Manila, Philippines – The Filipino Church has criticised the Supreme Court’s decision to readmit Ang Ladlad, a gay and lesbian party, from running in the next election after the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) banned it.
It is “not a good to have a separate category for gay rights,” said Fr Melvin Castro, head of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. For him, “There are more marginalized sectors like the fisherfolk and indigenous people who should be given a chance in Congress. All laws are intended for men and women, whether gay or lesbian.”
Filipino bishops agree. In their view, the presence of a gay party could lead to the legalisation of same-sex marriage, sexual anarchy and the destruction of family values.
Law Professor Adriana R. Montemayor of the Catholic University of Santo Tomas, Manila, explained that the constitution provides for the specific representation of “marginalised sectors of society” through political accreditation with COMELEC, but it is the Supreme Court that lays down the criteria to determine which sectors of society can be considered as marginalised. In addition, the court has to motivate its ruling and explain “the legal, sociological, political and religious implications in the long run in society” should Ang Ladlad be granted provisional or full political accreditation.
For Ang Ladlad leader Danton Remoto, “being gay or lesbian is neither a sin nor a disease. We should be protected.” COMELEC’s decision to exclude the party is a human rights violation, he said because the law protects all rights, including those relating to sexual orientation.
Expressing one’s homosexuality in public is banned under Article 200 of the revised penal code. Sexual relations between consenting adults within the privacy of the home are tolerated.
For the past ten years, the gay party has called on the government to approve a law against sexual discrimination. The party has complained about persistent discrimination against homosexuals in the workplace as well as violence by police and the military.
On 11 November, COMELEC decided to ban Ang Ladlad from running in the upcoming May elections. The commission argued that its presence was an offence to the religious principles of Christians and Muslims and that it did not have enough resources to run a nation-wide campaign.
The ruling was written by commission members Fr Nicodemo Ferrer, a priest from the diocese of Pangasinan, Lucenito Tagle, a former president of the Pastoral Council for the laity, and Imam Elias Yusoph.
“We are not condemning the LGBT,” the ruling said, “but we cannot compromise the well-being of the greater number of our people, especially the youth.” For Ferrer, “Homosexuals are looking for a way to separate themselves from the rest of society”.