ELECTION TIME IS WAR TIME.
Following the much-hyped claim that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the Philippines already expressed its support of Liberal Party (LP) standard bearer Mar Roxas, numerous LGBT leaders cried foul.
A press conference – attended by the likes of Bemz Benedito, Rich Paras, Geraldine Roman and Renee Salud representing the LGBT community – was captured in Twitter posts of a certain Bong Concepcion (@aalconcepcion), where it was claimed that: “LGBT FOR MAR ROXAS We respect ourselves. Mar and Leni respect the LGBTs too.”
Another post stated: “LGBT FOR MAR ROXAS! Presscon has started. Naninindigan na para sa mas maayos at disenteng bukas!”
“This claim – particularly the generalization – is contentious if not, quite frankly, insulting,” said Michael David C. Tan, editor of LGBT publication Outrage Magazine. “Bad and even sad as it may sound, there is no unified Filipino LGBT community to speak of, and as such, the members of the Filipino LGBT community do not have a widely accepted LGBT leader who can claim to represent all of them.”
Tan noted that “members of the LGBT community have different preferences (for the coming election), and disregarding this for political expediency is outrageous. This move is actually even more divisive, instead of helping unite the Filipino LGBT community.”
Tan added: “If you represent yourself/your organization, fine. If you claim to represent all of us, naghahanap ka ng gulo (you’re looking for trouble). And those who also report on this should be aware of this.”
For Rev. Fr. Regen R. Luna of the Ekklesia Tou Theou (Church of God), an LGBT-affirming church in Dasmariñas, Cavite: “Hindi po totoo na buong LGBT community sa buong Pilipinas ay sumusuporta kay Mar Roxas. Kami po ay sumusuporta kay Mayor (Rodrigo) Duterte. Ang totoo, wala pong isang national organization para sa LGBT sa buong Pilipinas. Kailanman hindi nirerepresent ni Bemz Benedito o ng Ladlad ang lahat ng LGBT sa buong Pilipinas. Sinuportahan namin si Mayor Duterte dahil siya lang ang may naipasang anti-discrimination ordinance para sa mga LGBT people sa Davao City kung ikukumpara kay Roxas. Ladlad does not represent all of us.”
Luna added: “May iba din pong mga LGBT na sumusuporta sa ibang (There are other LGBT people who support other) candidates and we respect their decisions.”
From Mindanao, Stephen Christian Quilacio, who helms the Northern Mindanao AIDS Advocates, said that “LGBT people who claim to support Roxas can do so – but only on a personal capacity. To actually claim that you speak for us is plain wrong.” On a personal level, “I don’t support Roxas; he has not done a thing to progress the human rights of LGBT people. But that’s me. Now speak only for yourself, not for all of us.”
Also from Mindanao, Astrid Joy Padillo of the United Lesbians of Davao said: “Really? We support Mar Roxas? He has not even reached out to us. Does he even know we, the United Lesbians of Davao, exist? So tell me, which LGBT community are they referring to? Because we, the ULD, support no one else but Mayor-soon-to-be-president Rodrigo Roa Duterte and his vice president Allan Cayetano. It is time for the Philippines to understand that a few LGBT groups in Luzon do not (compose) the entire LGBT community. Stop speaking on our behalf.”
“Kaming mga Bisaya kabalo mo-istorya (We Visayans know how to speak for ourselves). Know that we exist and our voice is a force to be reckoned with,” added Ziekent dela Pena, also of the United Lesbians of Davao.
Parañaque City-based long-time LGBT advocate Yffar Aquino said: “The LGBT community doesn’t have a single individual candidate that we are supporting as one. There is no organization or group of individuals yet in the Philippines that can represent the entire rainbow community, thus endorse a particular presidentiable. In the same manner that we are composed of diverse individuals of different sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions, we also have our different opinions and ideologies as to whom our support should be devoted to based on our candidate’s platforms. For this election, the votes within the community are not leaning towards one candidate but clustered. There are different movements from here and there shouting their candidate’s name.”
Aquino added: “We should take note that the pressing matter here is that the (would-be) president we must be voting for should be a leader who will uphold gender equality as a part of his/her agenda and has shown history of support to the LGBT community.”
In Baguio City, LGBT activist Myke Abaya Sotero said that “the LGBT (community) is a diverse community. While I respect any LGBT to form their own group in support for a certain candidate, no one can lay claim that the LGBT community is united in supporting a candidate, especially one who has done nothing to uplift the rights and welfare of LGBT people in the country. LGBT people look at a person’s track record and his/her stand on LGBT issues. There has been no other candidate who has the welfare of LGBT people in mind other than Mayor Duterte.”
Meanwhile, transwoman community leader Aloha Filipina said that “naku, malaking drama yan; hiwa-hiwalay tayo (oh my, that can cause a lot of dramas; we are segregated). I am and a lot more LGBT people support Miriam Santiago; and others support Duterte.”
Pastor Kakay Pamaran of the Metropolitan Community Church-Quezon City said: “Una (First), there is no such thing as a national LGBT organization because at this point of our chapter in the story of shaping society, our ‘organizing’ has not transcended identity politics as yet. If there is no consolidation of a national LGBT organization, an opinion/position/endorsement is not only illogical, it is – as of now – fringe fiction. And (secondly), it is antithetical to the diversity that we profess.”
Also in Quezon City, trans activist Dindi Tan, former board member of the Quezon City Pride Council, convenor of Ilocos Sur Pride Council, and chair of Pink Warriors QC, said: “We can all agree to disagree that for this election, we have different bets. But let’s not forget how a party that systematically undermined our very own interests by advancing their own and subordinating ours. We are not at all surprised. A good number of members of the LGBT community felt alienated by the recent endorsement of Roxas by a certain group claiming to represent us. Successive losses in an election is a wake-up call to re-asses the failed leadership of some people and how their supposed ascendancy impacts the dynamics in critical elections such as this.”
She added that “the good thing is, more and more LGBT voters are getting to have more informed choices and have since become politically mature enough to decide whats best for them. I would like to believe that the ‘temperature check’ in the community based on our engagements suggest a more favorable clamor for change and not for the ‘status quo’.”
For Roxanne Omega Doron of Cebu-City-based Bisdak Pride: “I respect diversity of opinions and political stands coming from the members of the LGBT community re endorsing a particular candidate for elections who they think will help advance our socio-political and economic rights. Maybe (it is) because of our diversity that we also have diverse political stands. Whatever the motivation, I think it is inappropriate for a particular LGBT group or individual to speak and announce publicly their favored candidate in behalf of the entire LGBT community. The Philippine elections is a highly divisive and cruel political exercise and it is unfortunate that a claim of a particular group or individual will add burden to the already marginalized and oppressed LGBT community.”
Meanwhile, Krizia Zegers of the Association of Transgender People in the Philippines, said: “I have nothing against Bemz and her group… but I completely disagree with their claim that the LGBT community supports Roxas. Was there a consensus that involved all LGBT organizations or all that represent our community? There’s none that I can think of…”
In a press release received by Outrage Magazine after the aforementioned press conference that was not even attended by Roxas or his running mate Leni Robredo, it was claimed that the presidential candidate “expressed strong support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community”. The same PR material claimed that Roxas will certify the anti-discrimination bill as an urgent measure to be passed by both Congress and the Senate the moment he sits in office, and that he will push for civil unions (even if Roxas already earlier said that he does not believe in marriage equality).
Transwoman Benedito of the LGBT Party List, who was present at the event, said: “Again, we gathered as LGBT members from different organizations to support our personal choice. We never said even in our statements that we represent the entire LGBT universe or community.”
THIS STORY WAS AMENDED ON APRIL 23 (9:31AM) TO INCLUDE THE STATEMENTS OF: REV. FR. PASTOR MYKE SOTERO, DINDI TAN, KRIZIA ZEGERS AND BEMZ BENEDITO.
THIS IS A DEVELOPING STORY AND THE POSITIONS OF OTHER LGBT COMMUNITY LEADERS WILL BE ADDED AS SOON AS THEY ARE RECEIVED