Gay Philippines News & Reports 2007-10

1 Personal Essay: Never too late 4/07

2 NZ AIDS foundation’s new safe sex campaign targets asian gay men 5/07

3 Ramon Magsaysay Award recipients announced 8/07

4 Rustom Padilla’s gay redemption: Urian award 9/07

5 SC junks transsexual’s plea for gender, name change 10/07

6 Being gay not a sin, acting on gay desires is–bishop 5/08

7 Philippines endorses condoms despite church 8/08

8 Asian health officials vow to intensify HIV-prevention campaign 8/08

9 Launched 8/08

10 Manila beams with pride, despite debut of anti-gay protesters 12/08

11 Philippines ends ban on gays in military 2/09

12 Soldiers in Cagayan wary over gay recruitment 3/09

13 Book review: Philippine Gay Culture: Binabae to Bakla, Silahis to MSM 7/09

14 Sex between men seen in HIV-AIDS surge 8/09

15 Comelec rejects petition of Ang Ladlad Party 11/09

16 LGBTs protest discriminatory ruling against gay political party 11/09

17 Supreme Court issues TRO for Ang Ladlad 1/10

18 Philippine Supreme Court allows gay party in polls 4/10

19 HIV cases rise in Philippines 12/10

20 Philippine rebels welcome gays, gay marriage into ranks 12/10

April 28, 2007 –

Personal Essay: Never too late

by Wilfredo "Pidot" Villocino
Davao City (MindaNews/28 April) — I am already in my mid-life at 45 years old. I was not able to complete my college education at a younger age because circumstances beyond my control have overtaken my life.

I was a student activist under a repressive regime of Martial rule and the educational system then was used as a propaganda tool of the dictatorship. I felt that I would learn more if I went out of the formal educational system and contributed to changing the system from outside with others, who shared my views and beliefs.

The economic crisis that accompanied the political crisis then also pushed me to go outside the confines of formal education and straight into the informal economy as I became the primary breadwinner in our family of seven (7) siblings. It was also a form of self-sacrifice on my part, and I noticed in my years of advocacy and development work that it is usually the gay members of the family who are automatically expected to take care of the rest. It was a role that I just naturally assumed and took for granted. I had to stop school so that my younger siblings can continue on. Even if all of them have already finished and moved on with their respective careers and life paths, I have remained stuck in the role of resident nurturer and provider.

My decision to pursue and finish my college degree late in my life is something that I owe to myself – for my personal fulfillment and liberation. I have grown weary of working hard for long hours in order for my other siblings, including nieces and nephews, to finish their formal education, yet I have not been able to do the same for myself. As I urge them to study hard and finish school, I constantly feel pangs of guilt for not being a good example to them. I have also started to doubt my own personal worth and to wonder if all my rationalizations for not finishing school may just be borne out of fear that I may not have what it takes to do this. Thus, I had to do it to prove that I can, even at mid-life.

As I took on a more public role as the spokesperson of PROGAY-Mindanao, I realized that I would serve the gay community better if I attained my college degree. And doing so at mid-life may also serve as an inspiration to others who had to sacrifice schooling to become the breadwinners in their families. It would send the message that it is never too late to go back to school and accomplish something meaningful.

In my work now as a Coordinator of the newly-created Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) Desk under the City Mayor’s Integrated Gender and Development Division, my college degree would not only be desired, it is necessary. A landmark innovation in local governance in the Philippines, the LGBT Desk in the Davao City government will have a better chance at being institutionalized if I am a permanent employee occupying a plantilla position.

It will support Affirmative Action and enable gays like me to be mainstreamed in the civil service and become catalysts in promoting gender equality in local governance. I have already passed the Civil Service Professional Examination and possess the minimum requirements for a plantilla appointment, except for the required college degree.

I am given this rare opportunity to become a catalyst in mainstreaming gender issues not just in the City of Davao, but in the entire Philippines. It is because Davao City is the first, and so far, the only local government unit in the country today that has a clear policy and program that integrates LGBT issues and concerns in its development framework. It is a recognized trailblazer, and its best practices are being replicated in other areas, and studied and emulated even by other countries. Acquiring my College Degree would therefore be a crucial step in sustaining this development.

(Wilfredo “Pidot” Villocino wrote this piece in 2005 when he enrolled to complete his Mass Communication course at the Ateneo de Davao University under the Enhanced Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (ETEEAP). Villocino graduated on his birthday last year and is now pursuing his Masters of Science in Development Admnistration at the University of Southern Philippines).

May 9, 2007 – Fridae

New Zealand AIDS foundation’s new safe sex campaign targets asian gay men

“Be proud and strong – Renew your commitment to safe sex, no exceptions,” reads a campaign poster featuring five out and proud gay Asian men from Singapore, the Philipines, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Tahiti.

The New Zealand AIDS Foundation’s Gay Men’s Health team is to launch its first resource aimed at raising HIV awareness among Asian gay and bisexual men on Friday May 11 in Auckland. The resource comprises a poster, featuring five out and proud gay Asian men – including Gay Men’s Health Promoter Valeriano (Val) Incapas – with the heading “Be proud and strong – Renew your commitment to safe sex, no exceptions.”

“Gay men make up a significant part of the growing Asian migrant population, as many Asian countries are very vocal in condemning homosexuality,” Incapas says. “Gay men in Asian countries often are forced to move where they feel they can live and express themselves more freely, countries like New Zealand.” Asian gay men are also part of the wider community of men who have sex with men, who are the highest risk group for HIV infection in New Zealand. 70 new gay and bisexual diagnoses were recorded in 2006 – one every five days.

Up until now, there has been a lack of visible role models for Asian gay and bisexual men to encourage open discussion about the importance of condom use in preventing HIV,” Incapas says. “Without the skills of handling themselves in a community with different social rules, and often coming to New Zealand with no condom culture, Asian gay men can be vulnerable to being taken advantage of.”

The poster features men from Singapore, the Philipines, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Tahiti. All the men are profiled on an accompanying flier, along with individual messages about why they value safe sex.

“This is about standing proud and taking a leadership role in our own communities to help turn the HIV epidemic around,” Incapas says. “But HIV isn’t confined to one particular group or ethnicity – as gay and bisexual men, we are all susceptible because of the risk of transmission via anal sex. We must all renew our commitment to using a condom every time.”

Launch Venue:
Shanghai Lil’s Bar and Lounge
133 Franklin Rd
7pm, Friday 11th May

Source: New Zealand Aids Foundation press release

August 2, 2007

Ramon Magsaysay Award recipients announced

by Carlos H. Conde
Manila –
Seven people from China, India, South Korea, Nepal and the Philippines will receive this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Award, organizers have announced. The awardees include an environmentalist, an AIDS activist, a blind lawyer – all from China – as well as a journalist who writes about India’s rural poor, a South Korean pastor, a Nepalese educator and a former senator from the Philippines.

The award, to be given out in Manila on Aug. 31, is named for Ramon Magsaysay, the late Philippine president. Some 256 Asians have received it in various categories since it was established in 1957. Each awardee will receive a certificate, a medallion and an undisclosed cash prize.

"Working in different countries on diverse issues of poverty, prejudice, politics and the planet’s future, these seven individuals nevertheless share an uncommon faith in the tremendous potential of people and social institutions," said Carmencita T. Abella, president of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, in a statement on Wednesday announcing the list of honorees.

The Philippines’s Jovito Salonga, a former senator, will receive the prize for government service. A staunch opponent of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, Salonga defended victims of the regime and led efforts to recover its stolen wealth.

The Reverend Kim Sun Tae, from South Korea, will be honored for public service. Orphaned by the Korean War and blinded when he was young, Kim struggled to become a Christian pastor and helped found the Siloam Eye Hospital in Seoul that provides eye services to poor Koreans. More than 20,000 people have received free eye surgery.

Mahabir Pun, awardee for community leadership, used wireless technology for the benefit of poor villages in Nepal. After 20 years in the United States, Pun returned to Nepal to help establish schools and, later, with donations of computers and wireless-communications gadgets from all over the world, helped hook these schools and villages to the Internet.

Tang Xiyang is recognized with the prize for peace and international understanding. He was known for his "Green Camps," which have helped publicize the degradation of China’s environment. The camps, in which environmentalists and students are dispatched to areas in China where the environment is at risk, have helped influence government policy, according to the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation.

Palagummi Sainath, a journalist from India, will receive the prize for journalism, literature and creative communication arts. The foundation said Sainath had written passionately about India’s poor and the injustices they suffer. Today, "his journalism workshops occur directly in the villages, where he teaches young protégés to identify and write good stories and to be agents of change," the foundation said.

The awardees for emergent leadership are China’s Chen Guangcheng and Chung To. Chen, who is blind, led the filing of a class-action lawsuit in 2004 against officials in rural Shandong Province for, among other complaints, coercing women into having late-term abortions or sterilization. Chen publicized his case, eliciting a backlash from officials that later put him in jail, where he is serving a four-year sentence for "inciting a mob" of supporters. Chung was recognized for his work on behalf of people with HIV. Chung, who was born in Hong Kong but grew up in the United States, created the Chi Heng Foundation in 1998 to assist gay men in Hong Kong to protect themselves from the virus. He later extended his work to the Chinese mainland, where his AIDS Orphans Project pays for the education of children whose parents have died or are dying of AIDS.

September 15, 2007 –

Rustom Padilla’s gay redemption: Urian award

by Gerry Plaza
Manila, Philippines – It was a shining moment for an actor whose courageous disclosure of his sexuality appears to have triggered discord within his tightly knit family. At Thursday night’s rain-drenched 2007 Gawad Urian at the Henry Lee Irwin Theater on the Ateneo de Manila University campus, he said he hoped his victory was a step closer to “being with [them] again.”
The now openly gay Rustom Padilla, who had been launched as a matinee idol in the past decade, brought home the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino’s top male acting plum for his work in Regal Films’ “Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah Ze Moveeh,” in which he portrayed as a homosexual character. “Sana ang panalo kong ito ay patunay ito na kayang gawin ng isang katulad ko ang makamit ang ganitong karangalan” [“I hope this triumph is proof that someone like me could aspire for such an honor as this”], a teary-eyed Padilla told the Inquirer.

The moment was extra special, he said, because the trophy was presented to him by his brother, Robin Padilla, a previous winner of the same award for “La Visa Loca.” After announcing that Rustom had won in a tie with veteran actor Mark Gil — who was cited for his portrayal of a disillusioned tabloid reporter in the independent film “Rotonda” — Robin promptly approached his brother and hugged him. “I didn’t know that Robin would be the presenter,” Rustom said. “In fact, I didn’t know he was here. I can’t wait to see my family.” Rustom admitted that he had not spoken with his mother, former actress Eva Cariño, for quite a while. He had been skipping family reunions, he added, to avoid “confrontations.”

Surprise party
Rustom was visibly elated when a female reporter told him about Robin announcing that their family was planning a “surprise” to celebrate the victory. It is Rustom’s first-ever acting trophy. It is also Gil’s first Urian Best Actor award, although he has won for supporting roles in the past, including the acclaimed 1982 film, “Palipat-lipat, Papalit-palit.”

Gil’s son, Sid Lucero, was also a nominee for Best Actor, as star of the independent film, “Donsol.” Other nominees in the category were Ryan Agoncillo for “Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo,” Alchris Galura for “Batad sa Paang Palay,” Mario Magallona for “Rekados” and Jett Pangan for “Tulad ng Dati.” The internationally acclaimed “Kubrador” took a total of five trophies: Best Picture, Best Actress for Gina Pareño, Best Director for Jeffrey Jeturian, Best Production Design for Leo Abaya and Best Cinematography for Roberto Yñiguez.

Prestigious win
Pareño’s win hardly came as a surprise — she had won the same recognition in several international film festivals. However, Pareño told the Inquirer that this one, also her first Urian, was special. “This is prestigious. Kaya ako’y nagagalak na naipanalo ko ito kahit mas matanda pa ang career ko sa Urian.” [“I’m glad I got this, even though my career is older than the Urian.”] Other Best Actress nominees were Jonalyn Abong for “Manoro,” Cherry Pie Picache and Angel Aquino for “Kaleldo,” Andrea del Rosario and Mylene Dizon for “Rome and Juliet,” Judy Ann Santos for “Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo,” and Maricel Soriano for “Inang Yaya.”

“A director’s dream” was how Best Director winner Jeffrey Jeturian described Pareño’s performance in “Kubrador” as a bet collector for the underground lottery “jueteng.” He told the Inquirer that “Kubrador’s” victory was also for all independent filmmakers. Indeed, several other independent films were recognized in this year’s awards:

Best screenplay
Chris Violago and Connie Macatuno won Best Screenplay for “Rome and Juliet,” a fresh take on the travails of lesbian relationships. John Torres bagged the Best Editing plum for “Todo Todo Teros,” an intriguing story of terrorism and global security as they affect ordinary people’s lives. Ronald de Asis took the Best Sound trophy for “Tulad ng Dati,” a peek into the rise of one of the country’s leading rock bands, The Dawn.

The independent circuit likewise became the route for Rafael Rossell to reach his own career milestone. He won Best Supporting Actor for “Rome and Juliet,” over the likes of Soliman Cruz (“Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo”), Domingo Landicho (“Kubrador”), Alan Paule and Lauren Novero (“Kaleldo”), Epy Quizon (“Rotonda”), Ping Medina (“Tulad ng Dati”) and Archie Adamos (“Raket ni Nanay”).

Meryll Soriano was proclaimed Best Supporting Actress for the film “Rotonda.” She wasn’t around to receive the award, as she had just given birth. Her uncle, Mel Martinez, went up the stage in her behalf. Soriano was up against Gloria Diaz and Gina Pareño (“Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo”), Pops Fernandez (“Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah Ze Moveeh”), Agot Isidro (“Tulad ng Dati”), Liza Lorena and Tala Santos (“Inang Yaya”) and Tessie Tomas (“Rome and Juliet”).

This year’s Natatanging Gawad Urian Award was bestowed on Marichu Vera-Perez Maceda for her outstanding contributions to the local film industry.

October 22, 2007 –

SC junks transsexual’s plea for gender, name change

by Tetch Torres
Manila, Philippines — To prevent complications with existing laws, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition of a transsexual for his name and gender to be changed in his birth certificate, to allow him to marry his American fiancé.
In a 22-page decision, the high court’s First Division, through Associate Justice Renato Corona, said while they understand that "the unfortunates are also entitled to a life of happiness, contentment and the realization of their dreams," public policy must also be considered before the courts can allow these individuals to realize their dreams. The petitioner, Rommel, asked the Supreme Court to reverse the Court of Appeals ruling that dismissed his petition to have his name changed to Mely, and his gender from male to female, after undergoing sexual reassignment surgery.

Rommel had earlier secured the Manila Regional Trial Court’s (RTC) approval for a change of name and gender but the Office of the Solicitor General, which automatically participates in cases involving public policy, successfully appealed the lower court’s decision. The Court of Appeals, on February 23 last year, pointed out that the lower court’s ruling lacked legal basis because no law allows the change of either name or sex on the grounds of sex reassignment. Agreeing with the Court of Appeals, the high court pointed out that under Republic Act 9048 or the Clerical Error Law, the grounds for a change of first name include (1) that the first name or nickname be ridiculous, tainted with dishonor or extremely difficult to write or pronounce; (2) the new first name or nickname has been habitually and continuously used by the petitioner and he has been publicly known by that first name or nickname in the community; and (3) the change will avoid confusion.

Rommel underwent hormone treatment and breast augmentation in the United States and on January 27, 2001, had sex reassignment surgery in Bangkok, Thailand. Following this, he petitioned for the change of name and gender in his birth certificate to allow him to wed his American fiancé. RTC Judge Felixberto Olalia, ruling in Rommel’s favor, cited the principles of justice and equity, and said no harm could be done by granting the petition. But the high court said allowing Rommel’s appeal would affect the country’s marriage and family laws and part of the labor law. It added that it is basic in statutory construction to interpret words in their common meaning if the law does not give a specific definition.

"Thus, the words ‘male’ and ‘female’ in everyday understanding do not include persons who have undergone sex reassignment…Since the statutory language of the Civil Register Law was enacted in the early 1900s and remains unchanged, it cannot be alterable through surgery or something that allows a post-operative male-to-female transsexual to be included in the category ‘female’," the high court said.

The high court added that various laws on women, like the provisions of the Labor Code and the presumption of survivorship, would be affected if Rommel’s petition is granted. It also pointed that it not for the courts but the legislature to draw up the guidelines for the recognition of the effects of sex reassignment.

"This court has no authority to fashion a law on that matter or anything else…If the legislature intends to confer on a person who has undergone sex reassignment the privilege to change his name and sex to conform with his reassigned sex, it has to enact legislation laying down the guidelines in turn governing the conferment of that privilege," the high court said.

May 11, 2008 –

Being gay not a sin, acting on gay desires is–bishop

by Jeannette Andrade, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Manila, Philippines–A Catholic bishop insists that Church laws are compassionate and liberal towards homosexuals, even if the heirarchy protests the participation of gay men in Santacruzan processions dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros, chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Office on Bio-ethics, said on Sunday the Church had learned to accept homosexuality as part of reality.

"We try to be compassionate and understand homosexuals and guide them towards the right path where they should not act out on their desires," the bishop told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of He explained that having feelings or an attraction for the same sex was not a sin but engaging in homosexual sex would be. CBCP Commission on Canon Law chair and Tagbilaran Bishop Leonardo Medroso agreed, saying there was nothing in Church law that specifically stated that being homosexual was sinful.

"As far as the Church is concerned, sex can only be done within the context of marriage, and marriage, as we know, is between a man and a woman," he said. Medroso said the prohibition on pre-marital sex on heterosexuals was the same prohibition it imposed on gays. "Marriage and sex, as the Church views it, is solely for reproduction. That’s the nature of marriage, opening up a couple to producing children. We cannot have that in a man to man or a woman to woman relationship, therefore, sex between persons of the same sex becomes unnatural and offends the Church," the bishop explained.

Similarly, a priest who has homosexual tendencies or is gay is not immediately condemned. "As long as he does not break his vow of celibacy and is not an active homosexual," Medroso said, adding, "It is a crime, not only unnatural for a priest who has taken a vow to be celibate, because when he was ordained he promised not to engage in sex." While homosexuality is not in Church laws, the scriptures are explicit in stating that sexual relations between persons outside of marriage is forbidden, according to Oliveros. In the case of gay priests, Oliveros said the attraction they would feel for other men would not be a problem for as long as "they are not active in their attraction."

August 28, 2008 –

Philippines endorses condoms despite church

Manila (AFP) – The Philippine Health Department will promote the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS despite disapproval from the influential Roman Catholic church, an official said Thursday. "The use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS is different from their use for birth control," Health Undersecretary Mario Villaverde told a media briefing. "The church’s position is detrimental to public health," he said.

Besides the use of condoms, which have 95 percent effectiveness in preventing HIV/AIDS, the government will also encourage education on the topic and promote measures to guard against the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the official said. Villaverde did not say how condoms would be promoted in a country where all forms of artificial contraception are strongly opposed by the church. Although rates of HIV/AIDS remain low in the Philippines, the level has recently gone up with an average of 29 cases detected each month in 2007 and 2008, compared with 20 cases a month in previous years.

August 28, 2008 – From Monsters and

Asian health officials vow to intensify HIV-prevention campaign

by DPA
Manila – Health officials and experts from Asia-Pacific countries with a low prevalence of HIV and AIDS vowed Thursday to intensify efforts to prevent the spread of the disease in their nations. Delegates from 11 countries who attended a three-day meeting in Manila noted there was a need for governments, civil society groups and international development partners to improve efforts to deliver interventions to most-at-risk populations. They also stressed that access and availability of anti-retroviral treatments should be a key factor in anti-HIV/AIDS campaigns in every country and additional funds outside national budgets must be mobilized.

The 11 countries attending were Bangladesh, Bhutan, Fiji, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and East Timor. Fiji Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau warned that while the number of HIV and AIDS cases among the participating countries was low, the disease was like a ticking time bomb that could easily turn into a full-blown epidemic if left unchecked. ‘Since the first cases of HIV surfaced in the late 1970s and early ’80s, there has been no cure for the HIV pandemic,’ he said at the end of the meeting in Manila. ‘It tells us that our efforts must go on, further and further.’

In a joint statement at the end of the meeting, the delegates committed themselves to ‘an enhanced and effective response to HIV in Asia and the Pacific which ensures equal access to services for all persons regardless of their age, sexual orientation or gender.’ They also called on political leaders to increase allocation of resources in the fight against HIV and AIDS, which afflicts productive age groups. ‘Countries must clearly identify their priorities and effectively allocate their resources if they expect to maintain a financially sustainable response to the HIV epidemics in the region,’ the statement said.

August 1, 2008

9 Launched–
Online Publication Attempts to Promote Pinoy LGBTQ Rights

In an attempt to provide an avenue for the Filipino lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community, up-and-coming publisher M.D. dela Cruz Tan recently launched Outrage Magazine (, the only online publication or e-zine of its kind in the country.

This coming in the heels of the closure of once-popular Filipino-specific LGBT publications ICON and Generation Pink (GP), and the continuing infamy of semi-pornographic gay publications like Valentino and Coverboy, which leave the local community without its own media.

" Gay media, as it developed in the Philippines, focused on the extremes – it was politics versus sex and parties. We used to have a publication for the semi-political in Manila Out, and then, in the likes of ICON, GP, Coverboy and Valentino, we had those largely focusing on more sensationalized, albeit trifle, issues of gay parties and of sex for sex’s sake," says Tan, who laments how "we continue failing to merge both, when that is what we should be doing."

With Outrage Magazine, Tan hopes to "bridge the gaps existing on all the issue that are important to the LGBT community," he says. Thus, among others, the e-zine tackles "heavy" issues like the Filipino gay identity, sexual health with discussions on safer sexual practices and HIV and AIDS, gay rights, morality in sexuality, and recreational drugs and their rampant use despite their illegality; as well as "light" concerns of gay travelling in the Philippines, fashion, and reviews of everything LGBT, from party venues to restaurants, and from plays to films.

Already, Tan, a graduate of BA Communication Studies from the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia, and is the winner of the 2006 Catholic Mass Media Award (Best Investigative Report), notes the seeming apathy of members of the LGBTQ community. "All the way from the United States of America, it took playwright Jeff Baron, who wrote the award-winning ‘Visiting Mr. Green’ that was produced locally by The Repertory Philippines, less than a week to give an exclusive interview to Outrage Magazine, but until now, and despite repeated attempts to communicate, we have yet to hear from supposed local leaders of the LGBT community," he says. "There seems to be this contentment for various groups fighting the same fight to work on their own, neglecting that there is more power in numbers."

Instead of getting disappointed, however, Tan is challenged, while remaining optimistic. "This is the very reason of our existence: to help boost awareness not just of the community, but within the community. And the way we see best to do that is through proper information dissemination to empower LGBTQs to start acting to promote LGBTQ right. We may still take a while to get there, but with Outrage Magazine, we hope to make sure that come what may, we will certainly get there," Tan ends.

For more information on Outrage Magazine, visit, email or

December 8, 2008 –

Manila beams with pride, despite debut of anti-gay protesters

by Laurindo Garcia
For the first time in its 14-year history, the generally festive atmosphere that emanates from the annual Manila Pride March was tarnished with placards and calls for "repentance" from church-based anti-gay protesters. Although anti-gay protesters are a familiar and ubiquitous fixture at Pride events in western capital cities, public dissent from church groups has usually been absent at Manila Pride until last Saturday.

"This is the first time we’ve ever had opposition," says Sass Sasot, one of the event coordinators from Task Force Pride 2008, noting the clear departure from the usual rules of engagement with the religious establishment. "The local church community would never engage in this manner," said a local LGBT activist Ferdinand Buenviaje, alluding to the fact that despite its strength and influence the Church never resorted to such tactics here in the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines. The presence of foreigners leading the anti-gay group highlights how more aggressive forms of resistance to the gay movement are being spurred by outside influences, namely American-style fundamentalism.

A cross-fire ensued when members from the local branch of the progressive and gay-affirmative Metropolitan Community Church, marching under banners emblazoned with the apt retort ‘Would Jesus discriminate?’, took their fundamentalist opposition to task. "We have to be aware of the globalisation of fundamentalism," warned Grace Poore, Regional Coordinator for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), who came from New York to observe the march and speak at the rally. "But with the Internet and global media there is also globalisation of the LGBT movement. We have to start looking beyond our national borders if we’re going to make any progress."

Manila is widely recognised to be the home of Asia’s longest running Pride March. The first gay pride parade was held in Manila – and in Asia – on June 26, 1994, the 25th anniversary of New York’s Stonewall riots. Each year Filipino lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgender individuals take to the streets to celebrate diversity and call for recognition and equality in the eyes of the law. Attempts to bring this year’s march to Makati, Manila’s central business district and the nation’s financial capital were stymied due to bureaucratic hurdles and thus it was decided to bring the event back to the emotional epicentre of the Manila gay and lesbian scene, the Malate area of old Manila city.

"We originally wanted to hold the march where the corporations could participate and hear our message," explains Sasot, "but having it in Manila puts the march in the seat of power of the Philippines," referring to the fact that Malate is in the same municipality as many major government offices and Malacanañg – the Presidential Palace. Mustering support for such an event is always one of the biggest challenges for organisers who usually have to rely on the sweat of hard working volunteers and contributions from local pink businesses. While the Pride industry is capable of generating massive spectator turnouts and lucrative "pink dollars" in the US, Europe and Australia, some people question the affectivity and relevance of Pride marches within the more reserved and less confrontational Asian context.

"Pride marches may have been initiated by Americans, but being gay and lesbian is universal to Asians, Americans and Europeans," Sasot observes. "The event is a way for us to celebrate our pride and express ourselves with dignity." The fiesta, or festival, is an integral part of Filipino culture and although Pride may be a borrowed theme, the urge to bring the community together to celebrate and help elicit positive change naturally strikes a cord for a people who are famous for their exuberance and hospitality.

December’s cooler weather bode well for a good turn out and organisers estimate around 2000 people attended the event, which for the first time also included a beauty pageant. Numbers swelled exponentially as night fell and the official street party took over the crossroads of Nakpil and Orosa Streets, Malate’s pink quarter. A total of 40 organisations – NGOs, political parties, corporate floats and citizens’ groupings – from around the country registered their participation in the march making it the biggest procession to date. While a diverse group of veteran LGBT rights activists make up the core of the participants, there was a strong turn out of first-timers and students ready to heed the call.

"I’ve been to New York Pride three years in a row and this is my first time to attend Manila Pride," says Mike who’s just returned to the Philippines after completing his studies in the US. "I think there’s more acceptance here than in other places. I used to live in southern US and experienced more discrimination there than back here." Sam, a law student who was marching while carrying a sign outing herself and fellow marchers as ‘Pride March Virgins’ felt that the time to act had come. "I feel invisible and I need this event to say something," she confided. "If I don’t do this now, I never will."

The situation for Filipino LGBTs, relative to their Asian neighbours, may look seemingly rosy, but that’s only on the surface. A lively and open media paired with guaranteed freedom of speech most certainly gives the Philippines an advantage. But despite significant headway made with the enactment of anti-discrimination laws for people living with HIV back in 1988, the passing of an 8-year-old bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation still remains elusive.

The question remains: what is the main barrier for non-discrimination of LGBTs in the Philippines?

"What is insidious is the power of the Church and the relationship between church and state," IGLHRC’s Poore frankly exclaims, "that’s despite the fact that there’s meant to be a separation of power." The government of the day depends on the support of very vocal, organised and powerful bishops to maintain the political status quo. It’s rare that laws that impinge on the moral teachings of the Church are passed – divorce is still illegal, government mandated family planning and contraception programmes are a constant, unresolved battleground and abortion is unconstitutional. Hence as long as the Vatican persists with its stance that homosexuality is immoral, a roadblock will remain in the path towards equality for Filipino gays and lesbians.

Compounding this obstacle is a certain inertia that has overcome the long-standing national LGBT movement. In-fighting, factionalism and divergent interests have all but crippled a once loud and strong voice. Poore, with her global perspective, described the LGBT landscape in the Philippines as "fractious" and sadly lacking a singular, unified voice. A new solution to this stalemate had its very first outing at the Pride March when a revitalised network of groups and individuals pushing for LGBT rights came to the fore.

Scores of people rallied under the banner of ‘Project Equality’ at the head of the march. The entire parade would have been relatively silent had it not been for Project Equality’s unified clarion call: ‘Walang masama sa pagiging bakla. Pantay na karapatan ipaglaban’ echoing through the streets amid the sound of house music anthems and distant traffic. The group was making it bluntly clear in Filipino saying that there’s nothing wrong with being gay and calling everyone to fight for equal rights. Project Equality’s spokesperson Jonas Bagas is confident that this new grouping will fill the void that currently exists in the LGBT rights movement by taking action on several fronts. At a national level, the group said they would consider bringing their case before the Supreme Court, a move that was recently supported by the Philippine Government’s Commission on Human Rights Chair Leila de Lima.

At the same time, Project Equality also recognises that people are often more compelled to act when things are brought closer to home. "We will also go local," Bagas said in a statement at Project Equality’s official launch one day prior to the Pride March. "We have seen in the last four years the openness of local governments to legislate LGBT rights at the local level." Evidence of this grassroots action was present at Manila Pride. Residents from the Province of Albay were in full force at the march and had good reason to celebrate. A municipal ordinance in this eastern province within the Philippines’ Bicol region was passed in August making it the first comprehensive anti-discrimination ordinance in the country. The Albay ordinance protects the rights of LGBT residents, not only in employment but in all facets of civil life. The fact that this breakthrough comes from one of the archipelago’s poorest regions, is a testament that poverty and economics are no barrier to upholding human rights for all.

So while the Church may cast an ominous shadow over the general political landscape in the Philippines, this state of play is nothing new for Filipino baklas and badings (both local lingo to mean gay men), tibos or tomboys (the all inclusive term for lesbians) – they’ve had the Church hanging over them all their lives. Filipinos are renowned for their resilience and a more tangible sense of hope will most certainly come from taking small, but pivotal steps, each of which will bring them closer to their dream of enjoying the same freedoms as the rest of humanity.

Laurindo Garcia is a freelance writer and former news and current affairs reporter, now based in Manila.

03 March 2009 –

Philippines ends ban on gays in military

by Jennifer Vanasco
(Manila) The Philippines has become the second country in a week to officially end the ban on gays serving in the military. The Armed Forces of the Philippines said that the decision shows the military has a zero tolerance for discrimination among its ranks. But it also warned that despite allowing gays to serve openly, overt homosexual behavior will still not be tolerated. “Once inside the organization, they have to live by a code of ethics and they have to observe decorum if they want to remain as members of the Armed Forces,” military spokesperson Ernesto Torres told The Manila Times.

To mark the change the military this week began a recruiting drive in the LGBT community. On Monday, Argentina announced that it had abandoned the gay ban, part of a sweeping military reform act that included the way members of the armed forces are put on trial. The issue of gays serving opening in the military has roiled the US armed services. On Monday, legislation to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was filed in the House of Representatives. While previous attempts to repeal the law were bogged down when Republicans controlled Congress, there is renewed hope the measure will pass the Democratically-controlled Congress. President Barack Obama has said that he supports repeal of the ban.

March 11, 2009 –

Soldiers in Cagayan wary over gay recruitment

by Floro Taguinod, GMANews.TV
Tuguegarao, Philippines – Army officials from this northern province are not sure how gay people can equally perform the job of enlisted personnel who are already serving in the military.
In an interview, Col. Remegio de Vera, commanding officer of the Army’s 501st Infantry Brigade (IB) in Cagayan, said that if he will have his way, he would prefer to stick to the traditional military recruitment of straight men and women. “I don’t have anything against gay people but I am still in the dark, I cannot imagine how they will perform and discharge their duties once they are accepted in the military," he said.

De Vera was reacting to the statement of Philippine Army spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr. that the Army has opened its gates to gay people. In a recent television interview, Brawner said the Army welcomes everybody who wants be in the service including gay people. “There will be no discrimination as long as the applicant is physically, emotionally and mentally fit. We will be happy to work and even go to war with them," Brawner said.

The military is traditionally a male-dominated organization up until the US and other European countries, in recent years, have started accepting gay and bi-sexuals in their armed forces. In the Philippines, the decision which emanated from the military top brass has created a stir among some soldiers and “gay hate" groups who still regard “machismo" as the main requirement to be able to enter the military service.

An Army sergeant from Camp Melchor dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela — who declined to be named — said he and other troopers will welcome the recruits with open arms but are also worried how gay people can handle life in a war zone. “In combat, we put our lives in the hands of other soldiers. I don’t want to judge their worth but I can’t help but wonder how we can rely on gays, baka alagaan lang namin sila sa halip na makipaglaban sa kaaway," he said. (Instead of fighting the enemy, we might turn out to be their baby-sitters)

At least 3,900 recruits from the 6,700 required by the Armed Forces of the Philippinesd (AFP) this year are needed by the Army. – GMANews.TV

9 Jul 2009 –

Book review: Philippine Gay Culture: Binabae to Bakla, Silahis to MSM

by Nigel Collett
Nigel Collett reviews J. Neil C. Garcia’s 536-page Philippine Gay Culture, in which he examines a range of labels/identities that emerged since the 1960s to describe indigenous sexual and gender identities which have little modern (western) equivalents.

Philippine Gay Culture: Binabae to Bakla, Silahis to MSM
By J. Neil C. Garcia
The 3rd Volume in the Queer Asia Series
Published by the Hong Kong University Press, 2009

I am approaching this review with more than the usual trepidation, for several reasons, which I should enunciate. Firstly, Philippine Gay Culture has but been reprinted here as the book’s third edition, with a few amendments, a new ‘Author’s Note’ and, as its last section, ‘An Update and a Post Colonial Autocritique’. The first edition was widely acclaimed as ground breaking and authoritative when it came out in 1996 (it had a second edition published by the University of the Philippines Press in 2008 which included most of the current additions). It was a literary hit, winning author J. Neil C. Garcia the National Book Award from the Manila Critics Circle. The world of Queer Studies has acclaimed it; Peter Jackson, of the Australian National University, for example, typically calling it ‘a founding text of comparative gay and lesbian studies that has supported the emergence of Asian queer studies in this decade.’ No wonder, then, that Hong Kong University Press is proud to be able to include it as the third work in its exciting and rapidly burgeoning Queer Asia series.

The second reason for my conviction that I must approach this book with care is its complexity. It is a vast work of scholarship and argument, which, with its generous and detailed academic apparatus, reaches 536 pages in all, not something easily picked apart by a reviewer’s slight of hand in a thousand or so words. Then, for third, there is Garcia himself, a revered figure not only in the Philippine gay world but also in the literary, a poet, critic and writer who has a prominent place teaching creative writing and comparative literature at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. On top of this, he is one of the most pugnacious of writers, as a dip into any part of this book will prove, a writer of conviction and the power to express it, not a man, in short, with whom to trifle! And finally, and this is a confession on my part, the fourth reason for more than the usual circumspection here is that I am no student of, let alone expert in, the Philippine gay scene; I am in no position to compare and contrast, and, as most of the book’s new readers will, must be content to place myself in Garcia’s hands for the history and theory that he unfolds.

Trusting the author is, as is now clear to me having read this book, something more than usually necessary here, as the gay culture of the Philippines which he describes is unlike that of anywhere else, far removed, indeed, from those known to us in the West or in the more widely known Asian cultures, such as those of Singapore, Thailand or China. Garcia makes this plain in his choice of subtitle: ‘binabae’ is a word for those of the ancient indigenous population with a gender-crossing identity; ‘bakla’ is their modern equivalent, ‘homosexual’ men, some of them gender-crossers, others maybe merely effeminate transdressers; ‘silahis’ is the apparent heterosexual who has sex with other men, either as a genuine bisexual or as a closeted ‘homosexual’; and ‘MSM’, of course, is the modern, intendedly-neutral, HIV NGO-derived catch all acronym for any man having sex with another man. These are the terms that drive sexual dynamics in the Philippines and form its gay culture. Garcia shows that the western terms ‘homosexual’ then later ‘gay’ were attached here to the bakla, and that it is still their culture (which is not unlike, though only in some respects, the katoey culture of Thailand) which is meant when the word ‘gay’ is used. Note the absence of any application of the ‘gay’ word to the sort of non-effeminate homosexual men who, in the experience of societies which have been more widely commented on, form the large part of the gay community elsewhere. In the Philippines, the power of the macho closet is so strong that such men are very rare (so scarce that Garcia hardly bothers to consider them) and it is partly to this fact that he attributes the lack of much of a gay rights movement in his country. I should point out here that Garcia himself is an out and proud bakla; his disdain for silahis and the closeted in general is unavoidable in his text.

So, foreign perspectives don’t work when applied here, and Garcia’s exhaustive investigation into his country’s gay culture takes him down some unexpected paths. He traces the modern bakla back to the tribes inhabiting the archipelago before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th Century. These conquerors suppressed, perverted and misrepresented the culture of the people they colonised and converted to Christianity. Back then, binabae, priests (local shamans) played key roles in their people’s spiritual lives, and these binabae could be female or male-to-female transgendered. Philippine culture conceived of the person as having an interior (loob) separate from, and with greater value than, their exterior (labas). So transgendered persons were accepted as those fulfilling their loob in their labas. Christian suppression of both native religious beliefs and sexual practices submerged this system, but enough of it remained to evolve into the local culture of the bakla, effeminate men (many of them transgendered) who dress as women, behave and often work as women, and who are ‘used’ by men as women. Whilst their modern typical occupations of hairdresser, window dresser, beautician, and the like, echo the katoey and similar manifestations, they differ in that the bakla are not prostitutes, and, in fact, if they find relationships with men, inevitably end up paying for the upkeep of their ‘spouses’. The men, of course, remain dominant and heterosexual (in their own eyes) in these relationships. When the western sexologists’ discourse of inversion (of homosexuals being women in men’s bodies) arrived in the Philippines, it elided into the local culture of loob, and similarly, later, the words ‘homosexual’ and ‘gay’ attached to the bakla.

In Part One, Garcia investigates these systems and looks at the indigenous pre-colonial culture still (partially) visible from colonial records, then, in the order of his chronological survey (which is not that of his book), jumps to the four decades from the Sixties to the Nineties, examining each in turn and using them to develop and illustrate his theme. Part Two of the book is very different, a study of three Philippine writers, Severino Montano, Orlando Nadres and Tony Perez, whose works Garcia examines in the light of his research and theories and whose sexual politics he criticises. He has chosen these three writers (for reasons not entirely clear in the text) to make what he describes as ‘the first […] project in local literary criticism with homosexual writings as the specific object of scrutiny.’

The Lion and the Faun, Montano’s huge unpublished novel (Garcia had seen only its first half of five hundred pages when he wrote this book) was written many years before and covers the 1950s and 1960s, something, perhaps, of a Philippine equivalent to EM Forster’s Maurice. Garcia dislikes this story of closeted gay (non bakla) love, with its misogynist and macho themes, and attacks it accordingly, taking the unusual stance, as he does in all his criticism in this book, that only a gay man can write a convincingly authentic gay novel, which has, therefore, to be a sort of roman a clef. With playwright Orlando Nadres, author of a frequently performed and very popular Tagalog play (in its English translation named That’s All for Now and Many Thanks), Garcia is back on the more favoured ground of the bakla, one of whom is much featured in the play. The third work examined here, Tony Perez’s novella Cubao 1980, a tale of two male prostitutes, is not, to Garcia’s way of looking at gay culture, about the gay world or its liberation at all (for many reasons, one being that it misses the ‘pain’ of the bakla’s condition entirely). It gets as short a shrift here as does The Lion and the Faun.

Part Two of Garcia’s book is eccentric, not, as the first section was a review of gay culture through history, a parallel review of Philippine gay literature over time, but rather a dissection of three works using the theoretical tools he develops in Part One of the book. This makes Philippine Gay Culture a train of two carriages hitched together by an interconnecting internal argument. Yet none of this detracts from the writing of the second part, where Garcia romps around on his home ground of literary criticism. His writing in Part Two is clearly the better of the two. Garcia does not fail to amuse here; he is lively, cheeky, cutting, bruising and never dull. His insights into the works he examines are the results, in part, of the test tube experiments he conducts into the literature using the tools of the theories he has developed in Part One.

Don’t read this book expecting an easy ride. Garcia is very persuasive (watch his arguments carefully before you get carried away by his conviction!) and has huge knowledge which he wields with much common sense. After a good deal of the required reflection, there is not much for a general reader to find to quarrel with in the conclusions which he reaches. The information and arguments deployed, however, to reach those conclusions, can be, at times, maddeningly convoluted, dense and repetitive, and the book would benefit from both reorganising and pruning. He has the grace to admit this himself in the ‘Author’s Note’: ‘I am no longer the clumsily prolix, overeager, wide-eyed and theory-crazed person who cobbled together these words’. That said, he left the book as it was in the second and third editions with ‘only a modicum of blue-pencilling and emendation.’

That he is unapologetically an advocate for bakla culture (kabaklaan) may or may not be a defect in the thrust of the book; I possess no alternative sources to reveal any special pleading. It would have been interesting, though, had the later editions followed through his arguments to examine more closely the evolution of gay culture in the Philippines from the ’90s till today. There remains, I think, a need to prove or disprove the continuing centrality of kabaklaan to gay culture there. Has MSM started the process of the development of more westernised styles of a more equal male-male love? We are left unsure. Garcia cites the recent coming out in public of at least one prominent man of upper class, but this is not enough to evince a trend and it would be interesting to see if yet another post-colonial foreign imposition is now changing the way the Philippine gay world sees itself in the new millennium.

Should you buy this book? Most certainly. This is a thorough and deeply considered study of a unique culture which elucidates some very surprising (to foreigners) phenomena and comes to unusual conclusions which have both utility for an understanding of the Philippines and stand as convincing testimony that queer theory as an academic discourse must account for a myriad of queer theories if it is to describe the world we live in. More than this, Philippine Gay Culture is a brave polemic, a call to freedom, by a fine writer and a decent man. Buy it, stick with it, bite off small bits of it at a time if you have to, but read this book!

August 25, 2009 –

Sex between men seen in HIV-AIDS surge

by Dona Pazzibugan, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Manila, Philippines—The Department of Health has monitored more cases of HIV-AIDS transmission through sex between men in recent years, prompting the DOH to undertake a nationwide survey to determine the extent of the problem.
In the past three years, cases of transmission of human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) — which causes the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or AIDS — among men who have unprotected sex with other men have increased, said Dr. Eric Tayag, chief of the DOH’s National Epidemiology Center.

The surge has been marked in the past few months. But Tayag stressed: “It’s not about gays.” The new survey generally intends to find out the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among groups who practice risky behavior such as those who use injected drugs and those who have unprotected sex with multiple partners. But the survey also particularly targets the emerging category of heterosexual men who also have sex with homosexual men.

HIV is transmitted through sex, injected drugs use, infected blood transmission, infected needle prick injuries and pre-natal (mother to child) infection. According to Tayag , confirmed HIV/AIDS cases since 1984, were mostly acquired through unprotected heterosexual sex. “But suddenly in the last three years, the trend shifted. Now it’s from men who have sex with men,” said Tayag.

Tayag differentiated men having sex with men from openly homosexual men who are already relatively targeted by HIV/AIDS campaigns. “The problem is they (men having sex with men or MSM) are a hidden population, they’re not open,” he said, adding that unlike gay men who are known to frequent certain hangouts, straight men who seek sex with other straight men connect through the Internet,” he said. “We’ll test our hypothesis that this (MSM) is becoming a sexual norm,” Tayag said.

The three-month survey is already underway and results are expected to be in by November. “We want to know the prevalence of (infection) among the risk groups. This survey will determine how we’ll do the intervention,” Tayag said. As of July 2009, 432 HIV/AIDS cases have been reported for the year alone. Total reported cases are at 4,021 since the DOH started its national registry in 1984. There have been 318 reported deaths from AIDS since 1984.

The DOH noted a surge in confirmed HIV-positive and AIDS cases in recent months. In July, 70 new cases were reported. This is almost triple the average of 25 confirmed cases per month. The highest number of reported cases was noted last May with 85 cases. Tayag said cases could be expected to go up in the coming years because unsafe sex practices still continued, and at-risk persons have not been undergoing free tests in government hospitals for fear of stigma.

“What we failed to do in the last five years, we’re reaping now. It will stay for the next three years at least. That’s the sad story,” he said. While there is no known cure yet for HIV/AIDS, the disease that destroys the immune systems in the body can be managed and treated with special antiretroviral medications and special care against infection.

13 November 2009 – Political Arena

Comelec rejects petition of Ang Ladlad Party

by Sheila Crisostomo, The Philippine Star
Manila, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday rejected the petition of Ang Ladlad Party, which represents homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgender individuals, to be registered as a sectoral party because of “immorality.”
In an eight-page resolution, Comelec Second Division presiding commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer and commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph said Ang Ladlad’s petition is “dismissible on moral grounds.”

“(The) Petitioner defines Filipino lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community (as) marginalized and under-represented sector that is particularly disadvantaged because of their sexual orientation and gender identity… and proceeded to define sexual orientation as that which refers to a person’s capacity for profound emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different gender, of the same gender or more than one gender,” the resolution said. The commission said the definition of the represented sector “makes it crystal clear that (the) petitioner tolerates immorality which offends religious beliefs.”

The commissioners cited passages from the Bible – Romans 1:26-27 – and the Koran to illustrate their point. Romans 1:26-27 reads: “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature. And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.”

Comelec said the party’s petition also “collides” with Article 694 of the Civil Code which defines nuisance as “any act… that disregards decency or immorality” and Article 1306 which provides that “contracts whose cause object or purpose is contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order or public policy are inexistent and void from the beginning.”

The commission said the petition for registration does not conform to the Catholic faith. “Should this Commission grant the petition, we will be exposing our youth to an environment that does not conform to the teachings of our faith. We are not condemning the LGBT but we cannot compromise the well-being of the greater number of our people, especially the youth,” the resolution said. Ladlad president Danton Remoto condemned the decision “of the very old men” who showed “painfully obsolete ideas about homosexuality.” – With Rainier Allan Ronda, Reinir Padua, Katherine Adraneda

25 November 2009 – Fridae

Philippine LGBTs protest discriminatory ruling against gay political party

by Laurindo Garcia
After weeks of heated debate about the separation of church and state an alliance between various Filipino LGBT organisations and youth groups brought their grievances to the headquarters of the Philippine Commission on Elections (Comelec) Wednesday morning and demanded a recent discriminatory ruling be struck down. Laurindo Garcia reports from Manila. Around 150 Filipino lesbian, gays, bisexuals and transgender people, some clad in t-shirts emblazoned with IMMORAL (pun on "I’m Moral") gathered in the heart of Manila’s historic district of Intramuros and protested a decision which barred an LBGT political party from running in the coming national elections.

On Nov 11, the Philippine Commission on Elections (Comelec) – the statutory guardian of elections within the Philippines – rejected an application from Ang Ladlad, a political party representing the Filipino LGBT community, for political party accreditation. A statement from Comelec the said their decision was made on "moral grounds" because Ang Ladlad advocates "sexual immorality", "immoral doctrines" and poses a threat to youth. Angry voices from protesters on the street urged Comelec to reverse their decision with chants of "gays and lesbians are not immoral" echoing through the cobble-stoned square in which government buildings stand adjacent to some of the oldest church buildings in the Philippines.

In recent weeks Ang Laglad has found some surprising allies with mainstream news outlets reporting that even "macho" mayors and other community leaders support the fledgling party’s political plight. The debate has become an opportunity for clichéd representations of gays and lesbians to surface in political cartoons and satire as commentators struggle to find a way to make a hero out of a less-than-desirable stereotype that has been stigmatised for generations. The struggle for recognition and equality before the law continues with calls for Ang Ladlad leaders to bring their complaint before the Supreme Court. For today, the struggle ended in an appropriately Filipino way, with a song.

In a country renowned for its colourful, celebrity-laden elections, and with campaigning for the Presidential office already underway, the well-being of minority groups like the LGBT community is likely to be a low-priority political football. Yet the symbolism of this battle has not gone unnoticed and all eyes are now focussed on front-running election candidates and their ability in handling such a delicate issue. As the pace of announcements about who is running for Presidency, Senate or Congress increase everyday, the Pinoy (local lingo for Filipino) LGBT community wait impatiently to see who will be their saviour.

January 12, 2010 – ASB CBN News

Supreme Court issues TRO for Ang Ladlad

by Purple S. Romero,
Manila, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday stopped the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from disqualifying the group Ang Ladlad as a contender in the party-list elections. The tribunal issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping Comelec from delisting the controversial group of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders (LGBTs) for the May 2010 elections. The merits of the case, however, have yet to be tackled by the Supreme Court. The High Tribunal would have to decide before January 25, the day when the Comelec is scheduled to print the ballots.

Ang Ladlad elevated the case to the SC after the Comelec, citing moral grounds, disqualified the political party last December 2009. The Comelec en banc stood by the decision of the Second Division, which first disqualified Ang Ladlad in a resolution issued on November 11 last year. In its petition, Ang Ladlad accused the poll body of violating the Constitutional guarantee against using religion as a benchmark for the exercise of one’s political and civil rights. This guarantee emanates from the separation of church and state.

Aside from this, Ang Ladlad said the Comelec’s decision was a clear violation of the country’s obligation under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As a party to the covenant, the Philippines should ensure the protection of the rights of all Filipinos, regardless of sexual preference. Ang Ladlad estimates that around 10% of the 49 million registered voters are LGBTs. Ang Ladlad wants representation in Congress in order to push for the anti-discrimination bill, which would help promote equal rights for LGBTs in society.

April 8, 2010- AP

Philippine Supreme Court allows gay party in polls

by Oliver Teves (AP)
Manila, Philippines — The Philippine Supreme Court overturned a decision Thursday barring a gay rights group from contesting national elections in May and recognized it as a legitimate political party for the first time. In a unanimous ruling, the 15-member court threw out decisions by the Elections Commission denying accreditation to Ang Ladlad (Out of the Closet) on grounds that it tolerates immorality and offends both Christians and Muslims. The justices said the party had complied with all legal requirements, and that there is no law against homosexuality.

"I felt vindicated," said the group’s leader, Danton Remoto, an English professor at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University. He said that Ang Ladlad had struggled for recognition and accreditation for the past seven years.

The Elections Commission caused outrage among gays and liberals in November by saying the group cannot run as a political party because it "tolerates immorality which offends religious beliefs." Three of the commissioners cited passages from the Bible and the Quran to justify their ruling, claiming that Ang Ladlad exposes young people to "an environment that does not conform to the teachings of our faith." Homosexuals are generally accepted in the Philippines and many prominent Filipinos are openly gay, despite the dominant Roman Catholic religion’s rejection of same-sex relations.

The group has received support from Leila de Lima, head of the independent Commission on Human Rights, who denounced the November ruling as "retrogressive" and smacking of "discrimination and prejudice." The group filed a case in January in the Supreme Court, which said that government is neutral and no legal impediment should be imposed on groups on religious grounds.

"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. Ang Ladlad is one of more than 100 parties seeking to win 50 of the 286 seats in House of Representatives allocated for marginalized sectors.

December 19, 2010 – "MSM-Asia Newgroup"

HIV cases rise in Philippines

by Cynthia Balana, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Manila, Philippines—Human immunodeficiency virus prevalence among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgenders in the Philippines and other major Asian cities is rising while the HIV epidemic is stabilizing in many other parts of the world. In the Philippines, the prevalence is as high as 4 percent in some parts of the country, with the MSM population taking more than a 70 percent share of new reported infections, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in the Philippines. The UNDP said the situation may worsen if the affected countries fail to strengthen city-level responses that could lead to a reversal of national progress on HIV.

HIV infection, which is still incurable, is sexually transmitted and can be prevented by using condoms or abstaining from sex with infected persons. The UNDP said that while progress has been made to expand specific programs and funding for these key affected populations, the proportion of urban MSM and transgender persons reached by these interventions remains low.

“We at the UN firmly believe that the key to achieving the MDGs (Millenium Development Goals) is through the localization of responses,” said Renaud Meyer, UNDP country director for the Philippines. “For this, the role of local leaders and local stakeholders in the response to HIV is very crucial,” he stressed. A recent UNDP review showed the coverage of HIV services reported by Asian countries at between nine percent and 20 percent of MSM, way below the targets for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

The UNDP said that progress in addressing the issue continued to be hampered by punitive laws and policies, selective enforcement practices, and the lack of coordination between local health and law enforcement officials. “Restrictive legal environments and selective enforcement practices continue to be significant barriers to effective rights-based responses,” said Clifton Cortez, UNDP HIV practice leader for the Asia-Pacific region.

December 27, 2010 – Asian Correspondent

Philippine rebels welcome gays, gay marriage into ranks

by Edwin Espejo
In a country where divorce and contraceptives are taboo because of the strong religious influence of the church in this predominantly Roman Catholic country, Philippine rebels are taking up the cudgels of people with different sexual preferences.
Communist leader Jorge Madlos, aka Ka Oris, on Sunday said gays are welcome to join the ranks of their rebel force, the New People’s Army (NPA). Madlos, speaking on the 42nd founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines, said they even allow marriage between same sexes and do not discriminate against them.

The NPA set a record in February 2005 by officiating the first ever known same sex marriage in the Philippines. The marriage was between comrades Ka Andres and Ka Jose who exchanged vows in front of comrades, witnesses and select journalists. It was officiated by senior members of the Southern Mindanao Regional Party Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Gay activists in the Philippines led by PRO Gay welcomed the NPA recognition of same sex marriage and challenged the then Arroyo government to pass a law allowing gay marriages.

The bill however did not go beyond the committee levels of Philippine Congress. Ka Andres was reported to have died later from a rat-borne disease some two years ago while his spouse has reportedly left the rebel movement. The NPAs are also reportedly allowing lesbian relationships but shun away from allowing gay couples to serve in the same guerrilla unit as any husbands and wives inside Asia’s oldest existing armed rebel movement. Relationships inside the rebel movement are governed by a set of rules embodied in the rebel document entitled OPRS (On Personal Relationship of Sexes).

Courtship goes through the collectives of each prospective partner and women are allowed to court men. Madlos said they do not discriminate on the sexual preference of their members although promiscuous relationships and sexual opportunism are strictly prohibited and carry disciplinary actions. Marriage inside the rebel movement is usually officiated by a high ranking rebel officer or a senior cadre. Couples swear their love and loyalty to each other with the communist flag as a backdrop. The couple also exchange bullets while they vow to each other. The question of gay marriage was first brought up by a gay reporter last year during the 41st anniversary of the CPP. The gay reporter made a silent fist-pumping “Yes!” remark after hearing a positive answer to his question.