Philippine Supreme Court allows gay party in polls




We are in the international press! Next week, one of the world's largest media organizations will interview me on the victory of Ang Ladlad. Not print, but television. Hellow!

Philippine Supreme Court allows gay party in polls
By OLIVER TEVES Associated Press Writer
Posted: 04/08/2010 01:53:12 AM MDT
Updated: 04/08/2010 06:49:13 AM MDT
The Denver Post

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Supreme Court on Thursday overturned a decision barring a gay rights group from contesting national elections in May and recognized it as a legitimate political party for the first time.

Voting 13-2, the court threw out decisions by the Elections Commission denying accreditation to Ang Ladlad (Out of the Closet) on grounds that it tolerates immorality and offends Christians and Muslims.

The justices said the party had complied with all legal requirements, and that there is no law against homosexuality.

"I felt vindicated," said the group's leader, Danton Remoto, an English professor at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University. He said that Ang Ladlad had struggled for recognition and accreditation for the past seven years.

The Elections Commission caused outrage among gays and liberals in November by saying the group cannot run as a political party because it "tolerates immorality which offends religious beliefs." Three of the commissioners cited passages from the Bible and the Quran to justify their ruling, claiming that Ang Ladlad exposes young people to "an environment that does not conform to the teachings of our faith."

Homosexuals are generally accepted in the Philippines and many prominent Filipinos are openly gay, despite the dominant Roman Catholic religion's rejection of same-sex relations.

The group has received support from Leila de Lima, head of the independent Commission on Human Rights, who denounced the November ruling as "retrogressive" and smacking of "discrimination and prejudice."

The group filed a case in January with the Supreme Court, which said that government is neutral and no legal impediment should be imposed on groups on religious grounds.

"The denial of Ang Ladlad's registration on purely moral grounds amounts more to a statement of dislike and disapproval of homosexuals, rather than a tool to further any substantial public interest," the court said.

Ang Ladlad is one of more than 100 parties seeking to win 50 of the 286 seats in the House of Representatives allocated for marginalized sectors.

From 'immoral' to 'abnormal'

Six months ago, in 21st-century Philippines, Ang Ladlad and I were called "immoral" by the Second Division of the Commission on Elections. Last week, we were called "abnormal' by a Catholic bishop.

The second division of the Comelec is composed of Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, an Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister of the Church in Binmaley, Pangasinan; Commissioner Lucenito Tagle, Director of the Christian Family Movement in Cubao; and Commissioner Elias Yusoph, a Muslim imam. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but these three gentlemen should have inhibited themselves from discussing the merits of Ang Ladlad's accreditation because they would be biased parties in the case at hand. Instead, they rushed headlong into it, with the singleness of purpose of a typhoon bearing down on a small island. During the hearing which I attended with my laywer, Atty. Nick Pichay, I would be asked brilliant questions like this.

Commissioner Yusuph: How shall I address you, Miss or Madame?
Danton Remoto: You may call me Professor Danton Remoto, or Mr. Danton Remoto.
Commissioner Ferrer: I think you are already over-represented in Congress. Tell me who are the gays in Congress! And the gays in Senate, tell me who he is!
Danton Remoto: Your Honor, Imee Marcos said that there are only 13 gay people in the Congress when she was there, but she claimed she's the only one who is out of the closet there. As for the gay senator, I am not aware of his identity. If you are, Your Honor, maybe you can shed light on the issue?

It was like going through what the character Joseph K. underwent in Franz Kafka's novel, The Trial. Except that in Kafka's novel of the absurd, the interrogators had quicksilver wit and blazing imagination.

The Second Division of Comelec said Ang Ladlad should not be allowed to run because it is an "immoral" organization that offends religious beliefs. And then -- in a defense that would later send me laughing like a hyena -- they quoted the Holy Bible, the sacred Koran, and a Bible scholar named Lehmann Strauss. I have no problem with the Holy Bible, which I read and re-read in my Catholic school days, nor with the sacred Koran, since I studied Islam, Islamic Mysticism and Literature as a Fulbright Scholar at Rutgers University in the year 2000. But why were these religious texts used to defend a legal case? And Lehmann Strauss? He was a biblical scholar who became famous in the 1950s -- or a decade before the great liberation movements of the Sixties. That great decade, the Sixties, produced the liberation of Asian and African countries from their colonial masters, as well as the women's liberation movement, the black liberation movement, and yes, the gay liberation movement that began at Stonewall Inn, Greenwich Village, New York, as the decade turned to the Seventies.

In short, our venerable commissioners were quoting a scholar famous 60 years ago. I have taught Research Writing at the Ateneo de Manila University in the last 22 years, and one of the iron rules of research is this: your source should not only be the latest, but also the most authoritative and substantial source on the subject matter. How could a person who wrote 60 years ago still hold sway in a field -- biblical exegesis -- which even until now is like a minefield seen with different lenses of interpretation?

My father died on October 18 and my mother was dying a month later, when I received the news of rejection from the Comelec. Bedridden and having peritoneal dialysis treatments three times a day, we spared her the news that a national Comelec officer was lambasting me and Ang Ladlad on national TV with labels like "immoral" and "unfit for public office." She would die on November 19, we would bury her on November 24, and on November 25, I wore a black shirt and marched with hundreds of Ang Ladlad members in an indignation rally in front of Comelec. My speech that day was shot and uploaded in YouTube, and never have been so livid, so pure in my rage and my grief.

And in the ways that my parents told me -- to be brave and never to buckle down, to stand tall and to fight till the bitter end -- my lawyers and I filed a pleading with the Supreme Court, asking it to set aside the Comelec decision. We spent the whole of December -- our Christmas and New Year and holidays -- doing research,writing and rewriting our petition, secure in the thought that we were right. At the back of my lawyers' minds, they knew this case would set legal history. At the back of my mind, wracked with grief over my parents' consecutive deaths, I knew the best way to honor their memories would be to be brave and strong.

And so three days before the Supreme Court handed down its decision, I was visiting my parents' grave at Holy Cross Memorial Park. After lighting our candles and saying our prayers loudly, I touched the names of my parents inscribed in gold on the black granite, touched every single letter of those names I loved most, and asked them to help us with the Supreme Court decision.

Last Thursday, I was at the Rizal Library of the Ateneo de Manila University. I was gathering together the books I would put in the Reserve Section, so my students in the course Books of the Century in summer class would not buy the expensive books anymore. My cell phone flashed and I read a message from two journalists, telling me that the Supreme Court's decision was now posted on its website. "And you won!" It said in three brief letters. And. you. won.

The books I was holding -- the books of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, of Albert Camus and Samuel Beckett, of T.S. Eliot and Rainer Maria Rilke, of Pablo Neruda and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, of Maxine Hong Kingston and Toni Morrison, of Franz Kafka and Derek Wolcott --these dozen books of the 20th century's best writers suddenly began to wobble, and almost fell from my hands.

But that was a week today. In today's newspapers, Bishop Deogracias Yniguez just said that people should not vote for Ang Ladlad because homosexuality is an aberration, and homosexuals are "abnormal." Since the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said it will not push for nor oppose any candidacy, what then is the good bishop doing with his mealy-mouthed statements?

And this, in the 21st century, when the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organization of the United Nations had already taken away homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. And this, in the 21st-century Philippines, where cases of sexual abuse and pedophilia by Filipino priests have never been discussed in the open, like a person with sores festering in the closet.

Comments to danton_ph@yahooo.com

SC Chief Justice Puno's Concurring Opinion on Ang Ladlad vs. Comelec

G.R. No. 190582 - ANG LADLAD LGBT PARTY represented herein by its Chair Dante Remoto, petitioner v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, respondent.



Promulgated:

April 8, 2010



x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x





SEPARATE CONCURRING OPINION





PUNO, C.J.:



I concur with the groundbreaking ponencia of my esteemed colleague, Mr. Justice Mariano C. del Castillo. Nonetheless, I respectfully submit this separate opinion to underscore some points that I deem significant.



FIRST. The assailed Resolutions of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) run afoul of the non-establishment clause[1] of the Constitution. There was cypher effort on the part of the COMELEC to couch its reasoning in legal – much less constitutional – terms, as it denied Ang Ladlad’s petition for registration as a sectoral party principally on the ground that it “tolerates immorality which offends religious (i.e., Christian[2] and Muslim[3]) beliefs.” To be sure, the COMELEC’s ruling is completely antithetical to the fundamental rule that “[t]he public morality expressed in the law is necessarily secular[,] for in our constitutional order, the religion clauses prohibit the state from establishing a religion, including the morality it sanctions.”[4] As we explained in Estrada v. Escritor,[5] the requirement of an articulable and discernible secular purpose is meant to give flesh to the constitutional policy of full religious freedom for all, viz.:



Religion also dictates "how we ought to live" for the nature of religion is not just to know, but often, to act in accordance with man's "views of his relations to His Creator." But the Establishment Clause puts a negative bar against establishment of this morality arising from one religion or the other, and implies the affirmative "establishment" of a civil order for the resolution of public moral disputes. This agreement on a secular mechanism is the price of ending the "war of all sects against all"; the establishment of a secular public moral order is the social contract produced by religious truce.



Thus, when the law speaks of "immorality" in the Civil Service Law or "immoral" in the Code of Professional Responsibility for lawyers, or "public morals" in the Revised Penal Code, or "morals" in the New Civil Code, or "moral character" in the Constitution, the distinction between public and secular morality on the one hand, and religious morality, on the other, should be kept in mind. The morality referred to in the law is public and necessarily secular, not religious as the dissent of Mr. Justice Carpio holds. "Religious teachings as expressed in public debate may influence the civil public order but public moral disputes may be resolved only on grounds articulable in secular terms." Otherwise, if government relies upon religious beliefs in formulating public policies and morals, the resulting policies and morals would require conformity to what some might regard as religious programs or agenda. The non-believers would therefore be compelled to conform to a standard of conduct buttressed by a religious belief, i.e., to a "compelled religion;" anathema to religious freedom. Likewise, if government based its actions upon religious beliefs, it would tacitly approve or endorse that belief and thereby also tacitly disapprove contrary religious or non-religious views that would not support the policy. As a result, government will not provide full religious freedom for all its citizens, or even make it appear that those whose beliefs are disapproved are second-class citizens. Expansive religious freedom therefore requires that government be neutral in matters of religion; governmental reliance upon religious justification is inconsistent with this policy of neutrality.[6] (citations omitted and italics supplied)



Consequently, the assailed resolutions of the COMELEC are violative of the constitutional directive that no religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.[7] Ang Ladlad’s right of political participation was unduly infringed when the COMELEC, swayed by the private biases and personal prejudices of its constituent members, arrogated unto itself the role of a religious court or worse, a morality police.



The COMELEC attempts to disengage itself from this “excessive entanglement”[8] with religion by arguing that we “cannot ignore our strict religious upbringing, whether Christian or Muslim”[9] since the “moral precepts espoused by [these] religions have slipped into society and … are now publicly accepted moral norms.”[10] However, as correctly observed by Mr. Justice del Castillo, the Philippines has not seen fit to disparage homosexual conduct as to actually criminalize it. Indeed, even if the State has legislated to this effect, the law is vulnerable to constitutional attack on privacy grounds.[11] These alleged “generally accepted public morals” have not, in reality, crossed over from the religious to the secular sphere.



Some people may find homosexuality and bisexuality deviant, odious, and offensive. Nevertheless, private discrimination, however unfounded, cannot be attributed or ascribed to the State. Mr. Justice Kennedy, speaking for the United States (U.S.) Supreme Court in the landmark case of Lawrence v. Texas,[12] opined:



It must be acknowledged, of course, that the Court in Bowers was making the broader point that for centuries there have been powerful voices to condemn homosexual conduct as immoral. The condemnation has been shaped by religious beliefs, conceptions of right and acceptable behavior, and respect for the traditional family. For many persons these are not trivial concerns but profound and deep convictions accepted as ethical and moral principles to which they aspire and which thus determine the course of their lives. These considerations do not answer the question before us, however. The issue is whether the majority may use the power of the State to enforce these views on the whole society through operation of the … law. “Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code.”[13]



SECOND. The COMELEC capitalized on Ang Ladlad’s definition of the term “sexual orientation,”[14] as well as its citation of the number of Filipino men who have sex with men,[15] as basis for the declaration that the party espouses and advocates sexual immorality. This position, however, would deny homosexual and bisexual individuals a fundamental element of personal identity and a legitimate exercise of personal liberty. For, the “ability to [independently] define one’s identity that is central to any concept of liberty” cannot truly be exercised in a vacuum; we all depend on the “emotional enrichment from close ties with others.”[16] As Mr. Justice Blackmun so eloquently said in his stinging dissent in Bowers v. Hardwick[17] (overturned by the United States Supreme Court seventeen years later in Lawrence v. Texas[18]):



Only the most willful blindness could obscure the fact that sexual intimacy is “a sensitive, key relationship of human existence, central to family life, community welfare, and the development of human personality[.]”[19] The fact that individuals define themselves in a significant way through their intimate sexual relationships with others suggests, in a Nation as diverse as ours, that there may be many “right” ways of conducting those relationships, and that much of the richness of a relationship will come from the freedom an individual has to choose the form and nature of these intensely personal bonds.[20]



In a variety of circumstances we have recognized that a necessary corollary of giving individuals freedom to choose how to conduct their lives is acceptance of the fact that different individuals will make different choices. For example, in holding that the clearly important state interest in public education should give way to a competing claim by the Amish to the effect that extended formal schooling threatened their way of life, the Court declared: “There can be no assumption that today's majority is ‘right’ and the Amish and others like them are ‘wrong.’ A way of life that is odd or even erratic but interferes with no rights or interests of others is not to be condemned because it is different.”[21] The Court claims that its decision today merely refuses to recognize a fundamental right to engage in homosexual sodomy; what the Court really has refused to recognize is the fundamental interest all individuals have in controlling the nature of their intimate associations with others. (italics supplied)



It has been said that freedom extends beyond spatial bounds.[22] Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct.[23] These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the due process clause.[24] At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.[25] Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.[26] Lawrence v. Texas[27] is again instructive:



To say that the issue in Bowers was simply the right to engage in certain sexual conduct demeans the claim the individual put forward, just as it would demean a married couple were it to be said marriage is simply about the right to have sexual intercourse. The laws involved in Bowers and here are, to be sure, statutes that purport to do no more than prohibit a particular sexual act. Their penalties and purposes, though, have more far-reaching consequences, touching upon the most private human conduct, sexual behavior, and in the most private of places, the home. The statutes do seek to control a personal relationship that, whether or not entitled to formal recognition in the law, is within the liberty of persons to choose without being punished as criminals.



This, as a general rule, should counsel against attempts by the State, or a court, to define the meaning of the relationship or to set its boundaries absent injury to a person or abuse of an institution the law protects. It suffices for us to acknowledge that adults may choose to enter upon this relationship in the confines of their homes and their own private lives and still retain their dignity as free persons. When sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring. The liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual persons the right to make this choice. (italics supplied)



THIRD. The ponencia of Mr. Justice del Castillo refused to characterize homosexuals and bisexuals as a class in themselves for purposes of the equal protection clause. Accordingly, it struck down the assailed Resolutions using the most liberal basis of judicial scrutiny, the rational basis test, according to which government need only show that the challenged classification is rationally related to serving a legitimate state interest.



I humbly submit, however, that a classification based on gender or sexual orientation is a quasi-suspect classification, as to trigger a heightened level of review.



Preliminarily, in our jurisdiction, the standard and analysis of equal protection challenges in the main have followed the rational basis test, coupled with a deferential attitude to legislative classifications and a reluctance to invalidate a law unless there is a showing of a clear and unequivocal breach of the Constitution.[28] However, Central Bank Employees Association, Inc. v. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas,[29] carved out an exception to this general rule, such that prejudice to persons accorded special protection by the Constitution requires stricter judicial scrutiny than mere rationality, viz.:



Congress retains its wide discretion in providing for a valid classification, and its policies should be accorded recognition and respect by the courts of justice except when they run afoul of the Constitution. The deference stops where the classification violates a fundamental right, or prejudices persons accorded special protection by the Constitution. When these violations arise, this Court must discharge its primary role as the vanguard of constitutional guaranties, and require a stricter and more exacting adherence to constitutional limitations. Rational basis should not suffice. (citations omitted and italics supplied)



Considering thus that labor enjoys such special and protected status under our fundamental law, the Court ruled in favor of the Central Bank Employees Association, Inc. in this wise:



While R.A. No. 7653 started as a valid measure well within the legislature's power, we hold that the enactment of subsequent laws exempting all rank-and-file employees of other GFIs leeched all validity out of the challenged proviso.



x x x x



According to petitioner, the last proviso of Section 15(c), Article II of R.A. No. 7653 is also violative of the equal protection clause because after it was enacted, the charters of the GSIS, LBP, DBP and SSS were also amended, but the personnel of the latter GFIs were all exempted from the coverage of the SSL. Thus, within the class of rank-and-file personnel of GFIs, the BSP rank-and-file are also discriminated upon.



Indeed, we take judicial notice that after the new BSP charter was enacted in 1993, Congress also undertook the amendment of the charters of the GSIS, LBP, DBP and SSS, and three other GFIs, from 1995 to 2004, viz.:



x x x x



It is noteworthy, as petitioner points out, that the subsequent charters of the seven other GFIs share this common proviso: a blanket exemption of all their employees from the coverage of the SSL, expressly or impliedly...



x x x x



The abovementioned subsequent enactments, however, constitute significant changes in circumstance that considerably alter the reasonability of the continued operation of the last proviso of Section 15(c), Article II of Republic Act No. 7653, thereby exposing the proviso to more serious scrutiny. This time, the scrutiny relates to the constitutionality of the classification — albeit made indirectly as a consequence of the passage of eight other laws — between the rank-and-file of the BSP and the seven other GFIs. The classification must not only be reasonable, but must also apply equally to all members of the class. The proviso may be fair on its face and impartial in appearance but it cannot be grossly discriminatory in its operation, so as practically to make unjust distinctions between persons who are without differences.



Stated differently, the second level of inquiry deals with the following questions: Given that Congress chose to exempt other GFIs (aside the BSP) from the coverage of the SSL, can the exclusion of the rank-and-file employees of the BSP stand constitutional scrutiny in the light of the fact that Congress did not exclude the rank-and-file employees of the other GFIs? Is Congress' power to classify so unbridled as to sanction unequal and discriminatory treatment, simply because the inequity manifested itself, not instantly through a single overt act, but gradually and progressively, through seven separate acts of Congress? Is the right to equal protection of the law bounded in time and space that: (a) the right can only be invoked against a classification made directly and deliberately, as opposed to a discrimination that arises indirectly, or as a consequence of several other acts; and (b) is the legal analysis confined to determining the validity within the parameters of the statute or ordinance (where the inclusion or exclusion is articulated), thereby proscribing any evaluation vis-à-vis the grouping, or the lack thereof, among several similar enactments made over a period of time?



In this second level of scrutiny, the inequality of treatment cannot be justified on the mere assertion that each exemption (granted to the seven other GFIs) rests "on a policy determination by the legislature." All legislative enactments necessarily rest on a policy determination — even those that have been declared to contravene the Constitution. Verily, if this could serve as a magic wand to sustain the validity of a statute, then no due process and equal protection challenges would ever prosper. There is nothing inherently sacrosanct in a policy determination made by Congress or by the Executive; it cannot run riot and overrun the ramparts of protection of the Constitution.



x x x x



In the case at bar, it is precisely the fact that as regards the exemption from the SSL, there are no characteristics peculiar only to the seven GFIs or their rank-and-file so as to justify the exemption which BSP rank-and-file employees were denied (not to mention the anomaly of the SEC getting one). The distinction made by the law is not only superficial, but also arbitrary. It is not based on substantial distinctions that make real differences between the BSP rank-and-file and the seven other GFIs.



x x x x



The disparity of treatment between BSP rank-and-file and the rank-and-file of the other seven GFIs definitely bears the unmistakable badge of invidious discrimination — no one can, with candor and fairness, deny the discriminatory character of the subsequent blanket and total exemption of the seven other GFIs from the SSL when such was withheld from the BSP. Alikes are being treated as unalikes without any rational basis.



x x x x



Thus, the two-tier analysis made in the case at bar of the challenged provision, and its conclusion of unconstitutionality by subsequent operation, are in cadence and in consonance with the progressive trend of other jurisdictions and in international law. There should be no hesitation in using the equal protection clause as a major cutting edge to eliminate every conceivable irrational discrimination in our society. Indeed, the social justice imperatives in the Constitution, coupled with the special status and protection afforded to labor, compel this approach.



Apropos the special protection afforded to labor under our Constitution and international law, we held in International School Alliance of Educators v. Quisumbing:



That public policy abhors inequality and discrimination is beyond contention. Our Constitution and laws reflect the policy against these evils. The Constitution in the Article on Social Justice and Human Rights exhorts Congress to "give highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of all people to human dignity, reduce social, economic, and political inequalities." The very broad Article 19 of the Civil Code requires every person, "in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, [to] act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith."



International law, which springs from general principles of law, likewise proscribes discrimination. General principles of law include principles of equity, i.e., the general principles of fairness and justice, based on the test of what is reasonable. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention against Discrimination in Education, the Convention (No. 111) Concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation — all embody the general principle against discrimination, the very antithesis of fairness and justice. The Philippines, through its Constitution, has incorporated this principle as part of its national laws.



In the workplace, where the relations between capital and labor are often skewed in favor of capital, inequality and discrimination by the employer are all the more reprehensible.



The Constitution specifically provides that labor is entitled to "humane conditions of work." These conditions are not restricted to the physical workplace — the factory, the office or the field — but include as well the manner by which employers treat their employees.



The Constitution also directs the State to promote "equality of employment opportunities for all." Similarly, the Labor Code provides that the State shall "ensure equal work opportunities regardless of sex, race or creed." It would be an affront to both the spirit and letter of these provisions if the State, in spite of its primordial obligation to promote and ensure equal employment opportunities, closes its eyes to unequal and discriminatory terms and conditions of employment.



xxx xxx xxx



Notably, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, in Article 7 thereof, provides:



The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and [favorable] conditions of work, which ensure, in particular:



a. Remuneration which provides all workers, as a minimum, with:



i. Fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value without distinction of any kind, in particular women being guaranteed conditions of work not inferior to those enjoyed by men, with equal pay for equal work;



xxx xxx xxx



The foregoing provisions impregnably institutionalize in this jurisdiction the long honored legal truism of "equal pay for equal work." Persons who work with substantially equal qualifications, skill, effort and responsibility, under similar conditions, should be paid similar salaries.



x x x x



Under most circumstances, the Court will exercise judicial restraint in deciding questions of constitutionality, recognizing the broad discretion given to Congress in exercising its legislative power. Judicial scrutiny would be based on the "rational basis" test, and the legislative discretion would be given deferential treatment.



But if the challenge to the statute is premised on the denial of a fundamental right, or the perpetuation of prejudice against persons favored by the Constitution with special protection, judicial scrutiny ought to be more strict. A weak and watered down view would call for the abdication of this Court's solemn duty to strike down any law repugnant to the Constitution and the rights it enshrines. This is true whether the actor committing the unconstitutional act is a private person or the government itself or one of its instrumentalities. Oppressive acts will be struck down regardless of the character or nature of the actor.



In the case at bar, the challenged proviso operates on the basis of the salary grade or officer-employee status. It is akin to a distinction based on economic class and status, with the higher grades as recipients of a benefit specifically withheld from the lower grades. Officers of the BSP now receive higher compensation packages that are competitive with the industry, while the poorer, low-salaried employees are limited to the rates prescribed by the SSL. The implications are quite disturbing: BSP rank-and-file employees are paid the strictly regimented rates of the SSL while employees higher in rank — possessing higher and better education and opportunities for career advancement — are given higher compensation packages to entice them to stay. Considering that majority, if not all, the rank-and-file employees consist of people whose status and rank in life are less and limited, especially in terms of job marketability, it is they — and not the officers — who have the real economic and financial need for the adjustment. This is in accord with the policy of the Constitution "to free the people from poverty, provide adequate social services, extend to them a decent standard of living, and improve the quality of life for all." Any act of Congress that runs counter to this constitutional desideratum deserves strict scrutiny by this Court before it can pass muster. (citations omitted and italics supplied)



Corollarily, American case law provides that a state action questioned on equal protection grounds is subject to one of three levels of judicial scrutiny. The level of review, on a sliding scale basis, varies with the type of classification utilized and the nature of the right affected.[30]



If a legislative classification disadvantages a “suspect class” or impinges upon the exercise of a “fundamental right,” then the courts will employ strict scrutiny and the statute must fall unless the government can demonstrate that the classification has been precisely tailored to serve a compelling governmental interest.[31] Over the years, the United States Supreme Court has determined that suspect classes for equal protection purposes include classifications based on race, religion, alienage, national origin, and ancestry.[32] The underlying rationale of this theory is that where legislation affects discrete and insular minorities, the presumption of constitutionality fades because traditional political processes may have broken down.[33] In such a case, the State bears a heavy burden of justification, and the government action will be closely scrutinized in light of its asserted purpose.[34]



On the other hand, if the classification, while not facially invidious, nonetheless gives rise to recurring constitutional difficulties, or if a classification disadvantages a “quasi-suspect class,” it will be treated under intermediate or heightened review.[35] To survive intermediate scrutiny, the law must not only further an important governmental interest and be substantially related to that interest, but the justification for the classification must be genuine and must not depend on broad generalizations.[36] Noteworthy, and of special interest to us in this case, quasi-suspect classes include classifications based on gender or illegitimacy.[37]



If neither strict nor intermediate scrutiny is appropriate, then the statute will be tested for mere rationality.[38] This is a relatively relaxed standard reflecting the Court’s awareness that the drawing of lines which creates distinctions is peculiarly a legislative task and an unavoidable one.[39] The presumption is in favor of the classification, of the reasonableness and fairness of state action, and of legitimate grounds of distinction, if any such grounds exist, on which the State acted.[40]



Instead of adopting a rigid formula to determine whether certain legislative classifications warrant more demanding constitutional analysis, the United States Supreme Court has looked to four factors,[41] thus:



(1) The history of invidious discrimination against the class burdened by the legislation;[42]

(2) Whether the characteristics that distinguish the class indicate a typical class member's ability to contribute to society;[43]

(3) Whether the distinguishing characteristic is “immutable” or beyond the class members' control;[44] and

(4) The political power of the subject class.[45]



These factors, it must be emphasized, are not constitutive essential elements of a suspect or quasi-suspect class, as to individually demand a certain weight.[46] The U.S. Supreme Court has applied the four factors in a flexible manner; it has neither required, nor even discussed, every factor in every case.[47] Indeed, no single talisman can define those groups likely to be the target of classifications offensive to the equal protection clause and therefore warranting heightened or strict scrutiny; experience, not abstract logic, must be the primary guide.[48]



In any event, the first two factors – history of intentional discrimination and relationship of classifying characteristic to a person's ability to contribute – have always been present when heightened scrutiny has been applied.[49] They have been critical to the analysis and could be considered as prerequisites to concluding a group is a suspect or quasi-suspect class.[50] However, the last two factors – immutability of the characteristic and political powerlessness of the group – are considered simply to supplement the analysis as a means to discern whether a need for heightened scrutiny exists.[51]



Guided by this framework, and considering further that classifications based on sex or gender – albeit on a male/female, man/woman basis – have been previously held to trigger heightened scrutiny, I respectfully submit that classification on the basis of sexual orientation (i.e., homosexuality and/or bisexuality) is a quasi-suspect classification that prompts intermediate review.



The first consideration is whether homosexuals have suffered a history of purposeful unequal treatment because of their sexual orientation.[52] One cannot, in good faith, dispute that gay and lesbian persons historically have been, and continue to be, the target of purposeful and pernicious discrimination due solely to their sexual orientation.[53] Paragraphs 6 and 7 of Ang Ladlad’s Petition for Registration for party-list accreditation in fact state:



6. There have been documented cases of discrimination and violence perpetuated against the LGBT Community, among which are:



(a) Effeminate or gay youths being beaten up by their parents and/or guardians to make them conform to standard gender norms of behavior;

(b) Fathers and/or guardians who allow their daughters who are butch lesbians to be raped[, so as] to “cure” them into becoming straight women;

(c) Effeminate gays and butch lesbians are kicked out of school, NGOs, and choirs because of their identity;

(d) Effeminate youths and masculine young women are refused admission from (sic) certain schools, are suspended or are automatically put on probation;

(e) Denial of jobs, promotions, trainings and other work benefits once one’s sexual orientation and gender identity is (sic) revealed;

(f) Consensual partnerships or relationships by gays and lesbians who are already of age, are broken up by their parents or guardians using the [A]nti-kidnapping [L]aw;

(g) Pray-overs, exorcisms, and other religious cures are performed on gays and lesbians to “reform” them;

(h) Young gays and lesbians are forcibly subjected to psychiatric counseling and therapy to cure them[,] despite the de-listing (sic) of homosexuality and lesbianism as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association;

(i) Transgenders, or individuals who were born mail but who self-identity as women and dress as such, are denied entry or services in certain restaurants and establishments; and

(j) Several murders from the years 2003-3006 were committed against gay men, but were not acknowledged by police as hate crimes or violent acts of bigotry.



7. In the recent May 2009 US asylum case of Philip Belarmino, he testified that as a young gay person in the Philippines, he was subjected to a variety of sexual abuse and violence, including repeated rapes[,] which he could not report to [the] police [or speak of] to his own parents.



Accordingly, this history of discrimination suggests that any legislative burden placed on lesbian and gay people as a class is “more likely than others to reflect deep-seated prejudice rather than legislative rationality in pursuit of some legitimate objective.”[54]



A second relevant consideration is whether the character-in-issue is related to the person’s ability to contribute to society.[55] Heightened scrutiny is applied when the classification bears no relationship to this ability; the existence of this factor indicates the classification is likely based on irrelevant stereotypes and prejudice.[56] Insofar as sexual orientation is concerned, it is gainful to repair to Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health,[57] viz.:



The defendants also concede that sexual orientation bears no relation to a person's ability to participate in or contribute to society, a fact that many courts have acknowledged, as well. x x x If homosexuals were afflicted with some sort of impediment to their ability to perform and to contribute to society, the entire phenomenon of ‘staying in the [c]loset’ and of ‘coming out’ would not exist; their impediment would betray their status. x x x In this critical respect, gay persons stand in stark contrast to other groups that have been denied suspect or quasi-suspect class recognition, despite a history of discrimination, because the distinguishing characteristics of those groups adversely affect their ability or capacity to perform certain functions or to discharge certain responsibilities in society.[58]



Unlike the characteristics unique to those groups, however, “homosexuality bears no relation at all to [an] individual's ability to contribute fully to society.”[59] Indeed, because an individual's homosexual orientation “implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability or general social or vocational capabilities”;[60] the observation of the United States Supreme Court that race, alienage and national origin -all suspect classes entitled to the highest level of constitutional protection- “are so seldom relevant to the achievement of any legitimate state interest that laws grounded in such considerations are deemed to reflect prejudice and antipathy”[61] is no less applicable to gay persons. (italics supplied)



Clearly, homosexual orientation is no more relevant to a person's ability to perform and contribute to society than is heterosexual orientation.[62]



A third factor that courts have considered in determining whether the members of a class are entitled to heightened protection for equal protection purposes is whether the attribute or characteristic that distinguishes them is immutable or otherwise beyond their control.[63] Of course, the characteristic that distinguishes gay persons from others and qualifies them for recognition as a distinct and discrete group is the characteristic that historically has resulted in their social and legal ostracism, namely, their attraction to persons of the same sex.[64]



Immutability is a factor in determining the appropriate level of scrutiny because the inability of a person to change a characteristic that is used to justify different treatment makes the discrimination violative of the rather “‘basic concept of our system that legal burdens should bear some relationship to individual responsibility.’”[65] However, the constitutional relevance of the immutability factor is not reserved to those instances in which the trait defining the burdened class is absolutely impossible to change.[66] That is, the immutability prong of the suspectness inquiry surely is satisfied when the identifying trait is “so central to a person's identity that it would be abhorrent for government to penalize a person for refusing to change [it].”[67]



Prescinding from these premises, it is not appropriate to require a person to repudiate or change his or her sexual orientation in order to avoid discriminatory treatment, because a person's sexual orientation is so integral an aspect of one's identity.[68] Consequently, because sexual orientation “may be altered [if at all] only at the expense of significant damage to the individual’s sense of self,” classifications based thereon “are no less entitled to consideration as a suspect or quasi-suspect class than any other group that has been deemed to exhibit an immutable characteristic.”[69] Stated differently, sexual orientation is not the type of human trait that allows courts to relax their standard of review because the barrier is temporary or susceptible to self-help.[70]



The final factor that bears consideration is whether the group is “a minority or politically powerless.”[71] However, the political powerlessness factor of the level-of-scrutiny inquiry does not require a showing of absolute political powerlessness.[72] Rather, the touchstone of the analysis should be “whether the group lacks sufficient political strength to bring a prompt end to the prejudice and discrimination through traditional political means.”[73]



Applying this standard, it would not be difficult to conclude that gay persons are entitled to heightened constitutional protection despite some recent political progress.[74] The discrimination that they have suffered has been so pervasive and severe – even though their sexual orientation has no bearing at all on their ability to contribute to or perform in society – that it is highly unlikely that legislative enactments alone will suffice to eliminate that discrimination.[75] Furthermore, insofar as the LGBT community plays a role in the political process, it is apparent that their numbers reflect their status as a small and insular minority.[76]



It is therefore respectfully submitted that any state action singling lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans-genders out for disparate treatment is subject to heightened judicial scrutiny to ensure that it is not the product of historical prejudice and stereotyping.[77]



In this case, the assailed Resolutions of the COMELEC unmistakably fail the intermediate level of review. Regrettably, they betray no more than bigotry and intolerance; they raise the inevitable inference that the disadvantage imposed is born of animosity toward the class of persons affected[78] (that is, lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gendered individuals). In our constitutional system, status-based classification undertaken for its own sake cannot survive.[79]



FOURTH. It has been suggested that the LGBT community cannot participate in the party-list system because it is not a “marginalized and underrepresented sector” enumerated either in the Constitution[80] or Republic Act No. (RA) 7941.[81] However, this position is belied by our ruling in Ang Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party v. COMELEC,[82] where we clearly held that the enumeration of marginalized and underrepresented sectors in RA 7941 is not exclusive.



I likewise see no logical or factual obstacle to classifying the members of the LGBT community as marginalized and underrepresented, considering their long history (and indeed, ongoing narrative) of persecution, discrimination, and pathos. In my humble view, marginalization for purposes of party-list representation encompasses social marginalization as well. To hold otherwise is tantamount to trivializing socially marginalized groups as “mere passive recipients of the State’s benevolence” and denying them the right to “participate directly [in the mainstream of representative democracy] in the enactment of laws designed to benefit them.”[83] The party-list system could not have been conceptualized to perpetuate this injustice.



Accordingly, I vote to grant the petition.







REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice





--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Section 5, Article III of the 1987 Constitution states: “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.”

[2] The November 11, 2009 Resolution of the COMELEC cited the following passage from the Bible to support its holding: “For this cause God gave them up into vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.” (Romans 1:26-27)

[3] The November 11, 2009 Resolution of the COMELEC cited the following passages from the Koran to support its holding:

· “For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.” (7:81)

· “And we rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): Then see what was the end of those who indulged in sin and crime!” (7.84)

· “He said: “O my Lord! Help Thou me against people who do mischief!” (29:30)

[4] Estrada v. Escritor, 455 Phil. 411 (2003).

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Section 5, Article III of the 1987 Constitution.

[8] Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971).

[9] COMELEC’s Comment, p. 13.

[10] Id.

[11] See Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 123 S.Ct. 2472.

[12] Id.

[13] Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 850, 112 S.Ct. 2791, 120 L.Ed.2d 674 (1992).

[14] Ang Ladlad defined “sexual orientation” as a person’s capacity for profound emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different gender, of the same gender, or more than one gender.” (italics supplied)

[15] Paragraph 24 of Ang Ladlad’s Petition for Registration stated, in relevant part: “In 2007, Men Having Sex with Men or MSMs in the Philippines were estimated at 670,000.”

[16] Roberts v. United States Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609, 104 S.Ct. 3244, as cited in the Dissenting Opinion of Mr. Justice Blackmun in Bowers v. Hardwick, infra.

[17] 478 U.S. 186, 106 S.Ct. 2841.

[18] Supra note 11.

[19] Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton, 413 U.S. 49, 63, 93 S.Ct. 2628, 2638, 37 L.Ed.2d 446 (1973); See also Carey v. Population Services International, 431 U.S. 678, 685, 97 S.Ct. 2010, 2016, 52 L.Ed.2d 675 (1977).

[20] See Karst, The Freedom of Intimate Association, 89 Yale L.J. 624, 637 (1980); cf. Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438, 453, 92 S.Ct. 1029, 1038, 31 L.Ed.2d 349 (1972); Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S., at 153, 93 S.Ct., at 726.

[21] Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 223-224, 92 S.Ct. 1526, 1537, 32 L.Ed.2d 15 (1972).

[22] Lawrence v. Texas, supra note 11.

[23] Id.

[24] Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, supra note 13.

[25] Id.

[26] Id.

[27] Supra note 11.

[28] Central Bank Employees Association, Inc. v. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, 487 Phil. 531, 583 (2004).

[29] Id.

[30] Pace Membership Warehouse, Div. of K-Mart Corp. v. Axelson, 938 P.2d 504.

[31] 16B Am. Jur. 2d Constitutional Law § 857, citing Clark v. Jeter, 486 U.S. 456, 108 S. Ct. 1910, 100 L. Ed. 2d 465 (1988); Perry Educ. Ass'n v. Perry Local Educators' Ass'n, 460 U.S. 37, 103 S. Ct. 948, 74 L. Ed. 2d 794, 9 Ed. Law Rep. 23 (1983); Christie v. Coors Transp. Co., 933 P.2d 1330 (Colo. 1997); Baker v. City of Ottumwa, 560 N.W.2d 578 (Iowa 1997); Zempel v. Uninsured Employers' Fund, 282 Mont. 424, 938 P.2d 658 (1997); Hovland v. City of Grand Forks, 1997 ND 95, 563 N.W.2d 384 (N.D. 1997).

[32] Murray v. State of Louisiana, 2010 WL 334537. See Burlington N. R.R. Co. v. Ford, 112 S.Ct. 2184, 2186 (1992) (holding classification based on religion is a suspect classification); Graham v. Richardson, 91 S.Ct. 1848, 1852 (1971) (holding classification based on alienage is a suspect classification); Loving v. Virginia, 87 S.Ct. 1817, 1823 (1967) (holding classification based on race is a suspect classification); Oyama v. California, 68 S.Ct. 269, 274-74 (1948) (holding classification based on national origin is a suspect classification); Hirabayashi v. U.S., 63 S.Ct. 1375 (1943) (holding classification based on ancestry is a suspect classification).

[33] Johnson v. Robison, 415 U.S. 361, 94 S. Ct. 1160, 39 L. Ed. 2d 389 (1974).

[34] Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 92 S. Ct. 995, 31 L. Ed. 2d 274 (1972); Hunter v. Erickson, 393 U.S. 385, 89 S. Ct. 557, 21 L. Ed. 2d 616 (1969); McLaughlin v. State of Fla., 379 U.S. 184, 85 S. Ct. 283, 13 L. Ed. 2d 222 (1964).

[35] Supra note 31.

[36] United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515, 533, 116 S.Ct. 2264, 2275, 135 L.Ed.2d 735, 751 (1996).

[37] Murray v. State of Louisiana, supra note 32. See Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan, 102 S.Ct. 3331, 3336 (1982) (holding classifications based on gender calls for heightened standard of review); Trimble v. Gordon, 97 S.Ct. 1459, 1463 (1977) (holding illegitimacy is a quasi-suspect classification).

[38] Supra note 31.

[39] Ohio Bureau of Employment Services v. Hodory, 431 U.S. 471, 97 S. Ct. 1898, 52 L. Ed. 2d 513 (1977); Massachusetts Bd. of Retirement v. Murgia, 427 U.S. 307, 96 S. Ct. 2562, 49 L. Ed. 2d 520 (1976); Costner v. U.S., 720 F.2d 539 (8th Cir. 1983).

[40] Plyler v. Moore, 100 F.3d 365 (4th Cir. 1996); Cornerstone Christian Schools v. University Interscholastic League, 563 F.3d 127, 243 Ed. Law Rep. 609 (5th Cir. 2009); Independent Charities of America, Inc. v. State of Minn., 82 F.3d 791 (8th Cir. 1996); Bah v. City of Atlanta, 103 F.3d 964 (11th Cir. 1997).

[41] Varnum v. Brien, 763 N.W.2d 862 (2009) citing the following passage from Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 216, 102 S.Ct. 2382, 2394, 72 L.Ed.2d 786, 799 (1982):

Several formulations might explain our treatment of certain classifications as “suspect.” Some classifications are more likely than others to reflect deep-seated prejudice rather than legislative rationality in pursuit of some legitimate objective. Legislation predicated on such prejudice is easily recognized as incompatible with the constitutional understanding that each person is to be judged individually and is entitled to equal justice under the law. Classifications treated as suspect tend to be irrelevant to any proper legislative goal. Finally, certain groups, indeed largely the same groups, have historically been “relegated to such a position of political powerlessness as to command extraordinary protection from the majoritarian political process.” The experience of our Nation has shown that prejudice may manifest itself in the treatment of some groups. Our response to that experience is reflected in the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Legislation imposing special disabilities upon groups disfavored by virtue of circumstances beyond their control suggests the kind of “class or caste” treatment that the Fourteenth Amendment was designed to abolish.

[42] See United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. at 531-32, 116 S.Ct. at 2274-75, 135 L.Ed.2d at 750 (observing ‘long and unfortunate history of sex discrimination” (quoting Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677, 684, 93 S.Ct. 1764, 1769, 36 L.Ed.2d 583, 590 (1973) (Brennan, J., plurality opinion))); Lyng v. Castillo, 477 U.S. 635, 638, 106 S.Ct. 2727, 2729, 91 L.Ed.2d 527, 533 (1986) (noting subject class had “not been subjected to discrimination”); City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Ctr., 473 U.S. 432 at 443, 105 S.Ct. at 3256, 87 L.Ed.2d at 332 (mentally retarded not victims of “continuing antipathy or prejudice”); Mass. Bd. of Ret. v. Murgia, 427 U.S. 307, 313, 96 S.Ct. 2562, 2567, 49 L.Ed.2d 520, 525 (1976) (considering “history of purposeful unequal treatment” (quoting San Antonio Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 28, 93 S.Ct. 1278, 1294, 36 L.Ed.2d 16, 40 (1973))).

[43] See Cleburne Living Ctr., 473 U.S. at 440, 105 S.Ct. at 3254, 87 L.Ed.2d at 320 (certain classifications merely “reflect prejudice and antipathy”); Miss. Univ. for Women v. Hogan, 458 U.S. 718, 725, 102 S.Ct. 3331, 3336, 73 L.Ed.2d 1090, 1098 (1982) (“Care must be taken in ascertain-ing whether the statutory objective itself reflects archaic and stereotypic notions.”); Murgia, 427 U.S. at 313, 96 S.Ct. at 2566, 49 L.Ed.2d at 525 (considering whether aged have “been subjected to unique disabilities on the basis of stereotyped characteristics not truly indicative of their abilities”); Frontiero, 411 U.S. at 686, 93 S.Ct. at 1770, 36 L.Ed.2d at 591 (Brennan, J., plurality opinion) (“[T]he sex characteristic frequently bears no relation to ability to perform or contribute to society.”).

[44] Lyng, 477 U.S. at 638, 106 S.Ct. at 2729, 91 L.Ed.2d at 533 (close relatives “do not exhibit obvious, immutable, or distinguishing characteristics that define them as a discrete group”); Cleburne Living Ctr., 473 U.S. at 442, 105 S.Ct. at 3255-56, 87 L.Ed.2d at 322 (mentally retarded people are different from other classes of people, “immutably so, in relevant respects”); Plyler, 457 U.S. at 220, 102 S.Ct. at 2396, 72 L.Ed.2d at 801 (children of illegal aliens, unlike their parents, have “legal characteristic[s] over which children can have little control”); Mathews v. Lucas, 427 U.S. 495, 505, 96 S.Ct. 2755, 2762, 49 L.Ed.2d 651, 660 (1976) (status of illegitimacy “is, like race or national origin, a characteristic determined by causes not within the control of the illegitimate individual”); Frontiero, 411 U.S. at 686, 93 S.Ct. at 1770, 36 L.Ed.2d at 591 (Brennan, J., plurality opinion) (“[S]ex, like race and national origin, is an immutable characteristic determined solely by the accident of birth....”).

[45] Lyng, 477 U.S. at 638, 106 S.Ct. at 2729, 91 L.Ed.2d at 533 (close relatives of primary household are “not a minority or politically powerless”); Cleburne Living Ctr., 473 U.S. at 445, 105 S.Ct. at 3257, 87 L.Ed.2d at 324 (refusing to find “that the mentally retarded are politically powerless”); San Antonio Indep. Sch. Dist., 411 U.S. at 28, 93 S.Ct. at 1294, 36 L.Ed.2d at 40 (considering whether minority and poor school children were “relegated to such a position of political powerlessness as to command extraordinary protection from the majoritarian political process”).

[46] Varnum v. Brien, supra note 41; Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health, 289 Conn. 135, 957 A.2d 407 (2008).

[47] Varnum v. Brien, id., citing, among others, Palmore v. Sidoti, 466 U.S. 429, 433-34, 104 S.Ct. 1879, 1882-83, 80 L.Ed.2d 421, 426 (1984) (foregoing analysis of political power); Nyquist v. Mauclet, 432 U.S. 1, 9 n. 11, 97 S.Ct. 2120, 2125 n. 11, 53 L.Ed.2d 63, 71 n. 11 (1977) (jettisoning immutability requirement and scrutinizing classification of resident aliens closely despite aliens' voluntary status as residents); Mathews, 427 U.S. at 505-06, 96 S.Ct. at 2762-63, 49 L.Ed.2d at 660-61 (according heightened scrutiny to classifications based on illegitimacy despite mutability and political power of illegitimates); Murgia, 427 U.S. at 313-14, 96 S.Ct. at 2567, 49 L.Ed.2d at 525 (omitting any reference to immutability); San Antonio Indep. Sch. Dist., 411 U.S. at 25, 93 S.Ct. at 1292, 36 L.Ed.2d at 38 (omitting any reference to immutability); Frontiero, 411 U.S. at 685-88, 93 S.Ct. at 1770-71, 36 L.Ed.2d at 591-92 (Brennan, J., plurality opinion) (scrutinizing classification based on gender closely despite political power of women); Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365, 371-72, 91 S.Ct. 1848, 1852, 29 L.Ed.2d 534, 541-42 (1971) (foregoing analysis of immutability); see also Lyng, 477 U.S. at 638, 106 S.Ct. at 2729, 91 L.Ed.2d at 533 (referring to whether members of the class “exhibit obvious, immutable, or distinguishing characteristics that define them as a discrete group”).

[48] Concurring and Dissenting Opinion of Mr. Justice Thurgood Marshall in Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, Inc., infra.

[49] Varnum v. Brien, supra note 41.

[50] Id.

[51] Id.

[52] Id.; Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health, supra note 46.

[53] Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health, id.

[54] Varnum v. Brien, supra note 41.

[55] Id.

[56] Id.

[57] Supra note 46.

[58] See, e.g., Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, Inc., 473 U.S. at 442, 105 S.Ct. 3249 (for purposes of federal constitution, mental retardation is not quasi-suspect classification because, inter alia, “it is undeniable ... that those who are mentally retarded have a reduced ability to cope with and function in the everyday world”); Massachusetts Board of Retirement v. Murgia, 427 U.S. at 315, 96 S.Ct. 2562 (age is not suspect classification because, inter alia, “physical ability generally declines with age”); see also Gregory v. Ashcroft, 501 U.S. 452, 472, 111 S.Ct. 2395, 115 L.Ed.2d 410 (1991) (“[i]t is an unfortunate fact of life that physical [capacity] and mental capacity sometimes diminish with age”).

[59] L. Tribe, American Constitutional Law (2d Ed. 1988) § 16-33, p. 1616.

[60] Jantz v. Muci, 759 F.Supp. 1543, 1548 (D.Kan.1991) (quoting 1985 Resolution of the American Psychological Association), 976 F.2d 623 (10th Cir.1992), cert. denied, 508 U.S. 952, 113 S.Ct. 2445, 124 L.Ed.2d 662 (1993).

[61] Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, Inc., 473 U.S. at 440, 105 S.Ct. 3249.

[62] Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health, supra note 46.

[63] Id.

[64] Id.

[65] Varnum v. Brien, supra note 41.

[66] Id.

[67] Id. citing Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health, supra note 46.

[68] Id. citing In re Marriage Cases, 183 P.3d at 442.

[69] Id. citing Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health, supra note 46.

[70] Id.

[71] Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health, supra note 46.

[72] Varnum v. Brien, supra note 41, citing Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health, supra note 46.

[73] Id.

[74] Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health, supra note 46.

[75] Id.

[76] Id.

[77] Id.

[78] Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620, 116 S.Ct. 1620.

[79] Id.

[80] Section 5(2), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution states, in relevant part:

SECTION 5. x x x x

(2) The party-list representatives shall constitute twenty per centum of the total number of representatives including those under the party list. For three consecutive terms after the ratification of this Constitution, one-half of the seats allocated to party-list representatives shall be filled, as provided by law, by selection or election from the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and such other sectors as may be provided by law, except the religious sector. (italics supplied)

[81] On the other hand, Section 5 of RA 7941 provides:

SECTION 5. Registration. — Any organized group of persons may register as a party, organization or coalition for purposes of the party-list system by filing with the COMELEC not later than ninety (90) days before the election a petition verified by its president or secretary stating its desire to participate in the party-list system as a national, regional or sectoral party or organization or a coalition of such parties or organizations, attaching thereto its constitution, by-laws, platform or program of government, list of officers, coalition agreement and other relevant information as the COMELEC may require: Provided, That the sectors shall include labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers, and professionals. (italics supplied)

[82] G.R. No. 147589, June 26, 2001, 359 SCRA 698.

[83] Id.

Supreme Court Decision on Ang Ladlad vs. Comelec

Republic of the Philippines

Supreme Court

Baguio City



EN BANC



ANG LADLAD LGBT PARTY

G.R. No. 190582

represented herein by its Chair,



DANTON REMOTO,



Petitioner,

Present:







PUNO, C. J.,



CARPIO,



CORONA,



CARPIO MORALES,



VELASCO, JR.,



NACHURA,



LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,

- versus -

BRION,



PERALTA,



BERSAMIN,



DEL CASTILLO,



ABAD,



VILLARAMA, JR.,



PEREZ, and



MENDOZA, JJ.





COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS,

Promulgated:

Respondent.

April 8, 2010


x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x



D E C I S I O N



DEL CASTILLO, J.:



... [F]reedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.



Justice Robert A. Jackson

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette[1]



One unavoidable consequence of everyone having the freedom to choose is that others may make different choices – choices we would not make for ourselves, choices we may disapprove of, even choices that may shock or offend or anger us. However, choices are not to be legally prohibited merely because they are different, and the right to disagree and debate about important questions of public policy is a core value protected by our Bill of Rights. Indeed, our democracy is built on genuine recognition of, and respect for, diversity and difference in opinion.



Since ancient times, society has grappled with deep disagreements about the definitions and demands of morality. In many cases, where moral convictions are concerned, harmony among those theoretically opposed is an insurmountable goal. Yet herein lies the paradox – philosophical justifications about what is moral are indispensable and yet at the same time powerless to create agreement. This Court recognizes, however, that practical solutions are preferable to ideological stalemates; accommodation is better than intransigence; reason more worthy than rhetoric. This will allow persons of diverse viewpoints to live together, if not harmoniously, then, at least, civilly.



Factual Background



This is a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, with an application for a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction, filed by Ang Ladlad LGBT Party (Ang Ladlad) against the Resolutions of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) dated November 11, 2009[2] (the First Assailed Resolution) and December 16, 2009[3] (the Second Assailed Resolution) in SPP No. 09-228 (PL) (collectively, the Assailed Resolutions). The case has its roots in the COMELEC’s refusal to accredit Ang Ladlad as a party-list organization under Republic Act (RA) No. 7941, otherwise known as the Party-List System Act.[4]



Ang Ladlad is an organization composed of men and women who identify themselves as lesbians, gays, bisexuals, or trans-gendered individuals (LGBTs). Incorporated in 2003, Ang Ladlad first applied for registration with the COMELEC in 2006. The application for accreditation was denied on the ground that the organization had no substantial membership base. On August 17, 2009, Ang Ladlad again filed a Petition[5] for registration with the COMELEC.



Before the COMELEC, petitioner argued that the LGBT community is a marginalized and under-represented sector that is particularly disadvantaged because of their sexual orientation and gender identity; that LGBTs are victims of exclusion, discrimination, and violence; that because of negative societal attitudes, LGBTs are constrained to hide their sexual orientation; and that Ang Ladlad complied with the 8-point guidelines enunciated by this Court in Ang Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party v. Commission on Elections.[6] Ang Ladlad laid out its national membership base consisting of individual members and organizational supporters, and outlined its platform of governance.[7]



On November 11, 2009, after admitting the petitioner’s evidence, the COMELEC (Second Division) dismissed the Petition on moral grounds, stating that:

x x x This Petition is dismissible on moral grounds. Petitioner defines the Filipino Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Community, thus:



x x x a marginalized and under-represented sector that is particularly disadvantaged because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.



and proceeded to define sexual orientation as that which:



x x x refers to a person’s capacity for profound emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different gender, of the same gender, or more than one gender.”



This definition of the LGBT sector makes it crystal clear that petitioner tolerates immorality which offends religious beliefs. In Romans 1:26, 27, Paul wrote:



For this cause God gave them up into vile affections, for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.



In the Koran, the hereunder verses are pertinent:



For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women “ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.” (7.81) “And we rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): Then see what was the end of those who indulged in sin and crime!” (7:84) “He said: “O my Lord! Help Thou me against people who do mischief” (29:30).



As correctly pointed out by the Law Department in its Comment dated October 2, 2008:



The ANG LADLAD apparently advocates sexual immorality as indicated in the Petition’s par. 6F: ‘Consensual partnerships or relationships by gays and lesbians who are already of age’. It is further indicated in par. 24 of the Petition which waves for the record: ‘In 2007, Men Having Sex with Men or MSMs in the Philippines were estimated as 670,000 (Genesis 19 is the history of Sodom and Gomorrah).



Laws are deemed incorporated in every contract, permit, license, relationship, or accreditation. Hence, pertinent provisions of the Civil Code and the Revised Penal Code are deemed part of the requirement to be complied with for accreditation.



ANG LADLAD collides with Article 695 of the Civil Code which defines nuisance as ‘Any act, omission, establishment, business, condition of property, or anything else which x x x (3) shocks, defies; or disregards decency or morality x x x



It also collides with Article 1306 of the Civil Code: ‘The contracting parties may establish such stipulations, clauses, terms and conditions as they may deem convenient, provided they are not contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order or public policy. Art 1409 of the Civil Code provides that ‘Contracts whose cause, object or purpose is contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order or public policy’ are inexistent and void from the beginning.



Finally to safeguard the morality of the Filipino community, the Revised Penal Code, as amended, penalizes ‘Immoral doctrines, obscene publications and exhibitions and indecent shows’ as follows:



Art. 201. Immoral doctrines, obscene publications and exhibitions, and indecent shows. — The penalty of prision mayor or a fine ranging from six thousand to twelve thousand pesos, or both such imprisonment and fine, shall be imposed upon:



1. Those who shall publicly expound or proclaim doctrines openly contrary to public morals;



2. (a) The authors of obscene literature, published with their knowledge in any form; the editors publishing such literature; and the owners/operators of the establishment selling the same;



(b) Those who, in theaters, fairs, cinematographs or any other place, exhibit indecent or immoral plays, scenes, acts or shows, it being understood that the obscene literature or indecent or immoral plays, scenes, acts or shows, whether live or in film, which are prescribed by virtue hereof, shall include those which: (1) glorify criminals or condone crimes; (2) serve no other purpose but to satisfy the market for violence, lust or pornography; (3) offend any race or religion; (4) tend to abet traffic in and use of prohibited drugs; and (5) are contrary to law, public order, morals, good customs, established policies, lawful orders, decrees and edicts.



3. Those who shall sell, give away or exhibit films, prints, engravings, sculpture or literature which are offensive to morals.



Petitioner should likewise 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.”



Furthermore, should this Commission grant the petition, we will be exposing our youth to an environment that does not conform to the teachings of our faith. Lehman Strauss, a famous bible teacher and writer in the U.S.A. said in one article that “older practicing homosexuals are a threat to the youth.” As an agency of the government, ours too is the State’s avowed duty under Section 13, Article II of the Constitution to protect our youth from moral and spiritual degradation.[8]





When Ang Ladlad sought reconsideration,[9] three commissioners voted to overturn the First Assailed Resolution (Commissioners Gregorio Y. Larrazabal, Rene V. Sarmiento, and Armando Velasco), while three commissioners voted to deny Ang Ladlad’s Motion for Reconsideration (Commissioners Nicodemo T. Ferrer, Lucenito N. Tagle, and Elias R. Yusoph). The COMELEC Chairman, breaking the tie and speaking for the majority in his Separate Opinion, upheld the First Assailed Resolution, stating that:



I. The Spirit of Republic Act No. 7941



Ladlad is applying for accreditation as a sectoral party in the party-list system. Even assuming that it has properly proven its under-representation and marginalization, it cannot be said that Ladlad’s expressed sexual orientations per se would benefit the nation as a whole.



Section 2 of the party-list law unequivocally states that the purpose of the party-list system of electing congressional representatives is to enable Filipino citizens belonging to marginalized and under-represented sectors, organizations and parties, and who lack well-defined political constituencies but who could contribute to the formulation and enactment of appropriate legislation that will benefit the nation as a whole, to become members of the House of Representatives.



If entry into the party-list system would depend only on the ability of an organization to represent its constituencies, then all representative organizations would have found themselves into the party-list race. But that is not the intention of the framers of the law. The party-list system is not a tool to advocate tolerance and acceptance of misunderstood persons or groups of persons. Rather, the party-list system is a tool for the realization of aspirations of marginalized individuals whose interests are also the nation’s – only that their interests have not been brought to the attention of the nation because of their under representation. Until the time comes when Ladlad is able to justify that having mixed sexual orientations and transgender identities is beneficial to the nation, its application for accreditation under the party-list system will remain just that.



II. No substantial differentiation



In the United States, whose equal protection doctrine pervades Philippine jurisprudence, courts do not recognize lesbians, gays, homosexuals, and bisexuals (LGBT) as a “special class” of individuals. x x x Significantly, it has also been held that homosexuality is not a constitutionally protected fundamental right, and that “nothing in the U.S. Constitution discloses a comparable intent to protect or promote the social or legal equality of homosexual relations,” as in the case of race or religion or belief.



x x x x



Thus, even if society’s understanding, tolerance, and acceptance of LGBT’s is elevated, there can be no denying that Ladlad constituencies are still males and females, and they will remain either male or female protected by the same Bill of Rights that applies to all citizens alike.



x x x x



IV. Public Morals



x x x There is no question about not imposing on Ladlad Christian or Muslim religious practices. Neither is there any attempt to any particular religious group’s moral rules on Ladlad. Rather, what are being adopted as moral parameters and precepts are generally accepted public morals. They are possibly religious-based, but as a society, the Philippines cannot ignore its more than 500 years of Muslim and Christian upbringing, such that some moral precepts espoused by said religions have sipped [sic] into society and these are not publicly accepted moral norms.



V. Legal Provisions



But above morality and social norms, they have become part of the law of the land. Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code imposes the penalty of prision mayor upon “Those who shall publicly expound or proclaim doctrines openly contrary to public morals.” It penalizes “immoral doctrines, obscene publications and exhibition and indecent shows.” “Ang Ladlad” apparently falls under these legal provisions. This is clear from its Petition’s paragraph 6F: “Consensual partnerships or relationships by gays and lesbians who are already of age’ It is further indicated in par. 24 of the Petition which waves for the record: ‘In 2007, Men Having Sex with Men or MSMs in the Philippines were estimated as 670,000. Moreoever, Article 694 of the Civil Code defines “nuisance” as any act, omission x x x or anything else x x x which shocks, defies or disregards decency or morality x x x.” These are all unlawful.[10]





On January 4, 2010, Ang Ladlad filed this Petition, praying that the Court annul the Assailed Resolutions and direct the COMELEC to grant Ang Ladlad’s application for accreditation. Ang Ladlad also sought the issuance ex parte of a preliminary mandatory injunction against the COMELEC, which had previously announced that it would begin printing the final ballots for the May 2010 elections by January 25, 2010.



On January 6, 2010, we ordered the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to file its Comment on behalf of COMELEC not later than 12:00 noon of January 11, 2010.[11] Instead of filing a Comment, however, the OSG filed a Motion for Extension, requesting that it be given until January 16, 2010 to Comment.[12] Somewhat surprisingly, the OSG later filed a Comment in support of petitioner’s application.[13] Thus, in order to give COMELEC the opportunity to fully ventilate its position, we required it to file its own comment.[14] The COMELEC, through its Law Department, filed its Comment on February 2, 2010.[15]



In the meantime, due to the urgency of the petition, we issued a temporary restraining order on January 12, 2010, effective immediately and continuing until further orders from this Court, directing the COMELEC to cease and desist from implementing the Assailed Resolutions.[16]



Also, on January 13, 2010, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) filed a Motion to Intervene or to Appear as Amicus Curiae, attaching thereto its Comment-in-Intervention.[17] The CHR opined that the denial of Ang Ladlad’s petition on moral grounds violated the standards and principles of the Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). On January 19, 2010, we granted the CHR’s motion to intervene.



On January 26, 2010, Epifanio D. Salonga, Jr. filed his Motion to Intervene[18] which motion was granted on February 2, 2010.[19]



The Parties’ Arguments



Ang Ladlad argued that the denial of accreditation, insofar as it justified the exclusion by using religious dogma, violated the constitutional guarantees against the establishment of religion. Petitioner also claimed that the Assailed Resolutions contravened its constitutional rights to privacy, freedom of speech and assembly, and equal protection of laws, as well as constituted violations of the Philippines’ international obligations against discrimination based on sexual orientation.



The OSG concurred with Ang Ladlad’s petition and argued that the COMELEC erred in denying petitioner’s application for registration since there was no basis for COMELEC’s allegations of immorality. It also opined that LGBTs have their own special interests and concerns which should have been recognized by the COMELEC as a separate classification. However, insofar as the purported violations of petitioner’s freedom of speech, expression, and assembly were concerned, the OSG maintained that there had been no restrictions on these rights.



In its Comment, the COMELEC reiterated that petitioner does not have a concrete and genuine national political agenda to benefit the nation and that the petition was validly dismissed on moral grounds. It also argued for the first time that the LGBT sector is not among the sectors enumerated by the Constitution and RA 7941, and that petitioner made untruthful statements in its petition when it alleged its national existence contrary to actual verification reports by COMELEC’s field personnel.



Our Ruling



We grant the petition.



Compliance with the Requirements of the Constitution and Republic Act No. 7941





The COMELEC denied Ang Ladlad’s application for registration on the ground that the LGBT sector is neither enumerated in the Constitution and RA 7941, nor is it associated with or related to any of the sectors in the enumeration.



Respondent mistakenly opines that our ruling in Ang Bagong Bayani stands for the proposition that only those sectors specifically enumerated in the law or related to said sectors (labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers, and professionals) may be registered under the party-list system. As we explicitly ruled in Ang Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party v. Commission on Elections,[20] “the enumeration of marginalized and under-represented sectors is not exclusive”. The crucial element is not whether a sector is specifically enumerated, but whether a particular organization complies with the requirements of the Constitution and RA 7941.



Respondent also argues that Ang Ladlad made untruthful statements in its petition when it alleged that it had nationwide existence through its members and affiliate organizations. The COMELEC claims that upon verification by its field personnel, it was shown that “save for a few isolated places in the country, petitioner does not exist in almost all provinces in the country.”[21]

This argument that “petitioner made untruthful statements in its petition when it alleged its national existence” is a new one; previously, the COMELEC claimed that petitioner was “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.” Nowhere was this ground for denial of petitioner’s accreditation mentioned or even alluded to in the Assailed Resolutions. This, in itself, is quite curious, considering that the reports of petitioner’s alleged non-existence were already available to the COMELEC prior to the issuance of the First Assailed Resolution. At best, this is irregular procedure; at worst, a belated afterthought, a change in respondent’s theory, and a serious violation of petitioner’s right to procedural due process.



Nonetheless, we find that there has been no misrepresentation. A cursory perusal of Ang Ladlad’s initial petition shows that it never claimed to exist in each province of the Philippines. Rather, petitioner alleged that the LGBT community in the Philippines was estimated to constitute at least 670,000 persons; that it had 16,100 affiliates and members around the country, and 4,044 members in its electronic discussion group.[22] Ang Ladlad also represented itself to be “a national LGBT umbrella organization with affiliates around the Philippines composed of the following LGBT networks:”



§ Abra Gay Association

§ Aklan Butterfly Brigade (ABB) – Aklan

§ Albay Gay Association

§ Arts Center of Cabanatuan City – Nueva Ecija

§ Boys Legion – Metro Manila

§ Cagayan de Oro People Like Us (CDO PLUS)

§ Can’t Live in the Closet, Inc. (CLIC) – Metro Manila

§ Cebu Pride – Cebu City

§ Circle of Friends

§ Dipolog Gay Association – Zamboanga del Norte

§ Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Youth Association (GABAY)

§ Gay and Lesbian Activists Network for Gender Equality (GALANG) – Metro Manila

§ Gay Men’s Support Group (GMSG) – Metro Manila

§ Gay United for Peace and Solidarity (GUPS) – Lanao del Norte

§ Iloilo City Gay Association – Iloilo City

§ Kabulig Writer’s Group – Camarines Sur

§ Lesbian Advocates Philippines, Inc. (LEAP)

§ LUMINA – Baguio City

§ Marikina Gay Association – Metro Manila

§ Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) – Metro Manila

§ Naga City Gay Association – Naga City

§ ONE BACARDI

§ Order of St. Aelred (OSAe) – Metro Manila

§ PUP LAKAN

§ RADAR PRIDEWEAR

§ Rainbow Rights Project (R-Rights), Inc. – Metro Manila

§ San Jose del Monte Gay Association – Bulacan

§ Sining Kayumanggi Royal Family – Rizal

§ Society of Transexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) – Metro Manila

§ Soul Jive – Antipolo, Rizal

§ The Link – Davao City

§ Tayabas Gay Association – Quezon

§ Women’s Bisexual Network – Metro Manila

§ Zamboanga Gay Association – Zamboanga City[23]





Since the COMELEC only searched for the names ANG LADLAD LGBT or LADLAD LGBT, it is no surprise that they found that petitioner had no presence in any of these regions. In fact, if COMELEC’s findings are to be believed, petitioner does not even exist in Quezon City, which is registered as Ang Ladlad’s principal place of business.



Against this backdrop, we find that Ang Ladlad has sufficiently demonstrated its compliance with the legal requirements for accreditation. Indeed, aside from COMELEC’s moral objection and the belated allegation of non-existence, nowhere in the records has the respondent ever found/ruled that Ang Ladlad is not qualified to register as a party-list organization under any of the requisites under RA 7941 or the guidelines in Ang Bagong Bayani. The difference, COMELEC claims, lies in Ang Ladlad’s morality, or lack thereof.



Religion as the Basis for Refusal to Accept Ang Ladlad’s Petition for Registration





Our Constitution provides in Article III, Section 5 that “[n]o law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” At bottom, what our non-establishment clause calls for is “government neutrality in religious matters.”[24] Clearly, “governmental reliance on religious justification is inconsistent with this policy of neutrality.”[25] We thus find that it was grave violation of the non-establishment clause for the COMELEC to utilize the Bible and the Koran to justify the exclusion of Ang Ladlad.



Rather than relying on religious belief, the legitimacy of the Assailed Resolutions should depend, instead, on whether the COMELEC is able to advance some justification for its rulings beyond mere conformity to religious doctrine. Otherwise stated, government must act for secular purposes and in ways that have primarily secular effects. As we held in Estrada v. Escritor:[26]



x x x The morality referred to in the law is public and necessarily secular, not religious as the dissent of Mr. Justice Carpio holds. "Religious teachings as expressed in public debate may influence the civil public order but public moral disputes may be resolved only on grounds articulable in secular terms." Otherwise, if government relies upon religious beliefs in formulating public policies and morals, the resulting policies and morals would require conformity to what some might regard as religious programs or agenda. The non-believers would therefore be compelled to conform to a standard of conduct buttressed by a religious belief, i.e., to a "compelled religion," anathema to religious freedom. Likewise, if government based its actions upon religious beliefs, it would tacitly approve or endorse that belief and thereby also tacitly disapprove contrary religious or non-religious views that would not support the policy. As a result, government will not provide full religious freedom for all its citizens, or even make it appear that those whose beliefs are disapproved are second-class citizens.

In other words, government action, including its proscription of immorality as expressed in criminal law like concubinage, must have a secular purpose. That is, the government proscribes this conduct because it is "detrimental (or dangerous) to those conditions upon which depend the existence and progress of human society" and not because the conduct is proscribed by the beliefs of one religion or the other. Although admittedly, moral judgments based on religion might have a compelling influence on those engaged in public deliberations over what actions would be considered a moral disapprobation punishable by law. After all, they might also be adherents of a religion and thus have religious opinions and moral codes with a compelling influence on them; the human mind endeavors to regulate the temporal and spiritual institutions of society in a uniform manner, harmonizing earth with heaven. Succinctly put, a law could be religious or Kantian or Aquinian or utilitarian in its deepest roots, but it must have an articulable and discernible secular purpose and justification to pass scrutiny of the religion clauses. x x x Recognizing the religious nature of the Filipinos and the elevating influence of religion in society, however, the Philippine constitution's religion clauses prescribe not a strict but a benevolent neutrality. Benevolent neutrality recognizes that government must pursue its secular goals and interests but at the same time strive to uphold religious liberty to the greatest extent possible within flexible constitutional limits. Thus, although the morality contemplated by laws is secular, benevolent neutrality could allow for accommodation of morality based on religion, provided it does not offend compelling state interests.[27]





Public Morals as a Ground to Deny Ang Ladlad’s Petition for Registration





Respondent suggests that although the moral condemnation of homosexuality and homosexual conduct may be religion-based, it has long been transplanted into generally accepted public morals. The COMELEC argues:



Petitioner’s accreditation was denied not necessarily because their group consists of LGBTs but because of the danger it poses to the people especially the youth. Once it is recognized by the government, a sector which believes that there is nothing wrong in having sexual relations with individuals of the same gender is a bad example. It will bring down the standard of morals we cherish in our civilized society. Any society without a set of moral precepts is in danger of losing its own existence.[28]





We are not blind to the fact that, through the years, homosexual conduct, and perhaps homosexuals themselves, have borne the brunt of societal disapproval. It is not difficult to imagine the reasons behind this censure – religious beliefs, convictions about the preservation of marriage, family, and procreation, even dislike or distrust of homosexuals themselves and their perceived lifestyle. Nonetheless, we recall that the Philippines has not seen fit to criminalize homosexual conduct. Evidently, therefore, these “generally accepted public morals” have not been convincingly transplanted into the realm of law.[29]



The Assailed Resolutions have not identified any specific overt immoral act performed by Ang Ladlad. Even the OSG agrees that “there should have been a finding by the COMELEC that the group’s members have committed or are committing immoral acts.”[30] The OSG argues:



x x x A person may be sexually attracted to a person of the same gender, of a different gender, or more than one gender, but mere attraction does not translate to immoral acts. There is a great divide between thought and action. Reduction ad absurdum. If immoral thoughts could be penalized, COMELEC would have its hands full of disqualification cases against both the “straights” and the gays.” Certainly this is not the intendment of the law.[31]





Respondent has failed to explain what societal ills are sought to be prevented, or why special protection is required for the youth. Neither has the COMELEC condescended to justify its position that petitioner’s admission into the party-list system would be so harmful as to irreparably damage the moral fabric of society. We, of course, do not suggest that the state is wholly without authority to regulate matters concerning morality, sexuality, and sexual relations, and we recognize that the government will and should continue to restrict behavior considered detrimental to society. Nonetheless, we cannot countenance advocates who, undoubtedly with the loftiest of intentions, situate morality on one end of an argument or another, without bothering to go through the rigors of legal reasoning and explanation. In this, the notion of morality is robbed of all value. Clearly then, the bare invocation of morality will not remove an issue from our scrutiny.



We also find the COMELEC’s reference to purported violations of our penal and civil laws flimsy, at best; disingenuous, at worst. Article 694 of the Civil Code defines a nuisance as “any act, omission, establishment, condition of property, or anything else which shocks, defies, or disregards decency or morality,” the remedies for which are a prosecution under the Revised Penal Code or any local ordinance, a civil action, or abatement without judicial proceedings.[32] A violation of Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code, on the other hand, requires proof beyond reasonable doubt to support a criminal conviction. It hardly needs to be emphasized that mere allegation of violation of laws is not proof, and a mere blanket invocation of public morals cannot replace the institution of civil or criminal proceedings and a judicial determination of liability or culpability.



As such, we hold that moral disapproval, without more, is not a sufficient governmental interest to justify exclusion of homosexuals from participation in the party-list system. The denial of Ang Ladlad’s registration on purely moral grounds amounts more to a statement of dislike and disapproval of homosexuals, rather than a tool to further any substantial public interest. Respondent’s blanket justifications give rise to the inevitable conclusion that the COMELEC targets homosexuals themselves as a class, not because of any particular morally reprehensible act. It is this selective targeting that implicates our equal protection clause.



Equal Protection



Despite the absolutism of Article III, Section 1 of our Constitution, which provides “nor shall any person be denied equal protection of the laws,” courts have never interpreted the provision as an absolute prohibition on classification. “Equality,” said Aristotle, “consists in the same treatment of similar persons.”[33] The equal protection clause guarantees that no person or class of persons shall be deprived of the same protection of laws which is enjoyed by other persons or other classes in the same place and in like circumstances.[34]



Recent jurisprudence has affirmed that if a law neither burdens a fundamental right nor targets a suspect class, we will uphold the classification as long as it bears a rational relationship to some legitimate government end.[35] In Central Bank Employees Association, Inc. v. Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas,[36] we declared that “[i]n our jurisdiction, the standard of analysis of equal protection challenges x x x have followed the ‘rational basis’ test, coupled with a deferential attitude to legislative classifications and a reluctance to invalidate a law unless there is a showing of a clear and unequivocal breach of the Constitution.”[37]



The COMELEC posits that the majority of the Philippine population considers homosexual conduct as immoral and unacceptable, and this constitutes sufficient reason to disqualify the petitioner. Unfortunately for the respondent, the Philippine electorate has expressed no such belief. No law exists to criminalize homosexual behavior or expressions or parties about homosexual behavior. Indeed, even if we were to assume that public opinion is as the COMELEC describes it, the asserted state interest here – that is, moral disapproval of an unpopular minority – is not a legitimate state interest that is sufficient to satisfy rational basis review under the equal protection clause. The COMELEC’s differentiation, and its unsubstantiated claim that Ang Ladlad cannot contribute to the formulation of legislation that would benefit the nation, furthers no legitimate state interest other than disapproval of or dislike for a disfavored group.



From the standpoint of the political process, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender have the same interest in participating in the party-list system on the same basis as other political parties similarly situated. State intrusion in this case is equally burdensome. Hence, laws of general application should apply with equal force to LGBTs, and they deserve to participate in the party-list system on the same basis as other marginalized and under-represented sectors.



It bears stressing that our finding that COMELEC’s act of differentiating LGBTs from heterosexuals insofar as the party-list system is concerned does not imply that any other law distinguishing between heterosexuals and homosexuals under different circumstances would similarly fail. We disagree with the OSG’s position that homosexuals are a class in themselves for the purposes of the equal protection clause.[38] We are not prepared to single out homosexuals as a separate class meriting special or differentiated treatment. We have not received sufficient evidence to this effect, and it is simply unnecessary to make such a ruling today. Petitioner itself has merely demanded that it be recognized under the same basis as all other groups similarly situated, and that the COMELEC made “an unwarranted and impermissible classification not justified by the circumstances of the case.”



Freedom of Expression and Association



Under our system of laws, every group has the right to promote its agenda and attempt to persuade society of the validity of its position through normal democratic means.[39] It is in the public square that deeply held convictions and differing opinions should be distilled and deliberated upon. As we held in Estrada v. Escritor:[40]



In a democracy, this common agreement on political and moral ideas is distilled in the public square. Where citizens are free, every opinion, every prejudice, every aspiration, and every moral discernment has access to the public square where people deliberate the order of their life together. Citizens are the bearers of opinion, including opinion shaped by, or espousing religious belief, and these citizens have equal access to the public square. In this representative democracy, the state is prohibited from determining which convictions and moral judgments may be proposed for public deliberation. Through a constitutionally designed process, the people deliberate and decide. Majority rule is a necessary principle in this democratic governance. Thus, when public deliberation on moral judgments is finally crystallized into law, the laws will largely reflect the beliefs and preferences of the majority, i.e., the mainstream or median groups. Nevertheless, in the very act of adopting and accepting a constitution and the limits it specifies – including protection of religious freedom "not only for a minority, however small – not only for a majority, however large – but for each of us" – the majority imposes upon itself a self-denying ordinance. It promises not to do what it otherwise could do: to ride roughshod over the dissenting minorities.





Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society, and this freedom applies not only to those that are favorably received but also to those that offend, shock, or disturb. Any restriction imposed in this sphere must be proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued. Absent any compelling state interest, it is not for the COMELEC or this Court to impose its views on the populace. Otherwise stated, the COMELEC is certainly not free to interfere with speech for no better reason than promoting an approved message or discouraging a disfavored one.



This position gains even more force if one considers that homosexual conduct is not illegal in this country. It follows that both expressions concerning one’s homosexuality and the activity of forming a political association that supports LGBT individuals are protected as well.

Other jurisdictions have gone so far as to categorically rule that even overwhelming public perception that homosexual conduct violates public morality does not justify criminalizing same-sex conduct.[41] European and United Nations judicial decisions have ruled in favor of gay rights claimants on both privacy and equality grounds, citing general privacy and equal protection provisions in foreign and international texts.[42] To the extent that there is much to learn from other jurisdictions that have reflected on the issues we face here, such jurisprudence is certainly illuminating. These foreign authorities, while not formally binding on Philippine courts, may nevertheless have persuasive influence on the Court’s analysis.



In the area of freedom of expression, for instance, United States courts have ruled that existing free speech doctrines protect gay and lesbian rights to expressive conduct. In order to justify the prohibition of a particular expression of opinion, public institutions must show that their actions were caused by “something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint.”[43]



With respect to freedom of association for the advancement of ideas and beliefs, in Europe, with its vibrant human rights tradition, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has repeatedly stated that a political party may campaign for a change in the law or the constitutional structures of a state if it uses legal and democratic means and the changes it proposes are consistent with democratic principles. The ECHR has emphasized that political ideas that challenge the existing order and whose realization is advocated by peaceful means must be afforded a proper opportunity of expression through the exercise of the right of association, even if such ideas may seem shocking or unacceptable to the authorities or the majority of the population.[44] A political group should not be hindered solely because it seeks to publicly debate controversial political issues in order to find solutions capable of satisfying everyone concerned.[45] Only if a political party incites violence or puts forward policies that are incompatible with democracy does it fall outside the protection of the freedom of association guarantee.[46]



We do not doubt that a number of our citizens may believe that homosexual conduct is distasteful, offensive, or even defiant. They are entitled to hold and express that view. On the other hand, LGBTs and their supporters, in all likelihood, believe with equal fervor that relationships between individuals of the same sex are morally equivalent to heterosexual relationships. They, too, are entitled to hold and express that view. However, as far as this Court is concerned, our democracy precludes using the religious or moral views of one part of the community to exclude from consideration the values of other members of the community.



Of course, none of this suggests the impending arrival of a golden age for gay rights litigants. It well may be that this Decision will only serve to highlight the discrepancy between the rigid constitutional analysis of this Court and the more complex moral sentiments of Filipinos. We do not suggest that public opinion, even at its most liberal, reflect a clear-cut strong consensus favorable to gay rights claims and we neither attempt nor expect to affect individual perceptions of homosexuality through this Decision.



The OSG argues that since there has been neither prior restraint nor subsequent punishment imposed on Ang Ladlad, and its members have not been deprived of their right to voluntarily associate, then there has been no restriction on their freedom of expression or association. The OSG argues that:



There was no utterance restricted, no publication censored, or any assembly denied. [COMELEC] simply exercised its authority to review and verify the qualifications of petitioner as a sectoral party applying to participate in the party-list system. This lawful exercise of duty cannot be said to be a transgression of Section 4, Article III of the Constitution.



x x x x



A denial of the petition for registration x x x does not deprive the members of the petitioner to freely take part in the conduct of elections. Their right to vote will not be hampered by said denial. In fact, the right to vote is a constitutionally-guaranteed right which cannot be limited.



As to its right to be elected in a genuine periodic election, petitioner contends that the denial of Ang Ladlad’s petition has the clear and immediate effect of limiting, if not outrightly nullifying the capacity of its members to fully and equally participate in public life through engagement in the party list elections.



This argument is puerile. The holding of a public office is not a right but a privilege subject to limitations imposed by law. x x x[47]

The OSG fails to recall that petitioner has, in fact, established its qualifications to participate in the party-list system, and – as advanced by the OSG itself – the moral objection offered by the COMELEC was not a limitation imposed by law. To the extent, therefore, that the petitioner has been precluded, because of COMELEC’s action, from publicly expressing its views as a political party and participating on an equal basis in the political process with other equally-qualified party-list candidates, we find that there has, indeed, been a transgression of petitioner’s fundamental rights.



Non-Discrimination and International Law





In an age that has seen international law evolve geometrically in scope and promise, international human rights law, in particular, has grown dynamically in its attempt to bring about a more just and humane world order. For individuals and groups struggling with inadequate structural and governmental support, international human rights norms are particularly significant, and should be effectively enforced in domestic legal systems so that such norms may become actual, rather than ideal, standards of conduct.



Our Decision today is fully in accord with our international obligations to protect and promote human rights. In particular, we explicitly recognize the principle of non-discrimination as it relates to the right to electoral participation, enunciated in the UDHR and the ICCPR.



The principle of non-discrimination is laid out in Article 26 of the ICCPR, as follows:



Article 26



All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.





In this context, the principle of non-discrimination requires that laws of general application relating to elections be applied equally to all persons, regardless of sexual orientation. Although sexual orientation is not specifically enumerated as a status or ratio for discrimination in Article 26 of the ICCPR, the ICCPR Human Rights Committee has opined that the reference to “sex” in Article 26 should be construed to include “sexual orientation.”[48] Additionally, a variety of United Nations bodies have declared discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to be prohibited under various international agreements.[49]



The UDHR provides:



Article 21.



(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.



Likewise, the ICCPR states:



Article 25

Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:



(a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;



(b) To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors;



(c) To have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.





As stated by the CHR in its Comment-in-Intervention, the scope of the right to electoral participation is elaborated by the Human Rights Committee in its General Comment No. 25 (Participation in Public Affairs and the Right to Vote) as follows:



1. Article 25 of the Covenant recognizes and protects the right of every citizen to take part in the conduct of public affairs, the right to vote and to be elected and the right to have access to public service. Whatever form of constitution or government is in force, the Covenant requires States to adopt such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to ensure that citizens have an effective opportunity to enjoy the rights it protects. Article 25 lies at the core of democratic government based on the consent of the people and in conformity with the principles of the Covenant.



x x x x



15. The effective implementation of the right and the opportunity to stand for elective office ensures that persons entitled to vote have a free choice of candidates. Any restrictions on the right to stand for election, such as minimum age, must be justifiable on objective and reasonable criteria. Persons who are otherwise eligible to stand for election should not be excluded by unreasonable or discriminatory requirements such as education, residence or descent, or by reason of political affiliation. No person should suffer discrimination or disadvantage of any kind because of that person's candidacy. States parties should indicate and explain the legislative provisions which exclude any group or category of persons from elective office.[50]



We stress, however, that although this Court stands willing to assume the responsibility of giving effect to the Philippines’ international law obligations, the blanket invocation of international law is not the panacea for all social ills. We refer now to the petitioner’s invocation of the Yogyakarta Principles (the Application of International Human Rights Law In Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity),[51] which petitioner declares to reflect binding principles of international law.



At this time, we are not prepared to declare that these Yogyakarta Principles contain norms that are obligatory on the Philippines. There are declarations and obligations outlined in said Principles which are not reflective of the current state of international law, and do not find basis in any of the sources of international law enumerated under Article 38(1) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice.[52] Petitioner has not undertaken any objective and rigorous analysis of these alleged principles of international law to ascertain their true status.



We also hasten to add that not everything that society – or a certain segment of society – wants or demands is automatically a human right. This is not an arbitrary human intervention that may be added to or subtracted from at will. It is unfortunate that much of what passes for human rights today is a much broader context of needs that identifies many social desires as rights in order to further claims that international law obliges states to sanction these innovations. This has the effect of diluting real human rights, and is a result of the notion that if “wants” are couched in “rights” language, then they are no longer controversial.



Using even the most liberal of lenses, these Yogyakarta Principles, consisting of a declaration formulated by various international law professors, are – at best – de lege ferenda – and do not constitute binding obligations on the Philippines. Indeed, so much of contemporary international law is characterized by the “soft law” nomenclature, i.e., international law is full of principles that promote international cooperation, harmony, and respect for human rights, most of which amount to no more than well-meaning desires, without the support of either State practice or opinio juris.[53]



As a final note, we cannot help but observe that the social issues presented by this case are emotionally charged, societal attitudes are in flux, even the psychiatric and religious communities are divided in opinion. This Court’s role is not to impose its own view of acceptable behavior. Rather, it is to apply the Constitution and laws as best as it can, uninfluenced by public opinion, and confident in the knowledge that our democracy is resilient enough to withstand vigorous debate.



WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby GRANTED. The Resolutions of the Commission on Elections dated November 11, 2009 and December 16, 2009 in SPP No. 09-228 (PL) are hereby SET ASIDE. The Commission on Elections is directed to GRANT petitioner’s application for party-list accreditation.

SO ORDERED.







MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO

Associate Justice





WE CONCUR:





REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice











ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice
RENATO C. CORONA

Associate Justice












CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

Associate Justice
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice












ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

Associate Justice
TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO

Associate Justice












ARTURO D. BRION

Associate Justice
DIOSDADO M. PERALTA

Associate Justice












LUCAS P. BERSAMIN

Associate Justice
ROBERTO A. ABAD

Associate Justice












MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.

Associate Justice
JOSE P. PEREZ

Associate Justice












JOSE C. MENDOZA

Associate Justice











CERTIFICATION



Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.





REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] 319 U.S. 624, 640-42 (1943).

[2] Rollo, pp. 33-40.

[3] Id. at 41-74.

[4] An Act Providing For The Election Of Party-List Representatives Through The Party-List System, And Appropriating Funds Therefor (1995).

[5] Rollo, pp. 89-101.

[6] 412 Phil. 308 (2001).

[7] Ang Ladlad outlined its platform, viz:

As a party-list organization, Ang Ladlad is willing to research, introduce, and work for the passage into law of legislative measures under the following platform of government:

a) introduction and support for an anti-discrimination bill that will ensure equal rights for LGBTs in employment and civil life;

b) support for LGBT-related and LGBT-friendly businesses that will contribute to the national economy;

c) setting up of micro-finance and livelihood projects for poor and physically challenged LGBT Filipinos;

d) setting up of care centers that will take care of the medical, legal, pension, and other needs of old and abandoned LGBTs. These centers will be set up initially in the key cities of the country; and

e) introduction and support for bills seeking the repeal of laws used to harass and legitimize extortion against the LGBT community. Rollo, p. 100.

[8] Id. at 36-39. Citations omitted. Italics and underscoring in original text.

[9] Id. at 77-88.

[10] Id. at 50-54. Emphasis and underscoring supplied.

[11] Id. at 121.

[12] Id. at 129-132.

[13] Id. at 151-283.

[14] Id. at 284.

[15] Id. at 301-596.

[16] Id. at 126.

[17] Id. at 133-160.

[18] Id. at 288-291.

[19] Id. at 296.

[20] Supra note 6.

[21] It appears that on September 4, 2009, the Second Division directed the various COMELEC Regional Offices to verify the existence, status, and capacity of petitioner. In its Comment, respondent submitted copies of various reports stating that ANG LADLAD LGBT or LADLAD LGBT did not exist in the following areas: Batangas (October 6, 2009); Romblon (October 6, 2009); Palawan (October 16, 2009); Sorsogon (September 29, 2009); Cavite, Marinduque, Rizal (October 12, 2009); Basilan, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Tawi Tawi (October 19, 2009); Biliran, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Samar, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar (October 19, 2009); Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Masbate, Sorsogon (October 25, 2009); Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, La Union, Pangasinan (October 23, 2009); North Cotabato, Sarangani, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat (October 23, 2009); Aklan, Antique, Iloilo and Negros Occidental (October 25, 2009); Bohol, Cebu, Siquijor (October 24, 2009); Negros Oriental (October 26, 2009); Cordillera Administrative Region (October 30, 2009); Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur (October 26, 2009); Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon, Camiguin, MIsamis Oriental, Lanao del Norte (October 31, 2009); Laguna (November 2, 2009); Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro (November 13, 2009); Quezon (November 24, 2009); Davao City, Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental (November 19, 2009); Caloocan, Las Pinas, Makati, Mandaluyong, Manila, Marikina, Muntinlupa, Navotas, Paranaque, Pasay, Pasig, Pateros, Quezon City, San Juan, Taguig, Valenzuela (December 16, 2009). Rollo, pp.323-596.

[22] Id. at 96.

[23] Id. at 96-97.

[24] Bernas, The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines: A Commentary 346 (2009).

[25] Estrada v. Escritor, 455 Phil. 411 (2003), citing Smith, S., "The Rise and Fall of Religious Freedom in Constitutional Discourse", 140 University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 149, 160 (1991).

[26] 455 Phil. 411 (2003).

[27] Id. at 588-589.

[28] Rollo, p. 315.

[29] In Anonymous v. Radam, A.M. No. P-07-2333, December 19, 2007, 541 SCRA 12, citing Concerned Employee v. Mayor, A.M. No. P-02-1564, 23 November 2004, 443 SCRA 448, we ruled that immorality cannot be judged based on personal bias, specifically those colored by particular mores. Nor should it be grounded on "cultural" values not convincingly demonstrated to have been recognized in the realm of public policy expressed in the Constitution and the laws. At the same time, the constitutionally guaranteed rights (such as the right to privacy) should be observed to the extent that they protect behavior that may be frowned upon by the majority.

[30] Rollo, pp. 178.

[31] Id. at 179-180.

[32] Civil Code of the Philippines, Art. 699.

[33] Politics VII. 14.

[34] Abakada Guro Party v. Executive Secretary, G.R. No. 168056, September 1, 2005, 2005, 469 SCRA 1, 139.

[35] In Bernas, The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines: A Commentary 139-140 (2009), Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J. writes:

For determining the reasonableness of classification, later jurisprudence has developed three kinds of test[s] depending on the subject matter involved. The most demanding is the strict scrutiny test which requires the government to show that the challenged classification serves a compelling state interest and that the classification is necessary to serve that interest. This [case] is used in cases involving classifications based on race, national origin, religion, alienage, denial of the right to vote, interstate migration, access to courts, and other rights recognized as fundamental.

Next is the intermediate or middle-tier scrutiny test which requires government to show that the challenged classification serves an important state interest and that the classification is at least substantially related to serving that interest. This is applied to suspect classifications like gender or illegitimacy.

The most liberal is the minimum or rational basis scrutiny according to which government need only show that the challenged classification is rationally related to serving a legitimate state interest. This is the traditional rationality test and it applies to all subjects other than those listed above.

[36] 487 Phil. 531, 583 (2004).

[37] Id. at 584. See also Mid-States Freight Lines v. Bates, 111 N.Y.S. 2d 568.

[38] The OSG argues that “[w]hile it is true that LGBTs are immutably males and females, and they are protected by the same Bill of Rights that applies to all citizens alike, it cannot be denied that as a sector, LGBTs have their own special interests and concerns.” Rollo, p. 183.

[39] Article III, Section 4 of the Constitution provides that “[n]o 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.”

[40] Supra note 26.

[41] In Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986), the US Supreme Court first upheld the constitutionality of a Georgia sodomy law that criminalized oral and anal sex in private between consenting adults when applied to homosexuals. Seventeen years later the Supreme Court directly overruled Bowers in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), holding that "Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today."

In Lawrence, the US Supreme Court has held that the liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual persons the right to choose to enter into intimate relationships, whether or not said relationships were entitled to formal or legal recognition.

Our prior cases make two propositions abundantly clear. First, the fact that the governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice; neither history nor tradition could save a law prohibiting miscegenation from constitutional attack. Second, individual decisions by married persons, concerning the intimacies of their physical relationship, even when not intended to produce offspring, are a form of “liberty” protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Moreover, this protection extends to intimate choices by unmarried as well as married persons.

The present case does not involve minors. It does not involve persons who might be injured or coerced or who are situated in relationships where consent might not easily be refused. It does not involve public conduct or prostitution. It does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter. The case does involve two adults who, with full and mutual consent from each other, engaged in sexual practices common to a homosexual lifestyle. The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime. Their right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives them the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government. “It is a promise of the Constitution that there is a realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter.” The Texas statute furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual.

In similar fashion, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the avowed state interest in protecting public morals did not justify interference into private acts between homosexuals. In Norris v. Ireland, the European Court held that laws criminalizing same-sex sexual conduct violated the right to privacy enshrined in the European Convention.

The Government are in effect saying that the Court is precluded from reviewing Ireland’s observance of its obligation not to exceed what is necessary in a democratic society when the contested interference with an Article 8 (Art. 8) right is in the interests of the "protection of morals". The Court cannot accept such an interpretation. x x x.

x x x The present case concerns a most intimate aspect of private life. Accordingly, there must exist particularly serious reasons before interferences on the part of public authorities can be legitimate x x x.

x x x Although members of the public who regard homosexuality as immoral may be shocked, offended or disturbed by the commission by others of private homosexual acts, this cannot on its own warrant the application of penal sanctions when it is consenting adults alone who are involved. (Norris v. Ireland (judgment of October 26, 1988, Series A no. 142, pp. 20-21, § 46); Marangos v. Cyprus (application no. 31106/96, Commission's report of 3 December 1997, unpublished)).

The United Nations Human Rights Committee came to a similar conclusion in Toonen v. Australia (Comm. No. 488/1992 U.N. GAOR Hum. Rts. Comm., 50th Sess., U.N. Doc. CCPR/c/50/D/488/1992 (1994)), involving a complaint that Tasmanian laws criminalizing consensual sex between adult males violated the right to privacy under Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Committee held:

x x x it is undisputed that adult consensual sexual activity in private is covered by the concept of ‘privacy’ x x x any interference with privacy must be proportional to the end sought and be necessary in the circumstances of any given case.

[42] See Toonen v. Australia, (Comm. No. 488/1992 U.N. GAOR Hum. Rts. Comm., 50th Sess., U.N. Doc. CCPR/c/50/D/488/1992 (1994)); Dudgeon v. United Kingdom, 45 Eur. H.R. Rep. 52 (1981) (decision by the European Court of Human Rights, construing the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms); Norris v. Ireland, 13 Eur. Ct. H.R. 186 (1991); Modinos v. Cyprus, 16 Eur. H.R. Rep. 485 (1993). See also, L. and V. v Austria (2003-I 29; (2003) 36 EHRR 55) and S.L. v Austria (2003-I 71; (2003) 37 EHRR 39), where the European Court considered that Austria’s differing age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual relations was discriminatory; it ‘embodied a predisposed bias on the part of a heterosexual majority against a homosexual minority’, which could not ‘amount to sufficient justification for the differential treatment any more than similar negative attitudes towards those of a different race, origin or colour’.

[43] See Fricke v. Lynch, 491 F. Supp. 381 (1980) and Gay Student Services v. Texas A&M University, 737 F. 2d 1317 (1984).

[44] Case of the United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden and Others v. Bulgaria Application No. 5941/00; Judgment of January 20, 2006. Note that in Baczkowski and Others v. Poland, Application No. 1543/06; Judgment of May 3, 2007, the ECHR unanimously ruled that the banning of an LGBT gay parade in Warsaw was a discriminatory violation of Article 14 of the ECHR, which provides:

The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in [the] Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

It also found that banning LGBT parades violated the group’s freedom of assembly and association. Referring to the hallmarks of a “democratic society”, the Court has attached particular importance to pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness. In that context, it has held that although individual interests must on occasion be subordinated to those of a group, democracy does not simply mean that the views of the majority must always prevail: a balance must be achieved which ensures the fair and proper treatment of minorities and avoids any abuse of a dominant position.

[45] Case of Freedom & Democracy Party (OZDEP) v. Turkey, Application No. 23885/94; Judgment of December 8, 1999.

[46] Article 11 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention) provides:
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State. Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 213 U.N.T.S. 222, entered into force September 3, 1953, as amended by Protocols Nos. 3, 5, 8, and 11 which entered into force on September 21, 1970, December 20, 1971, January 1, 1990, and November 1, 1998, respectively.

* Note that while the state is not permitted to discriminate against homosexuals, private individuals cannot be compelled to accept or condone homosexual conduct as a legitimate form of behavior. In Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc. (515 U.S. 557 (1995)), the US Supreme Court discussed whether anti-discrimination legislation operated to require the organizers of a private St. Patrick’s Day parade to include among the marchers an Irish-American gay, lesbian, and bisexual group. The court held that private citizens organizing a public demonstration may not be compelled by the state to include groups that impart a message the organizers do not want to be included in their demonstration. The court observed:

“[A] contingent marching behind the organization’s banner would at least bear witness to the fact that some Irish are gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and the presence of the organized marchers would suggest their view that people of their sexual orientations have as much claim to unqualified social acceptance as heterosexuals x x x. The parade’s organizers may not believe these facts about Irish sexuality to be so, or they may object to unqualified social acceptance of gays and lesbians or have some other reason for wishing to keep GLIB’s message out of the parade. But whatever the reason, it boils down to the choice of a speaker not to propound a particular point of view, and that choice is presumed to lie beyond the government’s power to control.”

So, too, in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (530 U.S. 640 [2000]), the US Supreme Court held that the Boy Scouts of America could not be compelled to accept a homosexual as a scoutmaster, because “the Boy Scouts believe that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the values it seeks to instill in its youth members; it will not “promote homosexual conduct as a legitimate form of behavior.”

When an expressive organization is compelled to associate with a person whose views the group does not accept, the organization’s message is undermined; the organization is understood to embrace, or at the very least tolerate, the views of the persons linked with them. The scoutmaster’s presence “would, at the very least, force the organization to send a message, both to the youth members and the world, that the Boy Scouts accepts homosexual conduct as a legitimate form of behavior.”

[47] Rollo, pp. 197-199.

[48] In Toonen v. Australia, supra note 42, the Human Rights Committee noted that “in its view the reference to ‘sex’ in Articles 2, paragraph 2, and 26 is to be taken as including sexual orientation.”

[49] The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has dealt with the matter in its General Comments, the interpretative texts it issues to explicate the full meaning of the provisions of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In General Comments Nos. 18 of 2005 (on the right to work) (Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 18: The right to work, E/C.12/GC/18, November 24, 2005), 15 of 2002 (on the right to water) (Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 15: The right to water, E/C.12/2002/11, November 26, 2002) and 14 of 2000 (on the right to the highest attainable standard of health) (Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 14: The right to the highest attainable standard of health, E/C.12/2000/4, August 14, 2000), it has indicated that the Covenant proscribes any discrimination on the basis of, inter-alia, sex and sexual orientation.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has also dealt with the issue in a General Comment. In its General Comment No. 4 of 2003, it stated that, “State parties have the obligation to ensure that all human beings below 18 enjoy all the rights set forth in the Convention [on the Rights of the Child] without discrimination (Article 2), including with regard to ‘‘race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status’’. These grounds also cover [inter alia] sexual orientation”. (Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No. 4: Adolescent health and development in the context of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, July 1, 2003, CRC/GC/2003/4).

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), has, on a number of occasions, criticized States for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. For example, it also addressed the situation in Kyrgyzstan and recommended that, “lesbianism be reconceptualized as a sexual orientation and that penalties for its practice be abolished” (Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women regarding Kyrgyzstan, February 5, 1999, A/54/38 at par. 128).

[50] General Comment No. 25: The right to participate in public affairs, voting rights and the right of equal access to public service (Art. 25) December 16, 1996. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.7.

[51] The Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity is a set of international principles relating to sexual orientation and gender identity, intended to address documented evidence of abuse of rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. It contains 29 Principles adopted by human rights practitioners and experts, together with recommendations to governments, regional intergovernmental institutions, civil society, and the United Nations.

[52] One example is Principle 3 (The Right to Recognition Before the Law), which provides:

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. Persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities shall enjoy legal capacity in all aspects of life. Each person’s self-defined sexual orientation and gender identity is integral to their personality and is one of the most basic aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom. No one shall be forced to undergo medical procedures, including sex reassignment surgery, sterilization or hormonal therapy, as a requirement for legal recognition of their gender identity. No status, such as marriage or parenthood, may be invoked as such to prevent the legal recognition of a person’s gender identity. No one shall be subjected to pressure to conceal, suppress or deny their sexual orientation or gender identity.

States shall:

a) Ensure that all persons are accorded legal capacity in civil matters, without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and the opportunity to exercise that capacity, including equal rights to conclude contracts, and to administer, own, acquire (including through inheritance), manage, enjoy and dispose of property;

b) Take all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to fully respect and legally recognise each person’s self-defined gender identity;

c) Take all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure that procedures exist whereby all State-issued identity papers which indicate a person’s gender/sex — including birth certificates, passports, electoral records and other documents — reflect the person’s profound self-defined gender identity;

d) Ensure that such procedures are efficient, fair and non-discriminatory, and respect the dignity and privacy of the person concerned;

e) Ensure that changes to identity documents will be recognized in all contexts where the identification or disaggregation of persons by gender is required by law or policy;

f) Undertake targeted programmes to provide social support for all persons experiencing gender transitioning or reassignment. (Emphasis ours)

[53] See Pharmaceutical and Health Care Association of the Philippines v. Secretary of Health, G.R. No. 173034, October 9, 2007, 535 SCRA 265, where we explained that “soft law” does not fall into any of the categories of international law set forth in Article 38, Chapter III of the 1946 Statute of the International Court of Justice. It is, however, an expression of non-binding norms, principles, and practices that influence state behavior. Certain declarations and resolutions of the UN General Assembly fall under this category.