it is acceptable for one to conjure up evidence simply from thin air.

Be that as it may, assuming that Comelec was referring precisely to the penal code provision that it cited, Ang Ladlad may not be faulted for saying it had not violated such law. Neither Professor Remoto nor the officers of Ang Ladlad have been indicted against it, much less any convicted in any court of law. Significantly, the law allegedly violated should specifically pertain to elections, which the Revised Penal Code is not.

The Constitution declares that the Philippines is a secular state, by stating in Article II, Section 6 that: “The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.” The rationale behind the principle of separation of church and state is to protect the government from the influence of a dominant religious group or institution. Under this principle, the Constitution prohibits the religious tyranny of the majority being exercised to suppress the rights of the few.

Under the same principle, Article III, Section 5 of the Constitution was included in order to ensure that the government may not force anyone to support or participate in a religion.

The denial of the accreditation of Ang Ladlad, insofar as it justifies the exclusion by using a religious dogma or belief, violates these constitutional guarantees against the establishment of religion. The Comelec’s citation of passages from the Bible and the Koran indicates the religious bias it applied in determining the merit and subsequent denial of Ang Ladlad’s application.

Incidentally, Comelec is also forcing a segment of the population to abide by the religious beliefs of the majority belonging to the Roman Catholic and Muslim faiths. This violates the freedom-of-exercise clause, assuming of course that that segment has a wholly distinct belief in the Biblical validity of love regardless of whether or not it is directed towards another of similar gender or sexual orientation.

But then again, even the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church through the Vatican Council, is averse at employing religious coercion. In a statement in 1965, the Council said: "[T]he human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men [and women] are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his [or her] own beliefs xxx.”

It further declared that in “spreading religious faith xxx everyone ought at all times to refrain from any manner of action which might seem to carry a hint of coercion."

Secular morality

Speaking through then Associate Justice Reynato Puno the Supreme Court held in the case of Estrada v. Escritor that "morality" must be understood in its secular conception.

In the same case, the High Court had occasion to allude to the nexus between religious morality and the establishment of a State-religion or the effective decimation of the individual's freedom to exercise his own religion, thus:

The Comelec makes the most hostile of discriminations as it deprives Ang Ladlad accreditation using a standard of measure that makes a classification not justified by the circumstances at hand. The Constitution provides in Article III: Section 1. "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws."

At their core, the subject Resolutions consider sexual preference—by itself—to be the basis for a disqualification from being voted for into office. There may be substantial distinctions between marginalized heterosexuals like straight women, on the one hand, and then homosexual women or lesbians, on the other. Truly, not all women are created equal. Stated sardonically, "some men (or women) are more equal than others."

Nonetheless, the inevitable question becomes, "is the distinction between straights and gays essential to the intent of the law to encompass as many representatives who may potentially contribute to sound legislation?"

Ang Ladlad believes the resounding "NO" to the issue posed has oftentimes had a res ipsa loquitur (the thing speaks for itself) feature to it. Professor Remoto may himself exemplify the fact that gay men must not be confined by society to the creative arts, for he is at par with or perhaps even better than any other straight man in Congress when it comes to educational qualifications and intellectual discourse.

Apart from violating the Constitution, the Comelec resolution is likewise contrary to the principles in international human rights law. Moreover, it constitutes a serious breach of Philippine State obligations under international law. International law forms part of the Philippine legal framework by virtue of the incorporation clause and the treaty clause.

In denying Ang Ladlad’s petition for registration as a sectoral party under the party-list system of representation principally, if not solely, on the ground that it “[advocates] immoral doctrines” as seen in the fact that it represents individuals who engage in same-sex relationships, the Comelec committed discrimination contrary to tenets enshrined in international law.

To begin with, Article 2(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty to which the Philippines is a State party, explicitly provides that “Each State party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” (Emphasis supplied)

Among these rights that must be respected and ensured, “without distinction of any kind” are the right “to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives” and the right “to vote and be elected at genuine periodic elections,” both of which are guaranteed under Article 25 of the ICCPR. By denying Ang Ladlad’s petition for registration on no other ultimate basis apart from the fact that it supports same-sex relationships, the COMELEC has engaged in discriminatory conduct in violation of the ICCPR.

It must be pointed out that for the purpose of applying Article 2(1) of the ICCPR, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC), a body created under Article 28 of the ICCPR, has ruled, in a landmark decision involving a successful challenge to Australian laws criminalizing homosexual acts, that “sexual orientation” is included in reference to "sex" in the said provision. In other words, sexual orientation cannot be used as a basis for denying rights under the ICCPR, which is precisely what the Comelec did in denying Ang Ladlad’s petition for registration.

Discrimination, which is to be understood as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference which is based on any ground such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status, and which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by all persons, on an equal footing, of all rights and freedoms,” is anathema to the basic and general principles relating to the protection of human rights.

The Comelec resolution contravenes the 2003 recommendations of the UNHRC on the Philippines when it urged the Philippine government “to pursue its efforts to counter all forms of discrimination” pertaining to sexual orientation and to “strengthen human rights education to forestall manifestations of intolerance and de facto discrimination.” The very purpose of Petitioner Ang Ladlad in participating in the party-list elections is to enact a law protecting the rights of LGBTs against discrimination which was one of the recommendations of the UNHRC when it urged the Philippine government to “take the necessary steps to adopt legislation explicitly prohibiting discrimination, in accordance with articles 3 and 26 of the Covenant.”

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee), tasked to monitor the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), a treaty to which the Philippines is a state party, has asked states parties to re-conceptualize lesbianism as a sexual orientation and to abolish penalties for its practice. The CEDAW Committee has also commended states parties for enacting laws prohibiting discrimination against sexual orientation and for showing concern on sexual preference at the same time expressing concern on discrimination against sexual orientation.

Under both the express terms of treaty law, i.e. the ICCPR, and as a general principle of international law, it cannot be countenanced. The Comelec’s denial of Ang Ladlad’s petition, which nullifies the capacity of its members to participate in public life through the party-list elections, a human right guaranteed under Article 25 of the ICCPR, solely on the basis of its disapproval of their sexual orientation, amounts to discrimination.

In the same vein, the Yogyakarta Principles, a document developed and unanimously adopted in 2007 by a distinguished group of human rights experts from diverse regions and backgrounds, intended to reflect the application of binding international human rights law to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. It underscores that “everyone is entitled to enjoy all human rights without discrimination on the basis of sexual identity.” This principle is derived from custom and practice of various states, as may be seen in decisions of various national and international tribunals, as well as provisions of various treaties.


The denial of the accreditation of Ang Ladlad is unconstitutional, violating the fundamental protection that there should be no religious test xxx; that there should be a separation of church and state/non-establishment of religion and a freedom of exercise of religion; violating the rights of Ang Ladlad to political participation and violating the rights of the LGBT members of Ang Ladlad to privacy, expression (against prior restraint), equality/equal protection of the law, and violation of the Philippines’ international obligations against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

To protect the rights of LGBTs to the equal protection of the law, the Court should immediately overturn the resolution of the Comelec. It is the duty of the Philippines to uphold the right to sexual orientation and gender identity.

It is imperative that Ang Ladlad be accredited especially since the deadline for the printing of the ballots for the 2010 automated elections is January 25, 2010. Any further delay in the resolution of petitioner Ang Ladlad’s motion will result in grave injustice.

The German writer Victor Hugo said no idea is more powerful than one whose time has come. The idea of equal representation for all will find voice and resonance if the Supreme Court reverses the Comelec decision that consigns Ang Ladlad and the group it represents to the very margins of the page.
as of 02/03/2010 11:54 AM

Noynoy's Problem

The Daily Tribune
February 6, 2010

From the day Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino was pushed by a faction of the Liberal Party, along with the Aquino-Cojuangco family members, to become their standard bearer, they all banked on the Cory euphoria brought about by the death of Cory Aquino who was being portrayed by the yellow media as a saint, to get Noynoy the presidency and the Cory crowd, regained power and influence.

It was this euphoria that they believed would carry Noynoy through, on which his campaign was grounded.

Thus it was that Aquino and his LPs copied, to the letter, the Cory campaign of 1985 — the fight between “good and evil” along with the vow of going after the Marcoses and bringing back the stolen wealth. There was too the same line of the LPs which was copied from the 1986 Cory campaign: Experience vs inexperienced, with claims that Cory had no experience in stealing and cheating.

Early enough, it was pointed out by crtics that no euphoria can ever last long, and that it was a mistake for Noynoy to bank on this Cory campaign of good vs evil and the claimed “legacy” of his mother, along with the “genes” do it for the presidency spiel.

But Noynoy and his image makers, as well as the yellow media, ignored these warnings, basking in his high survey ratings, while refusing to frontally face the many issues hounding him, such as his lack of experience, and an almost blank legislative record, along with the Hacienda Luisita issues.

Even as his survey ratings were dipping steadily, Noynoy and his handlers, now filled with hubris, went on with their campaign spiel, saying that even with the survey dip, his margin was still very wide and that he was definitely going to be the next president of the republic. He was still numero uno, they crowed.

The hubris showed when, in a debate, a presidential candidate questioned Aquino’s inexperience and lackluster legislative record, and Aquino snapped at the bet, saying that he does not have to respond to questions coming from a survey cellar-dweller.

Again, he displayed hubris when he arrogantly warned any associate high court justice against accepting the appointment of chief justice by Gloria Arroyo, and further warned that he may be fired from the high court, which showed that he truly and with arrogance, believed it will be him who will be appointing the next chief justice.

But that really is the trouble in relying on these pre-presidential poll surveys, all of which are highly inaccurate in gauging the true public pulse, mainly because a) these survey firms are into massive trending in their surveys, aspiring to take the place of the primaries-style of the United States in voters choosing whom they want as their party’s candidate; and b) even as these so-called “respected and independent” survey firms will never admit it, despite the glaring proof of their variances in survey numbers for candidates on the same given days of surveying, both in regional counts and national averages, some of their field workers have been corrupted, and do engage in the dagdag-bawas scheme in survey votes for a fee, which is also why these so-called survey analysts cannot quite explain satisfactorily the reason behind the huge drops in one bet, and the huge increases in the other, despite what the issues in the media were at that specific time the surveys were conducted.

In the case of Noynoy, it may be a bit too late for him and his campaign handlers to switch spiel gears, after six months of banking on his parents’ legacy and the moral ascendancy they claim to have, which incidentally, turns a lot of people off. For some six months, they fashioned Noynoy as Cory and Ninoy’s son, as though this was enough justification for him to become president.

He never bothered to become his own man, nor did he respond to the issues that have been leveled against him for months, perhaps still believing in the magic of survey ratings and the forever euphoria to bring him the presidency.

It may prove difficult for Noynoy, now that euphoria has gone, to start standing on his own two feet.