Loving a nation

BY Danton Remoto
Remote Control
May 31, 2010

It has its deep roots sunk many, many years ago. For me, it was when we kicked out a homegrown dictator in February of 1986. Millions massed on an avenue that would later spawn malls and mega-malls. But then it was just an avenue that linked the metropolis from north to south, suddenly becoming a symbol for a revolution powered by the people.

It was on the same week that I received a letter from a university in the American Midwest, telling me that I had been accepted into their Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing. The offer was sweet: free tuition and fees, plus a teaching assistantship to tide me over for the next two years. I had been working for two years at the Batasang Pambansa (Interim National Assembly), editing the unimaginable prose of our dear assemblymen.

But to leave meant to leave family and country. Family was okay, since my father had required us to be taught the household chores (cooking, cleaning the house, laundry, pressing the clothes) so that “when you go and study abroad, like what I did, you won’t find life too difficult.” My mother was cool about it, since many of her relatives and their children have crossed the Pacific Ocean, and I would not be wanting for company and counsel over there.

Guess what I did?

I stayed. I stayed, took a Master of Arts in Literature at the Ateneo de Manila University, whose Department of English Chairman – the peerless Fr. Joseph A. Galdon, S.J. – promptly offered me free tuition and fees, plus a job as an Instructor even without a single unit in Education. I stayed because my grandparents were teachers and my parents were teachers and in my bones, I knew that if you want to rebuild a country (almost) in ruins, you have to start with education.

We swam in a sea of yellow and elected a stoic widow into the presidency, but after that, we left her alone. She tried her best, but she is more symbol than substance. Surrounded by people who are not at all as kind-hearted as she was, she was soon fending off one coup d’├ętat after another, one farmer’s strike after another.

We still talked in English, or Taglish, and wore shirts with alligators sewn on the chest and jeans from Levis. All imported, or knocked off and sold in Divisoria or Baclaran. Everyone and his father or mother wanted to leave again, what with the massive brownouts and the general air of despair that gripped the land.

And so when the British Council offered me another graduate-school scholarship to study in the United Kingdom, I left. The BC asked which school should they send my papers to? My friends told me to say Cambridge, or Oxford, or London. But I sent my papers instead to two smaller schools: East Anglia, for its Creative Writing Program, and Stirling, for its Publishing Studies Program. I had begun to read Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, brilliant renderings of timeworn fairy tales, and I wanted to learn from her. But East Anglia’s CW program is full and so my papers were sent to Stirling in Scotland. Why Stirling? Because after the Marcoses fell, there was no publishing industry to speak of, and I wanted help rebuild it.

Halfway through my stay in Scotland, I sent some papers for the Ph.D. program in the United States, to test the waters.

In December 1989, my noisy Brazilian flat mate Carlos knocked on my window at one A.M. He woke me up from my sleep. He said, “There is a war in your country!” I told him to shut up, Carlos, you’re drunk again. He told me to turn on my radio and listen to BBC Radio, and indeed there it was, the clipped accent reporting about a coup d’├ętat in the business heartland of Makati. For a week I listened to the radio and watched the television and talked to my sister on the phone. She was living in New Jersey and I told her I wish the coup would be over soon, because I don’t want to be stranded in Scotland. The coup died down, thanks (or no thanks) to American jet fighter planes that grazed the streets of Makati where the coup plotters and their soldiers were hunkered down.

A month later, I got letters from the American universities, offering me Ph.D. scholarships with all the sweeteners: free tuition and fees, a writing award of $1,000, a teaching assistantship. I did not know what to do. One day, we watched Dead Poets’ Society at Mac Roberts Arts Centre. Robin Williams played a Poetry teacher whose teaching methods are out of the box, and out of this world. He opened doors, windows, and a completely new universe, before the eyes of his students. I will never stand on top of a table to discuss poetry or turn my face to rubber to imitate personas in a poem, but I understood the spirit that animated the character Robin Williams played.

It was no choice. I returned to the country, where my Scottish accent became the students’ butt of jokes. Still we talked in our own kinds of English, or Taglish, and I wore the African vests and fez that I brought home.

Cory’s regime ended and Fidel V. Ramos took over, an administration that restored electricity in our homes, built flyovers in our cities, raised our GNP. Then Erap Estrada took over, with his distinctly nationalist agenda: during his inauguration, he had Mass at Barasoain Church, and was sworn into office at Rizal Park. He wore crisp, cream barongs and spoke his kind of buffalo English. Then he was kicked out of office and an Economics teacher at Ateneo took over, a bookish and studious woman who castigated students who came late to her class.

For nine years she was there, leading us in a rollercoaster ride that gave us 36 quarters of uninterrupted economic growth, which growth never seeped down to the common folk, where it matters most. The protest movement against her peaked in 2005, after she was accused of cheating in the elections. Suddenly there were CDs, songs, shirts, text messages and jokes against her. Love of country was alive again, equated with protests raging against her.

And in August of last year, when people were not sure whether Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo would leave the presidency or not, the saint of democracy Cory Aquino died of cancer. Suddenly, a new generation of Filipinos became aware of how it was to have a leader who might be a character straight out of boresville, but hey, as Teddy Boy Locsin said, “she never stole a single centavo from you.”

I’ve long been fascinated by the map of the Philippines – a spray of islands like jewels in the sea – and was happy when it became an icon for this newly-rediscovered love for one’s country. It soon found its way on T-shirts, on jeans, on notebooks. It became the protest icon of people who chose yellow as opposed to green, or orange, or whatever. At the same time, another clothes line was putting paintings of our own national artists on their well-crafted shirts. Others chose excerpts from the dazzling fiction of Nick Joaquin, and had them blazoned on their shirts as well.

And recently, a famous brand cut up lines from our Panatang Makabayan and had them printed on their shirts. Made in China those shirts are, of course, and the models are mestizos, but who cares? If they can foster love of country among this text-crazy, jejemon-writing generation, why not?

The idea of involving the youth in the recent elections – as fostered by a big TV station – is also a smart move. It brought the young back into the loop of nation-building. Their parents are in Dubai or Saudi Arabia, they might be dreaming of leaving someday for that golden country beyond the sea, but right now, at this moment, their synapses are wired to the blazing, body electric of loving a nation.

And if we love this nation – these many islands fractured by geography and history – then I am sure we can rebuild it. Now.

Goodbye Koala Bear, Hello Nico

Good-bye ‘Koala Bear,’ ‘Hello Nico’

by Rey E. Requejo
Manila Standard Today
May 29, 2010

The Department of Justice will not prioritize election irregularities exposed by an informer better known to the public as “Koala Bear.” Instead, it will look into the so-called “Hello Nico” scandal and supposedly questionable compact flash cards used in the May 10 elections.

Justice Secretary Alberto Agra stressed that the so-called “Koala Bear” controversy will be looked into, but only to verify his role in the elections.

“On the side lang yun just to verify his involvement. That’s not a priority. That will be taken care of by NBI [National Bureau of Investigation],” he said.

“We are doing this for the Comelec. We are still in the election period until June 30 so that NBI, our prosecutors, and PNP are acting as deputies of the Comelec,” Agra added.

The Commission on Elections said it has already identified the person behind the allegations of“Koala Bear.”

“We already know who is behind him. He is a losing candidate,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said.

The whistleblower earlier charged that he was part of vote padding and shaving operations during the elections.

Agra said he was confident that the department would conclude by June 15 the investigations into the “Hello Ronnie or Hello Nico” as well as the alleged irregularities in the compact flash cards and precinct count scan (PCOS) machines in connection with the May 10 elections.

According to him, a copy of the CD containing the alleged wiretapped phone conversation between Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno and Comelec Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer had already been turned over to NBI director Nestor Mantaring. Puno and Ferrer have denied that they are the persons in the conversation.

“Once the NBI wraps up the probe, it will submit its report to the DoJ for review. Once the DoJ finds probable cause, the next step is the filing of information in court,” Agra said.

Disqualification case filed against leading party list group

5/26/2010 | 06:58 PM
Disqualification case filed against leading party list group

A disqualification case has been filed with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) against leading party-list group Ako Bicol Political Party for allegedly failing to represent a marginalized sector.

The group’s disqualification was sought because Ako Bicol is supposedly a "front of wealthy tycoons preying on the regionalistic sentiments" of poor and marginalized Bicolanos, petitioners said in an 18-page motion filed on Wednesday.

Petitioners include Marites Corteza-Lopez, Mae Ann Michelle Villagomez, Michael Malano, Ferdinand Gaite, and Alexander Remollino.

Corteza-Lopez, Villagomez, Malano, Gaite, and Remollino claim to be "advocates" of clean elections. Corteza-Lopez and Villagomez also claim to be Bicolanos.

Gaite is also the president of the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition, and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage), which is a member organization of poll watchdog Kontra Daya.

"If the marginalized and the underrepresented poor will be represented in Congress by the overrepresented rich, would it not add more to their underrepresentation rather than alleviate it?" they said in their petition.

Ako Bicol was created by the "extremely wealthy" family of Elizaldy and Christopher Co, owners of Sunwest Group of Companies, Tektone Corporation, Lo-Tone Corporation, and Hi-Tone Corporation, the petitioners said.

Elizaldy is the chairman of the Ako Bicol Political Party while Christopher is its first nominee.

They added that Rodel Batocabe, the group's second nominee, is the corporate officer of the Embarcadero, a lifestyle hub, commercial, and entertainment center in Legazpi City, Albay.

Its fourth nominee, Ronaldo Ang, is also reportedly the vice president for legal of Sunwest Group of Companies.

"It must be protested to high heavens the fact that Ako Bicol... is feigning to be representing the marginalized and underrepresented sectors. Allowing (the party) to exist as a party under the party-list sytem representation indeed allows the party-list system to be sullied, desecrated, debased, and prostituted by those who are neither marginalized nor underrepresented," said the petitioners.

GMANews.TV tried contacting representatives from Ako Bicol but was unsuccessful.

According to the last tally of party-list votes released by the Comelec, the leading party-list organizations are Ako Bicol with 1,522,986 votes; the Coalition of Associations of Senior Citizens in the Philippies with 1,292,182 votes; and the Buhay Hayaan Yumabong Party-list with 1,249,555 votes.

Under the party list law, those who received at least two percent of the total votes cast for the party-list system shall be entitled to one congressional seat each while those who received more than two percent of the votes shall be entitled to additional seats in proportion to their total number of votes.

However, each party-list organization shall not be awarded more than three seats in Congress.

The 1987 Philippine Constitution provides that 20 percent of the seats in Congress be allotted for the sectoral representatives. - RJAB Jr., GMANews.TV

Catholic Church hinders growth of public intellectuals in RP -- expert

Catholic Church hinders growth of public intellectuals in RP --expert
By Purple S. Romero, abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak
Posted at 05/28/2010 5:26 PM | Updated as of 05/28/2010 5:34 PM

MANILA, Philippines--Influential sectors or "veto groups" have stymied public intellectuals in Southeast Asia, an authority on nationalism said on Friday in the forum of Nippon Foundation Fellowships for Asian Public Intellectuals held at the Ateneo de Manila University.

Benedict Anderson, professor emeritus of International Studies in Cornell University, pointed out that public intellectuals are concerned not just with meddling governments, they are also “up against veto groups,” or influential sectors which immediately block policies or ideas that either go against their belief, or question their power.

Public intellectuals are experts in various fields who help shape public discourse and introduce reforms. They are those who frequently appear in the media to comment on newsworthy issues.

In the Philippines, where 81% of the 90-million population are Catholic, the Catholic Church is the “single, most powerful veto group,” Anderson said.

He decried how the Catholic Church has successfully impeded the distribution of contraceptives and curtailed the education of people about reproductive health, thereby also slowing down the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Mary Racelis, professor from the University of the Philippines Department of Anthropology, agreed with Anderson. She said that the Catholic Church continues to shun forms of modern family planning, such as the use of condoms and birth control pills. Talking about abortion is also a big no-no. “You cannot discuss it,” she said. “This is always a struggle.”

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has campaigned against the passage of the Reproductive Health Care bill, which would mandate the government to fund and promote the use of contraceptives. After 14 years, the bill reached the plenary in Congress in 2008, but intense lobbying from the Catholic Church and pro-life advocates stalled its enactment into law.

Military power

In Indonesia, Anderson said, the presence of the military continues to intimidate public intellectuals.

The military has weakened press freedom during the time of President Suharto. Indonesia’s armed forces enjoyed considerable power under his regime as they helped him overthrow Suharto’s predecessor, Sukarno, in 1967.

Media practitioners then were warned against producing scathing reports against the military.

While the Indonesian government is now under the helm of civilian rule, research about military, especially their wealth, is still far and between, Anderson lamented.

“There is no single book about the military,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Malaysia, a law whose implementation lies in the hands of men in uniform has also discouraged the probe of the government and its actions.

Under the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows detention without trial, the police and military can arrest and put behind bars people who are suspected of carrying any anti-government activity. The Malaysian government has initially used ISA to stop communist forces in 1948.

Anderson said though, that in reality, ISA is now used to suppress critics of the government.

Infallible monarchy

In Thailand, Anderson said, the “veto group” is the monarchy, which is above public scrutiny.

It has a law, the lese majeste, which prohibits any form of criticism against the king and the royal family. Those who defame the monarchy could be imprisoned for 3-15 years.

Anderson said that lese majeste has the undeniable capacity to censor public intellectuals, even those who are not Thai citizens. He cited the example of Paul Handley, author of the book “The King That Never Smiles,” which assailed Thai King Bhumibol Adulyade as anti-democratic.

The book almost did not see the light of day, Anderson said, as the Thai government allegedly tried to stop its publication by the Yale University. The book was eventually published in 2006.

Anderson said, though, that public intellectuals should not be silenced by veto groups. “The history of public intellectuals is marked by courage,” he said. - abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak

Juana Change: Some Noynoy insiders don't wanna change

Special Reports
Juana Change: Some Noynoy insiders don’t wanna change
05/27/2010 | 05:29 PM

No fictional character has been more identified with the nation’s recent tumultuous politics than Juana Change, the plump and funny firebrand who became a flesh-and-blood avatar for the anti-Arroyo mood among many performing artists.

During Noynoy Aquino’s run for the presidency, the neon-haired activist became a political campaigner, entertaining his large crowds with her brand of comic relief. In the process, she became a symbol for the volunteerism that famously animated the Aquino campaign.

But most recently, she was cited by pro-Aquino columnist Conrado de Quiros as a symbol for the seething discontent of “Yellow Army" volunteers who, in the wake of victory, now feel shunted by the political professionals more identified with the Liberal Party and by the Arroyo administration alumni who were very visible in the Aquino campaign.

Juana Change warns Noynoy Aquino that there are people surrounding him who want business as usual. Image from Paner's Facebook account
Contacted by GMANews.TV, Juana Change – character actress Mae Paner in real life – was indeed seething about the current jockeying for position and influence by traditional politicians.

"I did not invest my blood, sweat and tears para trapo ang ma-appoint. Those surrounding Noynoy, most of them are sipsip," Paner told GMANews.TV over the phone. She, however, declined to identify anyone.

At the height of the campaign season last March, she resigned from the Noynoy camp, saying those running it did not fit the anti-traditional politics she and other artists were advocating.

Breaking into tears, she described the difficulties she encountered while campaigning for Aquino during the Liberal Party's provincial sorties.

"Noong sumama ako sa mga sorties, actually doon lumalabas ang mga problema. Yung mga trapo nag-gigitgitan, yung mga nakadikit kay Noynoy. So na-pressure ako. Ito ba ang pinasok ko? Parang pinagsisilbihan ko ay sandamakmak na trapo," she said.

She bemoans that she, like other volunteers, was eventually ignored and looked down upon -- lending credence to de Quiros’ description of volunteers who were "alienated and ejected like flotsam."

"Para kaming nasa doghouse, naisasantabi, naisasalya," she cried, adding that she never asked for anything in return while the supposed "trapos" got compensation and the credit for the successes in the campaign.

People's campaign

Paner was an anti-Marcos activist and has been in the advertising industry for more than two decades, directing and acting in commercials. She is also part of the Philippine Educational Theater Association or PETA, known for its politically tinged productions.

When whistleblower Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada exposed First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo's alleged involvement in the purportedly graft-tainted National Broadband Network deal in 2008, Paner's sense of nationalism was stirred.

Months later, she and her colleagues formed a group that produced videos parodying ills in Philippine society and politics. As a theater actress, Paner found herself at the forefront as the character "Juana Change."

Her videos became online sensations and she became a fixture at gatherings of civil society groups and major political rallies. Paner and her group did not support a presidential candidate (one of her spiels was titled NOTA, to indicate None of the Above were qualified as presidents), until Sen. Manuel Roxas II passed the torch to Aquino as the Liberal Party's presidential bet.

"We (her group) felt there was a collective intelligence that seemed to be guiding the decision [for Aquino to seek the presidency]. I felt good about Noynoy, like he seemed to be the right choice," she said.

Paner said she agreed to volunteer for Aquino because she thought it was a "people-run" campaign, since it was the people who clamored for him to run for president. It was this amorphous entity referred to as “the people" that provided the campaign with its numbers, energy, and claims to being a movement. But there was never an ideology or set of principles tying volunteers together, aside from vague vows to fight corruption.

When she joined campaign activities, Paner did not like what she saw.

"I was asserting that this should be about the people. Si Noy ang boses ng tao. Pero [sa kampanya], kaming mga creatives, hindi namin ma-take yung mga pinagsasabi nila [sa campaign speeches]," she said.

Even after she stopped gracing Aquino’s rallies, however, she remained a staunch supporter of the presidential front runner.

In his Philippine Daily Inquirer column last May 17, De Quiros wrote about the bitter disagreements between volunteer groups and the Liberal Party, the Hyatt 10 (former Cabinet members of the Arroyo administration), and The Firm ( one of the country's high-profile law firms).

"The people around Noynoy they alienated, pissed off and ejected like flotsam were the volunteer groups," he said.

A day later, he wrote:

"The Noynoy campaign began not with the Liberal Party, the Hyatt 10 and the Firm but with the volunteer groups. It succeeded not because of the Liberal Party, the Hyatt 10 and the Firm but because of the volunteer groups. Noynoy’s government should begin not with the Liberal Party, the Hyatt 10 and the Firm but with the volunteer groups. It should succeed not because of the Liberal Party, the Hyatt 10 and the Firm but because of the volunteer groups."

But insiders in the Noynoy-Mar campaign disagree.

An LP staff member who declined to be named said some volunteer groups were "unruly" and "disorganized," even as he underscored their contributions to the campaign.

Another campaign insider who asked to remain anonymous said volunteers were not really ostracized during campaign activities. "They probably felt they receded into the background during provincial sorties, where local officials make overtures to Noynoy and hog public attention," he said.

Volunteers like Mae Paner aka Juana Change may have given the campaign its foot soldiers and enthusiasm, but some political observers opine that their spontaneity must be harnessed to a disciplined organization for it to have any future influence over policy.

Eleanor Dionisio of the Ateneo Center for Social Policy and Public Affairs took De Quiros to task for invoking "the episodic, uninstitutionalized, voluntaristic politics of EDSA as the democratic ideal."

"But apart from unity against corruption, Noynoy's Yellow Forces are a cacophony of conflicting interests, without any party discipline, just as it was the movement that brought his mother to power," Dioniosio wrote in her letter to the Inquirer which was circulated through Facebook.

Despite the letdown and intrigues creeping into the crowd around Aquino, Juana Change has not lost her optimism and still counts herself as a grunt in the Yellow Army. In a recent statement on her Facebook fan page, she wrote: "Maniwala ka, may mga marangal pa rin sa hanay natin." – With Howie Severino, GMANews.TV

Aftermath: The Future for Ang Ladlad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The politics of pork

By Liling Magtolis Briones / Boiled Green Bananas
Business Mirror, Sunday, 23 May 2010 20:48

The rallying cry of the Noynoy-for-President campaign was “No to corruption!” It was a campaign line which many Filipinos responded to. Many voted for him on the assumption that he would take concrete steps against corruption. Now that the elections are over, those who voted for him are asking how he can fulfill his campaign promise of “no to corruption” even as he seeks answers to the formidable challenges confronting his administration.

Challenges to the new administration

As the day of Noynoy’s inauguration draws near, the media have been trying to identify the challenges to his administration. Speculations are rife about the composition of his Cabinet, especially his economic team. I myself have been interviewed by the media on what awaits Noynoy’s presidency. The list is long. The rebuilding of government institutions is a difficult challenge. During the past decades, many of the institutions which formed the warp and woof of governance have been steadily eroded and weakened. These include the Legislative branch of government, the Executive, the Judiciary, the government corporate sector and even independent institutions. Worse, the erosion of public trust in these institutions has led to cynical public acceptance and toleration of inefficiency and corruption.

Concerns have been expressed about political stability in the light of the protests, cases filed and complaints about cheating, violence and vote-buying during the last elections. We all know that disturbances in the political system have repercussions on the economy. Foreign investors want a stable environment. More important, citizens want an environment of peace and justice so they can move on with their lives.

Public finance

The most urgent problem facing the new administration is in the arena of public finance. A huge fiscal deficit awaits Noynoy. At the end of the first quarter alone, the deficit already ballooned to over P100 billion. Serious revenue shortfalls were covered by massive borrowing. At the end of the first half of the year, it is expected that deficit levels will be much higher than targeted, since these were spurred by excessive election spending. Because of the huge fiscal deficit which is right now funded by borrowing, the levels of public debt are rising inexorably.

How will Noynoy and his advisers resolve the deficit? Everyone agrees that borrowing will not be a sustainable solution and that increases in revenue will tame the deficit. The issue is: Who will bear the burden of the deficit? As recommended by the International Monetary Fund, should it be the Filipino consumers, many of whom are poor? If this is Noynoy’s answer, then an increase in value-added tax rates will provide the much-needed additional revenue. The issue of equity will surely be raised by a disappointed and enraged public. If he wants to fulfill the constitutional mandate for a progressive system of taxation, then Noynoy will have to rationalize the perks and incentives which are given to the private sector. Noynoy will have to choose between the millions who look to him for relief from poverty and those who probably contributed to his campaign.

Indeed, who will bear the burdens of the Noynoy administration?

The politics of pork

In the public mind, pork barrel is associated with abuse and corruption. When Butch Abad announced that pork barrel would be used as “pressure point” to ensure a pliant Congress, he was announcing a typical tradpol strategy which GMA practiced with impunity. Does the use of the politics of pork make the Liberal Party any different from the GMA, as well as earlier administrations? If the politics of pork and the corruption associated with it will be used as a tool by the Liberal Party, what does it mean for its election slogan of “no to corruption”? Rep. Edcel Lagman has pointed out that the 2010 pork barrel of congressmen cannot be impounded because of Section 67, “Prohibition Against Impoundment of Appropriations” in the Appropriation Act. The veto message of the President actually imposed a conditional veto on this provision. It refers to additional appropriations approved by Congress in lieu of debt service. It must also be determined whether this provision also applies to pork barrel. The best way to determine whether President Arroyo honored the impoundment provision or actually withheld the pork barrel of the opposition in 2010 is to check the records of DBM.

The elections are just over and there are already indications that the promise of genuine reform might be derailed and that the politics of pork is alive and well.

Fil-Am transgender sues Macy's for discrimination

Fil-Am transgender sues Macy’s for discrimination
Balitang America
Posted at 05/22/2010 1:36 PM | Updated as of 05/22/2010 1:36 PM

CALIFORNIA - A Filipino American is suing her former employer Macy’s department store for wrongful termination and discrimination.

For close to 3 years, Filipino American Jason “Jazz” Araquel, Jr. was at employee at the Macy’s store in the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, California. Araquel is a pre-operative male to female transgender, which Macy’s management knew when she was hired in 2006.

Araquel, who worked in the cosmetics department, was fired in September last year for alleged insubordination and use of foul language. Araquel then filed a lawsuit claiming she was wrongfully terminated, alleging that she was a victim of gender identity discrimination, according to Araquel’s attorney Kelly Chen.

Araquel claims that throughout her employment at Macy’s, she experienced ongoing verbal abuse, being ejected from the women’s restroom, was required to do work assignments not part of her duties, was being held at a stricter standard, and was subjected to constant ridicule from both management and other employees.

She made ongoing complaints to management about being harassed and discriminated in the workplace. Araquel believes her termination was retaliation for those complaints.

“Given the sensitive nature and impact of the decision by any individual to change their sex – physically, psychologically and emotionally – it is abhorrent that Macy’s not only sat by and allowed her to suffer in an environment of humiliation and harassment from other employees, but its management actually contributed to her pain and suffering through its ongoing unfair treatment of her and eventually by her termination,” said Araquel’s attorney Eric Castelblanco. Balitang America

Are young Pinoy gays the new face of AIDS in RP?

Special Reports

Are young Pinoy gays the new face of AIDS in RP?
12/02/2009 | 07:54 PM

It started with a cough that never went away. Then came a sore that never seemed to heal. After days of fervent worrying, Paul (not his real name) decided not to see his regular doctor anymore. He proceeded to have an HIV test.

The 23-year-old call center agent had heard stories about a colleague who always got sick and never seemed to get better. “He contracted the flu one month, then pneumonia several weeks later. It was unusual," Paul said.

Upon the advice of a doctor, the office mate went to a clinic and had his blood screened for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). A week later, the bad news came: he tested positive for the virus.

When Paul found out about his colleague, he knew he needed to be tested immediately. After all, he was the perfect fit for the profile of high-risk individuals for HIV and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS): a young gay man who has multiple partners and has had unprotected, penetrative sex with other men.

Gay rights advocates and AIDS awareness groups have confirmed that young gay men are beginning to represent the new face of HIV/AIDS in the country, with recent figures showing an increasing trend in homosexual transmission.

Since 2007, two-thirds of HIV infections recorded in the country were found among men with homosexual or bisexual relations, according to statistics from the Department of Health (DOH).
This is significantly higher than the overall figure of 43 per cent for homosexual and bisexual transmission since the first HIV case was reported 25 years ago, official data shows.

In the same period, 90 per cent of the cases were sexually transmitted infections, with intravenous drug use accounting for the rest. In 2009, however, all the new cases so far came from sexual contact, majority among young men.

From January to October this year, 86 per cent of the 629 new cases who tested positive for HIV were males. In October alone, 80 new HIV-positive cases were recorded, mostly men aged 25-34 years old who had sex with other males.

“It's impossible not to touch on homosexual concerns when relating to HIV/AIDS programs," said Malu Marin, executive director of the AIDS advocacy group ACHIEVE. “But we approach HIV/AIDS programs in the country holistically," she said.

With new cases of HIV infections rising by one-third this year, the Philippines is one of the countries where a “hidden and growing epidemic" is imminent, the United Nations warned on the occasion of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.

The increasing trend worries Renaud Meyer, UN Development Program country director for the Philippines, who says the government is unlikely to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of stopping the spread of HIV by 2015.

“Instead of reversing and halting it, we see increasing cases," Meyer told GMANews.TV.

“It is important to promote voluntary testing especially among vulnerable and high risk group because when more people get tested, we’ll have a better knowledge on the real situation in the Philippines," Renaud added.

Overall, the DOH has recorded 4, 218 HIV-positive Filipinos from 1984 up to October 2009. A total of 828 Filipinos developed AIDS, and 318 have since died including one this year, according to official records.

Back to the closet

Medical professionals concede that the figures do not reflect the real picture of HIV/AIDS in the country, as there could be many more under-reported cases among individuals who are either scared to take the test or lack awareness about the disease.

Cebu Rep. Nerissa Corazon Soon-Ruiz, chair of the House committee on the Millennium Development Goals, said there are an estimated 11,000 undocumented and unreported HIV and AIDS cases in the country.

A doctor by profession, Ruiz said a bill needs to be passed to amend the existing Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 to increase the current level of awareness among Filipinos about the problem. The envisioned legislation will also propose appropriate measure to support HIV and AIDS carriers and their families by improving support systems for them.
In 1984 scientists proved that HIV causes AIDS. Anyone can get HIV. The most important thing to know is how you can get the virus.

You can get HIV:

* By having unprotected sex - sex without a condom- with someone who has HIV. The virus can be in an infected person’s blood, semen, or vaginal secretions and can enter your body through tiny cuts or sores in your skin, or in the lining of your vagina, penis, rectum, or mouth.
* By sharing a needle and syringe to inject drugs or sharing drug equipment used
to prepare drugs for injection with someone who has HIV.
* From a blood transfusion or blood clotting factor.

Babies born to women with HIV also can become infected during pregnancy, birth, or breast-feeding.

You cannot get HIV:

* By working with or being around someone who has HIV.
* From sweat, spit, tears, clothes, drinking fountains, phones, toilet seats, or through
everyday things like sharing a meal.
* From insect bites or stings.
* From donating blood.
* From a closed-mouth kiss (but there is a very small chance of getting it from open-mouthed or "French" kissing with an infected person because of possible blood contact).

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Testing for HIV is key to slowing down the AIDS epidemic. An HIV test could provide peace of mind to anyone who is at risk from the disease.

The cost of an HIV test would usually range between 300 and 1,500 pesos depending on the clinic.

See list of DOH-accredited centers here.

Dr. Olive Dizon, a medical specialist at HIV/AIDS wing of San Lazaro hospital, the country’s center for infectious and communicable diseases, said Filipinos need to be re-educated about taking HIV tests.

“The stigma is still there," Dizon told GMANews.TV. “But if they won’t get tested they have no other way to find out."

The present law provides free counseling behind closed doors for those who want to take the test. “It is important to have the same doctor for the pre-test and post-test screenings to foster confidence with the patient and also trust," Dr. Dizon said.

Doctors can never reveal their patients’ identities, even to their fellow doctors. Sometimes, Dr. Dizon said she had to tell patients to calm down before taking the test, explaining to them that not all opportunistic infections like TB or herpes are linked to HIV.

“These infections could attack the body when the immune system is down. When a person is stressed or depressed, his immune system is down. Sometimes, it’s just that."

Often, the stigma is borne out of lack of proper information. Nelia Sevidal, executive director of the non-government organization Lunduyan Para sa Pagpapalaganap at Pagtatanggol ng Karapatang Pambata, Inc., said Filipinos have a twisted image of what persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLHAs) look like.

“When Filipinos are told of HIV, most of them get the vision of a skin-and-bone, ghost-like figure of a person," Sevidal told GMANews.TV. In many cases, however, this is a false picture. With regular check-up and medication with antiretroviral drugs, PLHAs can look like any healthy individual, she says.

But fear of ostracism from their family and communities make PLHAs, or sometimes even those just thinking of taking an HIV test, adopt a culture of silence. “For the PLHAs, silence is the only defense against discrimination," says Sevidal.

In a 2007 study, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland found out that people living in countries where infections are widespread may have fewer preconceptions about HIV patients.

According to their survey, there is much greater stigma against HIV/AIDS patients in countries such as Thailand, which is ranked 17th worldwide, than Zimbabwe, which has the fourth highest rate of HIV infection in the world, with approximately one-fourth of all adults infected..

“The findings imply that when people have more accepting attitudes toward HIV/AIDS, they are more likely themselves to get tested and seek treatment, as well as to be supportive of friends and family with the illness," read an article on the Johns Hopskins newsletter.

Don’t be afraid of a little test

Mandatory HIV tests are unlawful in the Philippines. Only Filipino workers bound for the Middle East often get tested as a requirement for employment, along with young urban professionals like Paul who, concerned about their health, can afford to shell out between 300 and 1,500 pesos for the screening.
The first question was the toughest, ‘Do you have sex with other men?’ At that point, I felt it’s not okay to be gay.
– Paul

“Every time I cough, or have some sores on my legs or get herpes in my mouth, I wonder if I have it," said Paul. Six months ago, he finished treatment for tuberculosis, which he thought he might have contracted from the overcrowded MRT train on his way to work.

But after a few months, he had to see a doctor again -- this time, for a wound on his leg that took a long time to heal. When he told a friend about taking an HIV test, he was told he should never be seen at a clinic testing for HIV; by merely appearing in one, he would be announcing to the world that he is gay and he is guilty of contracting the disease.

Ignoring his friend’s advice, Paul decided to take an HIV test at the STD/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory (SACCL) at the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.

Established by the Japanese government in 1996, the SACCL is a modern HIV testing center that boasts of up-to-date laboratory facilities. It is designated as the National Reference Laboratory for HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the country.

Although the SACCL had one-way mirrors, Paul was still wary of the curious stares he got outside the office. He also felt uneasy about the required pre-test screening.

“The first question was the toughest, ‘Do you have sex with other men?’" Paul confessed. “I was afraid that if I said ‘Yes’ the doctor would look at me differently. It took a while before the word was dragged out of my mouth. At that point, I felt it’s not okay to be gay."

The counseling session took 30 minutes. Both patient and doctor filled out a questionnaire and a recommendation note was given to the SACCL for the test.

The test consisted of taking a blood serum from the patient. Paul had the option not to use his own name to protect his identity.

After a week, the test results came out: “Non-reactive." Paul made sure he read it correctly.

“I was relieved. That was such great news," he said.

His doctor advised him to take another HIV test six months later, as sometimes, HIV antibodies may take time to manifest in the blood.

Paul took the test in October, and he said he will take the second test in May. Until then, he vows to remain celibate. - YA/GMANews.TV

If you want to undergo HIV testing, visit the STD/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory at the San Lazaro Hospital, Quiricada St., Sta. Cruz, Manila. Tel No: 732-3776 to 78 Local 207

Filipino writer sees book as his anti-closet

Ang Ladlad will sponsor the launching of the Philippine edition of God Loves the Bakla this Sunday, 6-8 pm, at Cafe Adarna, Kalayaan Avenue near Matalino Street, Quezon City. Come one, come all! The most controversial book of the year!

Filipino writer sees book as his anti-closet
Thursday, 13 May 2010 15:00 Douglas Long
The Phom Penh Post

IN March 2000 Pope John Paul II publicly asked God’s forgiveness for the sins of Roman Catholics through the ages. Among the crimes against humanity alluded to by the pope were the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the church’s silence in the midst of the deportation of Jews from Rome by the Nazis.

Also on the laundry list of those victimised by the Catholic Church were ethnic groups, which John Paul II admitted had endured “contempt for their cultures and religious traditions”, and women, who were “all too often humiliated and marginalised”.

There was one notable word, however, that did not pass the pope’s lips in the course of his apology: homosexuals. With this omission, the Catholic Church sent a clear signal that it intended to continue its medieval repression of gay men and lesbians for the foreseeable future.

Of course, such sweeping institutional judgments can and do have severe effects on the lives of individuals, a fact illustrated in excruciating detail in the book God Loves Bakla, published last year by Raymond Alikapa, a gay Filipino lawyer who now lives in Cambodia.

“Bakla” is a word used in the Philippines to refer to a man who behaves in an effeminate manner, and Alikapa’s autobiographical book which he refers to as his ?nti-closet”, reveals what it was like to grow up in a Catholic family and spend the first four decades of his life being led to believe that he was a sinful wretch because of his sexual preferences.

The most fascinating chapter details Alikpala’s entrance into the novitiate with the aim of becoming a Jesuit priest. Ironically, it was during this time that he had his first sexual experience, and the church’s contempt for homosexuals is driven home when a guilt-ridden Alikpala, rather than keep quiet, confesses his “sin” and hopes for mercy.

Instead, he is summarily ejected from the Jesuit order. Such is the life of a homosexual in the Catholic Church: damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Through his decades-long ordeal, Alikpala remains relentlessly, perhaps even naively, optimistic about the power of love to over come all obstacles, and he manages to retain his fervent faith in God despite his eventual rejection of Catholicism based on its archaic views on homosexuality.

Most Asian gays vulnerable to AIDS -- report

HONG KONG: More than 90 percent of gay men in the Asia-Pacific region don’t have access to HIV prevention and care services, as levels of the disease soar to “alarming levels,” a United Nations report said on Monday.

The study, conducted by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), said that discriminatory laws in many countries are exacerbating the “critical situation” with abuse and human-rights violations are commonplace.

“If countries fail to address the legal context of the epidemic, this already critical situation is likely to become worse,” said the report jointly produced with the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health.

Many national HIV policies now accord a priority to men who have sex with men, the report said, “even though the legal environment remains repressive.”

“HIV prevalence has reached alarming levels among men who have sex with men and transgender populations in many countries of Asia and the Pacific,” the report said.

The high-risk group, which includes homosexuals and bisexuals, can potentially account for between 10 and 30 percent of new HIV infections in a typical Asian country, it added.

Nineteen of 48 countries in the Asia Pacific region criminalize male-to-male sex, and these laws “often take on the force of vigilantism, often leading to abuse and human-rights violations,” the study said.

“The effectiveness of the HIV response will depend not just on the sustained scale up of HIV prevention, treatment and care, but on whether the legal and social environment support or hinder programs for those who are most vulnerable,” the UNDP’s Mandeep Dhaliwal said in a statement.

Legislation and law enforcement frequently lag behind national HIV policies, undermining the “reach and effectiveness” of healthcare and prevention programs, the study said.

“This indicates the need for greater coordination between health and justice sectors within government,” it added.

Several countries have ushered in new laws and policies to address the issue with favorable court judgments in countries including Nepal, India, the Philippines and South Korea, the study said.

“However, these are exceptional developments and action is required to improve the legal environment in all countries.”

The report’s release coincides with International Day against Homophobia.

Gloria's delusion

May 16, 2010
Gloria’s delusion

‘Conscience will have nothing to do with the inevitable shift in the loyalty of the erstwhile allies of Gloria.’

RARELY do we agree with Gloria Arroyo’s apple polishers, but this time we are with presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo when he said Noynoy Aquino must be kidding when he said Gloria Arroyo, not Kris Arroyo, should go on self-exile. Noynoy was commenting on a promise of Kris during the campaign that she would leave the country if her presence became a liability to her brother’s presidency.

Our reason, however, is nothing remotely related to Saludo’s claim that Arroyo cannot leave because she has a duty to fulfill her mandate as an incoming Pampanga congressman. Gloria should stay – nay, be prevented from leaving the country – so she could face the charges the incoming administration is readying against her.

Noynoy ran on the platform of anti-corruption. That promise must be redeemed. Gloria and her family must not be allowed to escape the reach of justice by leaving for a foreign refuge where the Philippines does not an extradition treaty.

Gloria calculated badly when she decided to run for her district’s seat in the House. She thought she could continue being a player in the national political scene by becoming Speaker. By becoming the fourth-ranking leader of the land, she thought she could secure virtual immunity from prosecution by threatening Noynoy with impeachment.

At last count, there are about 105 Lakas Kampi congressional candidates who made it. That falls short of the 135 or so votes (partylist representatives included) needed to elect her as Speaker. Worse, it is all but certain that most of these nominal allies of hers will dump her in favor of the new administration’s anointed for the top House post.

Noynoy said a "conscience vote" would carry the day for incoming Quezon City Rep. Sonny Belmonte. That’s nicely phrased, coming from Noynoy who occupied the moral high ground during the campaign. Conscience, however, will have nothing to do with the inevitable shift in the loyalty of the erstwhile allies of Gloria.

Lack of conscience or "utang na loob" is more likely it. The problem with transactional politics is that when one party no longer has the chips to buy the loyalty of the other, the relationship is dissolved.

Noynoy can mouth all the platitudes about bringing back decency and morality to governance, but if he wants to lead effectively, he should master how to push the levers of power. Well-timed and well-aimed nudges at the incoming members of the 15th Congress should strip Gloria of any residual delusion she continues to be a significant term in the political equation.

Or that she would not end up in Bilibid.

How dark horse Binay surged ahead in the VP race

By David Dizon
May 12, 2010

MANILA, Philippines - "Under-the-radar" campaigning and a crucial endorsement by Sen. Francis Escudero a month before the polls helped Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay negate the popularity of vice-presidential frontrunners Mar Roxas and Loren Legarda to sprint ahead in the race, a political strategist said Wednesday night.

Campaign strategist Malou Tiquia, who helped steer Roxas to a successful senatorial campaign in 2007, said Binay and his running mate, former President Joseph Estrada, took advantage of their "underdog" status to wage a low-key campaign that helped strengthen their support base for the May election.

"What afforded them the chance to do the sprint was media wasn't paying attention. There wasn't much attention on the two. There were not as many stories about Erap especially the fact that he was convicted of plunder but still allowed to run," Tiquia said in an ANC interview.

The political strategist noted the Makati mayor had initially entertained ideas of running for president early last year before the death of former president Cory Aquino last August launched the presidential bid of her son, Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.

Plans by the Liberal Party (LP) to form its own slate for the May election blocked opposition parties from forming a coalition. In the end, Binay decided to team up with Estrada for what Tiquia described as a showdown between "the real opposition" and other groups who only fought the administration in the 2007 election.

Tiquia said Estrada and Binay escaped most of the propaganda war being waged by the LP camp of Aquino and the Nacionalista Party of Sen. Manny Villar throughout most of the campaign period. She said even the media failed to focus on corruption allegations against Estrada, who was already convicted of plunder; and Binay, who has served as mayor of Makati for several terms since 1986.
Slow burn

Instead of a full-blown media war at the start of the campaign, Tiquia said the Estrada-Binay tandem took a non-traditional approach by holding off on their spending until a month before the polls.

While other candidates flooded the media with ads to increase awareness and establish trust ratings, the unlikely duo went the traditional route and barnstormed areas where they knew they were weakest.

"It was really stealth. From the start, they played it coy, let's not engage. This was a slow burn but essentially they had a base, which was the opposition. They went to Leyte because they knew they were weak there. They didn't go to Mindanao because they were strong there. They concentrated in the Visayas," Tiquia said.

She added: "The places they visited actually gave them the votes they are getting right now."

She also revealed that Estrada and Binay relied heavily on surveys and even adjusted their campaigns according to what the surveys were telling them.

"These are two people whose campaigns were dictated by internal surveys. They had an internal survey in the first week of April that essentially mirrored the results of the April 22-25 Pulse Asia survey. This was a weekly tracking done for the team. They were conscientious about what the surveys were telling them," she said.


Tiquia said the low-key campaign eventually paved the way for Binay's masterstroke: a campaign ad by Sen. Escudero endorsing his vice-presidential bid.

Tiquia said that before the Escudero ad came out, Binay was already slowly gaining in the ratings through his carefully placed campaign ads.

"As early as February, he already had an ad talking about his accomplishments. In the 24th anniversary of the EDSA Revolution, he also made an ad claiming his share in the EDSA Revolution. In March, he did the ads on 'Gaganda ang buhay kay Binay' and how he came from an ordinary family," she said.

She added: "[Binay] has been in the public eye since 1986 so that's a lot of time planting seeds and harvesting it at the right time."

A check on Binay's ratings in the recent Social Weather Stations surveys seems to bear this out. The PDP-Laban bet increased his ratings from 10% in December to 37% in May 2-3, just seven days before the official vote.

Tiquia said the end-game strategy employed by Binay and Estrada was not done in the 2004 and 2007 national campaigns.

"This was the Chiz endorsement ad, which was really meant for the end game. It contrasted Binay with the number 1 (which is Mar). Yes, they were below the radar but when they were strong enough, they started attacking number 2 and number 1. In the end, they were overtaking the others," she said.

Failure to adjust

The political strategist also said she was puzzled by how Roxas ran his campaign for the vice-presidential race. She said that instead of a carefully laid out campaign plan from the start until the end of the campaign period, Roxas seemed to rely too much on the goodwill he generated when he slipped down to the VP race and allowed Aquino to become the LP standard-bearer.

"They were blindsided by Binay...Even the way the ads were done was not the way he did it in 2004," she said.

Tiquia said Roxas did not seem to react when he started slipping in the ratings, from a high 40-43% at the start of the campaign.

She said that when the Escudero ad came out, Roxas's camp only came out with ad showing Makati Rep. Teodoro Locsin endorsing Roxas. The problem with the ad, Tiquia said, was that Locsin is "known (only) in Metro Manila...and not nationwide."

She said this led to the situation where Binay had statistically tied Roxas in the vice-presidential race a week before the elections.

Will Roxas lose?

According to the last Commission on Elections tally at 4:16 p.m. of May 11, Binay is leading the vice-presidential race with 12,921, 315 votes while Roxas trailed with 12,072,145 votes. Loren Legarda and Bayani Fernando, who have both conceded in the VP race, got 1,607,753 and 899,8444 votes, respectively.

An SWS exit poll, however, said Roxas could still win the race if command votes from the Iglesia ni Cristo religious sect boost the LP bet's votes. The INC earlier endorsed both Aquino and Roxas.

Tiquia said traditionally, the INC endorsement could give an additional 1 million votes for a candidate. She added, however, that the endorsement of Davao Pastor Apollo Quiboloy for Roxas has yet to show if it would translate to more votes.

"There is value to the endorsement of a religious group but whether there is a gain in votes is another thing," she said.

Tiquia dismissed rumors that supporters of Roxas would be able to pad votes for the LP bet by rigging the precinct count optical scan machines being used in the country's first ever nationwide automated polls.

She added that if Roxas does lose, she said the senator could still be an asset to Aquino especially if the latter wins the presidency. She said that as a former trade secretary, Roxas could be part of Aquino's economic team that would "shore up Team Philippines."

"Assuming that he loses, I hope [Roxas] will be active in the party and as an adviser. Wait for the 1-year ban and then wait for an appointment," she said.

Gay political party competes in Phil elections

Gay political party competes in Philippines elections

For the first time, Ang Ladlad, or "Out of the Closet," vies for three congressional seats set aside for minority groups.
By Nancy-Amelia Collins — Special to GlobalPost

Ang Ladlad, the Philippines' gay political party, participated in national elections this week for the first time. They are vying for three congressional seats allotted to minority groups. If they win, first on their agenda is to re-file the anti-discrimination bill. Here, Filipinos display placards that say "Pass the anti-discrimination bill" during a lesbian and gay parade in Manila, Dec. 8, 2007. (Romeo Ranoco/Reuters)Enlarge Photo

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines' gay political party participated in the country's national elections for the first time this week, seeking to raise the profile of gay rights in this predominantly Roman Catholic country.

“It's like a national coming out!” said Danton Remoto, founder of Ang Ladlad, or "Out of the Closet," as the party is called in English. “I've been getting text messages all day from our members who say their whole family or entire neighborhood voted for Ang Ladlad," he added, shortly after casting his vote.

Representing lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people (LGBT), Remoto has been trying to get Ang Ladlad registered with the commission on elections, or Comelec, since the party's inception seven years ago.

But Comelec has twice denied the organization, which boasts around 25,000 members. The first time Comelec said they didn't have enough members, even though they did. The second time, which was last December, Comelec denied them on the grounds that the organization was “immoral.”

But Remoto, dubbed the “Rainbow Warrior” by the local media, refused to give up. He and other party members took the fight all the way to the Supreme Court and won last month, nevermind it was already two months into the three-month campaign period.

“Comelec turned down our accreditation saying we are espousing immoral doctrines," Remoto said. "What they cited in their legal document is the holy Quran and the holy Bible, which we think violates the separation of church and state in the Philippines — and that is enshrined in our constitution."

Even though the group did not have much money or time to campaign, Ang Ladlad members, including national secretary Bemz Benedito, felt confident they could secure at least one of the three congressional seats available to minority groups.

Benedito, one of five Ang Ladlad nominees vying for a congressional seat, is a transgendered Filipino who works for Ang Ladlad-supporter Senator Loren Legarda, who is also running for vice-president.

The party is running as one of 187 party list groups. These groups represent the marginalized in Philippine society and together comprise one-fifth of congress.

Ang Ladlad has supporters not only among politicians, but also among the Catholic clergy and ordinary Filipinos.

“I think Ang Ladlad should be in congress,” said elementary school teacher Maria Christina Dayao as she went to cast her vote. “Let's face it, gays are discriminated against in our society and its time their voices should be heard.”

Gay political party competes in Phil elections

Gay political party competes in Philippines elections

For the first time, Ang Ladlad, or "Out of the Closet," vies for three congressional seats set aside for minority groups.
By Nancy-Amelia Collins — Special to GlobalPost
Published: May 11, 2010 06:47 ET
Page 2 of 2

Mike Tan, chairman of the University of the Philippines Diliman's anthropology department said that although people in the Philippines are known for their tolerance of gays, tolerance alone is not enough.

“On one hand there is this superficial tolerance, but we know there's a lot of repression and discrimination in the work place," said Tan. “It's not enough to have tolerance, you need to have the rights of the LGBT community ensured through formal institutions.”

And that's the first thing on Ang Ladlad's agenda if they win.

“The first thing we will do is re-file the anti-discrimination bill," said Remoto. “We will join with other progressive groups to get the numbers. This bill is crucial because it will outlaw discrimination in the work place, in the school, and when applying for licenses to operate a business or practice a profession. It criminalizes any act of discrimination.”

The anti-discrimination bill has been repeatedly filed and repeatedly shot down in congress.

Ang Ladlad's platform includes safeguarding the human rights of all Filipinos, along with setting up legal centers for poverty stricken and aged LBGTs, and supporting small businesses set up by the LGBT community.

When Filipinos went to the polls on Monday to elect a new president, vice president, senators, legislators and local officials, they may have also — just maybe — elected the first openly gay legislator to sit in congress.

On Tuesday, partial and unofficial election results showed Ang Ladlad garnishing enough votes to place them at number 61 out of the 187 party list groups, but Remoto fears that may not be enough. In order to win a congressional seat, Ang Ladlad must get 2 percent of the total vote. Remoto calculates the group is still around 50,000 votes short. Sen. Benigno Aquino III, whose parents fought to topple a dictatorship, looked Tuesday to be headed for a landslide victory in the presidential elections.

"Even if we don't win, it is still a victory to have come this far." Said Remoto. "And this is just the beginning, we are now a political party. If we can't make it in this election, we'll run again in the next election in 2013."

The University of the Philippines' Mike Tan agrees it is an accomplishment for the group to have come this far, considering they had little time to campaign, little money and were up against the formidable Catholic church.

In well publicized remarks last month, Bishop Deogracias Iniguez Jr., the chairman of the public affairs permanent committee of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said lesbians, gays, homosexuals and transgendered people should not be allowed in Congress. He said he would urge the faithful to refrain from voting for the group, whose members he called "abnormal."

“The fact that we, a conservative Catholic country, have a gay political party is progressive. It's ground-breaking." Said Tan." It allows gay and lesbian communities new possibilities. I think it is also very brave and defiant in a way — given the bullying of the Catholic church against Ang Ladlad.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the most recent election results.

Batting for equal rights

By Bong Austero
Manila Standard Today
Monday, April 26, 2010

Adding color, in so many ways, to the May 2010 elections is the participation of Ang Ladlad—the political party of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people. Ang Ladlad is vying for a seat in Congress through the party-list system. The journey was long and challenging.

We think we are more tolerant and accepting of sexual minorities as supposedly exemplified by the few reported cases of violence directed at lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people. I stress the word “reported” because in reality, there’s a lot of violence directed at members of the community, they have become almost normal and natural. One has to be utterly blind or deaf not to know that most parents, “macho” fathers in particular, or elder male siblings, tend to subject younger members of their families into various forms of physical violence to force them to “straighten up.” There’s also a lot of abuse—ranging from psychological, verbal, and even emotional—that members of the LGBT community have to contend with on a regular basis. We’re not talking yet about the many other ways in which discrimination against sexual minorities is practiced in the workplace!

The truth is that there’s institutionalized discrimination and oppression directed at members of the community. Just look at the struggle Ang Ladlad had to wage just to win accreditation as party-list.

The group finally got into the ballot for the May 2010 elections—number 89 in the list of those accredited by the Commission on Elections —only after the Supreme Court issued a ruling last April 8 in effect rebuking the Comelec for earlier disqualifying Ang Ladlad for supposedly promoting immorality. The Supreme Court chided the bigoted and homophobic Comelec commissioners for targeting “homosexuals themselves as a class, not because of any particular morally reprehensible act.” The Court ruling was explicit about its disapproval of the way the Comelec denied Ang Ladlad’s registration “on purely moral grounds” which, the Court said, was “a statement of dislike and disapproval of homosexuals” rather than for the promotion of “any substantial public interest.”

The decision penned by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo validated the marginalization of the LGBT community in the country by noting that “through the years, homosexual conduct, and perhaps homosexuals themselves, have borne the brunt of societal disapproval.” The Court ruled that “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.” The decision notwithstanding, there are more roadblocks along the way.

I was in Mindanao recently and had the opportunity to interview Crisanto Lopera, Ang Ladlad’s third nominee. Lopera represents Mindanao (he is currently based in General Santos City) in the Ang Ladlad organization. Lopera, who was my schoolmate in college, has spent considerable years working for various non-government organizations and is a fierce advocate of health and human rights issues. In fact, what distinguishes the three nominees of Ang Ladlad is their strong background in development work. In contrast to the nominees of certain party-list groups who use the system merely as a backdoor to Congress, Ang Ladlad’s nominees are members of the community they represent. They have spent decades fighting for and advocating the issues of the community.

Lopera does not fit the stereotype of the typical gay man, caricatured as Pacifica Falayfay in Philippine movies. Lopera fits the physical stereotype of a “macho man.” He insists, however, that there is nothing wrong with gay people who express their sexuality and their personal identities through colorful get-ups. “People shouldn’t be judged solely on what they look like or how they express themselves physically, what is important is how they contribute to society,” he says. He noted that most gay people are breadwinners who suffer under extremely intolerable work conditions—most of them don’t have security of tenure, are not even paid minimum wages, and don’t get state benefits. According to Lopera “many operators of beauty parlors or owners of restaurants and stores who employ gay men do not even pay Social Security System premiums for their employees.” In addition, he notes that many lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders are regularly subjected to various from of degradation and humiliation.

Many people raise an eyebrow to Ang Ladlad’s advocacies questioning the wisdom of providing lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders “special rights.” Lopera clarifies that Ang Ladlad is not fighting for special rights. “Gay rights are human rights and what we are fighting for are equal rights —the right to be treated as decent human beings, the right to have equal access to the same opportunities that other citizens are entitled to,” he said. As a form of analogy, he said that they are not asking that red carpets be rolled out for homosexuals when they cross the street—just that they are not subjected to harassment or ridiculed just because of who or what they are, something which is enjoyed by most everyone else.

He further says that Ang Ladlad is not even pushing for gay marriages to be declared legal. This is not among their current priorities. If they win, they would focus their energies and resources into providing basic legal and economic assistance for members of the community through programs that ensure livelihood and economic empowerment.

People cannot seem to agree on what comprises marginalization and even the chairman of the Commission on Elections seems oblivious to the social context around the concept. If we come to think about it, however, it really is not difficult to grasp the concept of marginalization. We’re all familiar with the concept of “being in the margins,” or being at the border or edge of something—whether it pertains to the margins of a document, or the margins of society. And when we really come to think about it—objectively and rationally—lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people are in the margins of society.

The argument that there are many members of the community that are affluent, or have risen to the pinnacle of the political or economic structures of Philippine society does not hold water because the same argument can be applied to any community. Majority of the members of the LGBT community remain marginalized and have no access even to basic protection supposedly guaranteed by law. “The issue is equal rights,” Lopera insists.

Painting the town pink

The Manila Times
May 8, 2010
The Single Files

I first met Danton Remoto in Bali at an international AIDS conference (ICAAP9) last year. I was attending as a media scholar and he was attending as the Communications Officer for the UNDP (United Nations Development Program).

We sat beside each other in the pressroom while I was reviewing the slides for a presentation. I was going to make about campaigning for safer sex in the Philippines.

One slide in my presentation included a European condom commercial. The commercial had, ehem, distinct sounds of people in the midst of copulating and not knowing that the volume of my computer was turned up rather high, I had inevitably filled the newsroom with sounds of moans and groans. It sent the otherwise busy journalists pounding away at their keyboards, giggling.

Danton, who was beside me, was also laughing. He introduced himself to me as I scrambled to lower the volume and profusely apologize to everyone in the newsroom for disturbing them.

Not that he needed an introduction. I had been to many of the press conferences hosted by the UNDP and other LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) events where Danton was a speaker. I was regaled by his stories of how members of the LGBT community dealt with blatant or otherwise forms of discrimination. (One of my favorites is how a lesbian was suspiciously asked by a prospective employer, “Are you a practicing lesbian?” to which she replied, “No, I’m quite good at it already.”)

Danton and I saw each other again at a post congress party that evening and nearly keeled over laughing as old songs were played and we tried to guess what grade we were in when the song was made popular.

After Bali, we became Facebook friends. I followed Danton as he led the Ang Ladlad party in filing Commission on Elections (Comelec) accreditation—a motion which we all know, was denied as Ang Ladlad was deemed as unfit to run for office. Later, Ang Ladlad was labeled by a Catholic bishop as having an abnormal condition and that voting for them would be insulting to the Christians and the Muslims who have strict views against homosexuality.

These discriminatory and homophobic comments enraged not just the LGBT community, but other advocates of human rights, including the Commission on Human Rights head Leila de Lima who called rightfully called the Comelec decision “retrogressive.”

I would follow Danton’s saga by reading his blog and how he and the supporters of human rights and the LGBT community staged indignation rallies and filed a case in the Supreme Court to overturn the Comelec decision.

In one blog entry, Danton describes the start of one hearing:

Commissioner XXX: How shall I address you, Miss or Madame?

Danton Remoto: You may call me Professor Danton Remoto, or Mr. Danton Remoto.

I was overseas when I got the message from a fellow journalist that the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of Ang Ladlad.

“Wahoo! Let the games begin!” I replied.

The proclamation was a slap to those who had made self-righteous declarations and a huge victory in the fight for equality and recognition for other marginalized communities.

Since then, Danton and Ang Ladlad have been feverishly campaigning and painting the town pink. Danton’s updates on Facebook are filled with short stories about the overwhelming support they have been shown during their sorties.

During a campaign in Pasig, a beautician ran out of the parlor while shampooing a customer to shake Danton’s hand and apologized because his hands were still wet with shampoo.

In Camarines Norte, the Ang Ladlad coordinator raised funds by asking for donations from everyone he knew. In the public market of Daet, a gay man who sold kalamansi and tomatoes fished for a P20 bill from his apron and gave it our coordinator, saying, “Donasyon ko tabi.”

Danton’s wall is filled with pictures of pink motorcades—some posted by friends and supporters—and messages of encouragement and support.

His latest status message read:

“Pink warriors in the LRT [Light Rail Transit] and MRT [Metro Rail Transit], motorcades galore, coco cloth tarps hanging in the highways of Bicol, Central Luzon turning pink and the solid north going for Ang Ladlad party list, number 89 sa balota. Onwards to victory.”

This column is a salute to Ang Ladlad for not cowering to the barefaced insults and the flagrant discrimination; for bravely waging the fight for equal rights and to Danton, for leading it.

CNN: Philippine gay party on ballot for first time

Philippine gay party on ballot for the first time
By Elizabeth Yuan, CNN
May 9, 2010 -- Updated 0152 GMT (0952 HKT)


* Ang Ladlad has five nominees, with the Anti-Discrimination Bill at top of agenda
* It would criminalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity
* Same-sex marriage and gender recognition bill are absent from platform
* Supreme Court ruled last month that elections commission must register Ang Ladlad

(CNN) -- A gay political party will be on the ballot Monday for the first time in the Philippines, where eight out of 10 households are Roman Catholics.

The elections will determine whether Ang Ladlad ("Out of the Closet") -- which represents lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender Filipinos (LGBT) -- will get the maximum three seats allowable for a marginalized or underrepresented party in Congress.

"We consider it a milestone in Philippine human rights," said Leila De Lima, head of the Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines. "They are really always victims of discrimination, exclusion and even violence."

The Commission sided with Ang Ladlad when its legal fight to stand for elections reached the Supreme Court.

Leading the five nominees under Ang Ladlad's banner is its national secretary of seven years, Bemz Benedito, who is transgender and also works for Senator Loren Legarda, herself a vice presidential candidate and Ang Ladlad supporter.

"We are running a common platform of equal rights, not special rights," said Benedito.

Topping Ang Ladlad's five-plank agenda is support for the Anti-Discrimination Bill that would criminalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill has been filed multiple times in the Philippines Congress to no success.
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The four other items on Ang Ladlad's platform are:

• Support for LGBT-related and LGBT-friendly businesses

• Setting up of microfinance projects for poor and disabled LGBT Filipinos

• Setting up centers that could provide legal aid and counseling services for poor and aging LGBT Filipinos

• Support for the repeal of the Anti-Vagrancy law, a tool that Ang Ladlad says has been exploited to extort members of the LGBT community.

Absent is same-sex marriage, which has slowly become legalized in other parts of the world. "We've done surveys -- we're going to lose on this one," said Ang Ladlad founder Danton Remoto, pointing to the predominance of Catholicism. "We're not going to push this. We focus on human rights first."

Also absent from the platform is a gender recognition bill, which would recognize transgender people and allow them to legalize the names they identify with.

On the Commission on Elections' (COMELEC) Web site, Benedito and another Ang Ladlad candidate, Naomi Fontanos, are listed under their male birth names. But Benedito prefers the female "Bemz," as opposed to her birth name, "Bembol Aleeh," and Fontanos -- chair of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) -- is listed as "Tito Paulo."

"That's our struggle," said Benedito. "Even if our members have gone through gender reassignment surgery, they are not allowed to change their names to male or female, [unless] there is a typographical error."

One of the biggest challenges Ang Ladlad faces are the "immoral" and "abnormal" labels that the Commission on Elections and an official of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) have used against them.

"My faith is always direct to God, and I believe he's also created us," said Benedito, a Roman Catholic who once studied at an all-boys Catholic school. "It's not up to these priests [to say] what is moral and what is not."
My faith is always direct to God, and I believe he's also created us
--Bemz Benedito, Ang Ladlad national secretary and Congressional candidate

Speaking with CNN by phone on Tuesday, Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, Jr. stood by his earlier well-publicized comments against Ang Ladlad's inclusion on the ballot.

"Personally, I'm not in favor of the party, because it's a group that's of abnormal human persons, according to what we accept as the order that the Creator has made for human persons," said Deogracias, who chairs the CBCP's public affairs permanent committee. "Human society -- we have male and female, so whatever is outside is abnormal. As with any other people, they are members of society. We respect them, we can tolerate them, we are compassionate, but we cannot sanction what they are doing."

In a separate phone conversation earlier, CBCP's media office director Pedro Quitorio said the body has not yet issued a formal statement on Ang Ladlad.

As recently as a month ago, the Commission on Elections had denied Ang Ladlad's registration twice in four years -- first for a lack of members and then on moral grounds. In its latter dismissal, the commission cited Ang Ladlad's tolerance for "immorality which offends religious beliefs" and then quoted the Bible, the Koran and then the Law Department's definition of the civil code.

Is Ang Ladlad the world's only gay political party?

In 2007, an Israeli, Hagai Eyad, announced the formation of the Magi, or "Gay Party in Israel," to run for the Knesset after plans for a Jerusalem gay pride party were quashed. The effort did not materialize, and no party ran.

Between 1999 and 2005 the Gay and Lesbian Alliance, founded by Juan Elys [elsewhere spelled "Uys"], existed as a political party in South Africa, according to EISA, a South African-based nonprofit organization which promotes credible elections, human rights and democracy in Africa.

The Ang Ladlad case reached the Philippine Supreme Court, which on April 8 ruled in favor of Ang Ladlad and ordered COMELEC to grant accreditation.

"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 in its ruling.

The party has had barely a month to campaign. "So, wherever we go, we say, 'Number 89,'" Remoto said, referring to its placement on the long ballot with 186 other "party-list" groups, which together would comprise one-fifth of the House of Representatives.

Ang Ladlad, which estimates 25,000 members, has received an "outpouring of support" from politicians, as well as from nuns and priests who cannot outwardly express it, Remoto said.

"Whether they win or lose, what's important is, they're on the ballot, and people are given the chance to vote for them and other parties," Senator Chiz Escudero said by phone of Ang Ladlad.

Escudero, an independent, rallied the party to endorse presidential candidate Senator Benigno Aquino and vice presidential candidate Jejomar Binay. Such a combination is a mixed-ticket, considering Aquino belongs to the Liberal Party, and Binay is on the PDP-Laban ticket as Aquino rival and former President Joseph Estrada's running mate.

Remoto pointed to corruption as the Philippines' main problem and referred to Aquino as the "Mr. Clean of Philippine politics." Binay, the mayor of Makati, has a track record as a human rights lawyer and a gender rights agenda in his platform, Remoto added.

That Ang Ladlad may be the only gay political party in the world hasn't been disputed so far.

Sam Cook, communications and research director, of the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said he was not aware of any other.

The Washington-based Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Leadership Institute, which supports LGBT candidates to all levels of office, said there has not been an equivalent in the United States, where same-sex marriage and military policy toward gays have generated significant debate.

"Well-known openly gay candidates and elected officials in the U.S. have almost always been affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican parties, with the Democrats fielding far more out candidates than Republicans," Denis Dison, vice president of external affairs, wrote via e-mail.

Public perception of gays in the Philippines has changed in the past 20 years, said Remoto, who teaches at Ateneo de Manila University.

"We made homosexuality a topic everyone can discuss openly," he said.