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Ladlad: Nine years of fighting for LGBT rights

The only political party for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the Philippines, Ladlad is celebrating its 9th anniversary. With a lot of work still to be done to promote equal rights for all, it is eyeing winning seats in Congress as the 2013 elections near.

Ladlad lends a hand.

Ladlad partylist celebrates its 9th year this month.

Ladlad, formerly known as Ang Ladlad, is the first and only political party looking out for the welfare of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the Philippines.

The members of the organization include LGBT individuals and organizations, as well as allies (heterosexual supporters).

The Filipino translation of “ladlad” is to unfurl a cape used to cover one’s body as a shield. It means to come out of the closet, to assert one’s human rights as equal to that of other Filipinos. This definition has been, and is (still) the standpoint of the organization and its members; an apparent characteristic that may be witnessed in every activity and rally that the group participate in, the loud scream of courage and the large banner of hope they hold to fight for equal right rights a proof of sincerity.

In its nine years, Ladlad has proven that they are more than just an LGBT organization that only caters to the community’s petty issues, but it established itself as the stronghold of Filipino LGBTs who experience indifference, discrimination and hate in their everyday lives.

LGBTs run to Ladlad whenever they feel their rights are violated; when they are discriminated against and treated wrongly in the workplace or in schools; when they are attacked in public (while walking or in the MRT/LRT); when the police extort money from them; when they are shamed away in Makati clubs; and many others.

Such situations led Ladlad to attempt a bigger step and enter the world of politics.

Ladlad first attempted to run in the 2007 elections, but when it filed its accreditation as a partylist, it was denied by the COMELEC because it supposedly lacked regional members.

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The organization once again filed for accreditation for the 2010 elections, and for the second time, the COMELEC denied it – this time on the basis of moral grounds, with a Commissioner labeling the LGBTs as “immoral”.  And in a statement released by the COMELEC, it was said that Ladlad, if accredited, will become a threat to the youth, and the Philippines being a Catholic country, it (Ladlad) will go against the religious teachings of the (dominant Catholic) church.

However, in January 2010, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order, allowing Ladlad to participate in the elections. And in April 2010, Ladlad was allowed by the Supreme court to join the elections. The party received almost 130,000 votes, but it was not enough to win a seat in Congress. Looking closely at how Ladlad performed in the last elections, however, considering it only had barely a month to campaign, the number of votes received was still impressive.

With more than a year before the 2013 elections, the first and only LGBT partylist is already gearing up for the elections.

One of the highlights of Ladlad’s preparation for the 2013 elections was the election of a new set of officers and Congressional nominees who will represent the LGBT Filipinos in Congress next year, they are:

Bemz Benedito, a transgender woman from Abra, who has been an LGBT rights advocate for nine years and a master’s degree holder in Sociology at the Ateneo de Manila University.

Danton Remoto, Ladlad founder.

Atty. Germaine Leonin, a lesbian and founding president of Rainbow Rights Project.

Atty. Raymond Alikpala, a gay man who was in the closet for almost four decades, and a book author.

Pidot Villocino, a gay man who works for the Integrated Gender and Development Division of Davao City.

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Ladlad partylist have the following platforms that they will pursue and focus on when they win a seat in Congress:

  1. Re-filing of the Anti-Discrimination Bill, which gives LGBT Filipinos equal opportunities in employment and equal treatment in schools, hospitals, restaurants, hotels, entertainment centers, and government offices.
  2. Re-filing of the bill to repeal the Anti-Vagrancy Law that some unscrupulous policemen use to extort bribes from gay men without ID cards.
  3. Setting up of micro-finance and livelihood projects for poor and differently-abled LGBT Filipinos.
  4. Setting up of centers for mature-aged gays, as well as young ones driven out of their homes. The centers will also offer legal aid and counseling, as well as information about LGBT issues, HIV and AIDS, and reproductive health.

“Ladlad’s plan this coming election is to be more inclusive in our campaigns. We have to explain our platforms, mission and vision not just to LGBT Filipinos, but to our heterosexual supporters as well, like our parents, brothers and sisters, friends, officemates, neighbors and classmates,” Benedito explained.

The number of votes that Ladlad received last elections came not just from LGBT Filipinos but from heterosexuals who believed and supported the platforms that the group is campaigning for.

“I am optimistic that we will win three seats in the coming elections. That is our goal and we will claim it,” Benedito said.

Ladlad is currently engaged in several activities: forums, meetings with government agencies and politicians, FGDs in offices and universities, and partnerships with different organizations to strengthen ties and to establish constant presence in the LGBT community and the entire Philippines. Hopefully, this time around, the efforts will help give it enough votes to win seats in the 2013 elections.


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