When Bayan Muna Representative and 2013 Makabayan senatoriable Teddy Casiño was the president of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) in the early 1990s, he recalled having a lot of friends and colleagues (including writers, editors, layout/graphic artists) who were either gay or lesbian. Sadly, “a number of schools, communities and government then (some of them still are) did not give equal treatment to those in the LGBT community,” he said in an exclusive interview with Outrage Magazine. That – more than any other – may be the specific time in his life when he saw the need to push for LGBT rights. “We all saw the need to recognize, promote and advance equal rights for LGBTs.”
Even as a heterosexual man, he sees the need to fight for LGBT rights. “It should not matter if you are hetero, homo, bi or transgender. We are all human beings, and we have the same rights. All of us should be afforded the right to live, to tend to our basic needs, to work or study where we want to. People should learn that whatever your choice is in terms of sexual orientation and/or gender identity (SOGI), it should not matter when rights, welfare and government and private sector policies are concerned,” Casiño said. As such, “even those not belonging to the LGBT community can and should aid in the struggle for equality. To put it simply, LGBT rights are human rights.”
Earlier – in 2012 – when Casiño delivered a privilege speech delivered in the House of Representatives to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), he acknowledged that “it is true that many Filipinos do not really want to talk seriously about this issue. Kadalasan, pag tinatanong ko sila kung ano ang tingin nila sa mga bakla o lesbian o transgender, ang madalas na sagot ay ngiti o kaya’y biruan. Sabay mananahimik. Hindi na sasagot. Meron din naman, sasabihin ‘ok lang’, pero parang sinabi lang para matapos na ang usapan.”
As a politician, therefore, it may be easier to just come up with “motherhood statements” on LGBT issues.
But for Casiño, pushing for LGBT rights is a reality that needs to be done now.
“Kailan pa natin pag-uusapan ito ng matino? LGBTs and the LGBT (issues are) a twenty-first century reality. Anong gagawin natin sa mga problema nila? And isyu ng LGBT ay isang realidad ng ating panahon. Hindi natin ito maiiwasan, gustuhin man natin o hindi. And to my mind, even the most conservative among us would agree to a discussion on ways to address LGBT concerns, rather than create a great divide where one side is directly opposed to the other.”
Casiño was once told – even “some of my well-meaning friends” – to steer clear of the LGBT issue, as it could be a “kiss of death” or “election suicide”, particularly for the likes of him aspiring for an elective post at the national level. But “this may ring true to most of those who are running for public office; but this does not apply to me. I have been supportive of many LGBT causes even before I became a legislator. Why should I hide that in a closet now that I am seeking to be elected, this time for Senator? If I did that, I would not be true to myself, my family and our country. If you advocate for the rights and welfare of LGBTs, you must be open about it. I am proud that the LGBT community trusts me to represent their interests in Congress.”
As a legislator, Casiño is “most pleased that we were able to come up with a proposed national legislation to help the LGBT sector.” He authored House Bill 1483 or the LGBT Anti-Discrimination Act; and House Bill 4635, which declares May 17 of every year as the National Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia or NADAHO, supposed to be the country’s national counterpart of the IDAHO; as well as filed House Resolution 1432, which calls for an inquiry on the reported killings and hate crimes against LGBTs. “We shall re-file all of these in the next Congress, hopefully in both houses of the legislature. But it is always important to note that these measures would not be possible without the LGBT sector’s inputs and efforts,” Casiño said.
For Casiño , “the efforts of LGBTs for their welfare and well-being have been vigorous, resulting in many small triumphs that for now surpasses what we have done in Congress so far. I am happy that the sector has succeeded in getting local legislation passed, to include anti-discrimination ordinances in the cities of Davao, Cebu and Angeles.”
In pushing for LGBT rights in the Philippines, Casiño sees as challenges two elements: intolerance and impunity. “We still have a generally intolerant policy environment towards LGBTs and this, in turn, breeds impunity. This is why there is a disturbing rise in the number of hate crimes committed against LGBTs, and many more remain unreported,” he said.
As Casiño stresses his support for the LGBT community’s efforts to push for sectoral representation in Congress through the party-list system, he expresses his “thanks to the LGBT community for accepting and helping me understand the iniquities and intricacies faced by the sector”, even as he “hopes that their efforts in the passage of local and national policies for LGBT rights continue to bear fruit”.
Casiño therefore believes that “the LGBT community should continue to forge greater unities, organize their ranks and pursue the struggle for equality in the context of working for a better government and society in the long run. This also includes efforts to get a national LGBT anti-discrimination law passed.”