By Miko Morales
The Ladlad party list is making history this year as it marks the first time that they are finally able to launch a full campaign with no opposition for a seat in Philippine Congress and being the only Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender party list on the ballot. However, this begs the question: does Ladlad have enough support to bring change to society and do the members of LGBT community believe that they can do it?
Looking back, it was only in April of 2010 that the Supreme Court voted 12-3 in favor of Ladlad to break/ ground and have the opportunity to run for the 2010 elections which resulted in only about 113,000 votes. “We only had three weeks of campaigning because of the scrutiny done by the Commission on Elections in which we were labeled as ‘immoral and a threat to the youth’,” said transgender Congressional nominee Bemz Benedito about their failed bid in 2010.
Now, Ladlad has had two years to build rapport and gain support for the 2013 elections. “Our goal is to reach that 250,000 vote benchmark. And we keep telling our supporters that we hope to get three seats this 2013 elections,” adds Benedito. . In an interview done for Studio 23’s “IbaBalita”, Benedito estimates that there are “10 million” Filipinos part of the LGBT community and Ladlad members now number up to “50,000.”
With the community at such a large number, young members of the LGBT community voiced out their opinions concerning what Ladlad will be able to do if they succeed in their campaign and the elections. Most believe that Ladlad has a chance to finally end the discrimination.
UP Diliman journalism student, voter and LGBT member Clang Ilagan shows optimism and believes that the success of Ladlad hinges on what they fight for in Congress. She also believes that Ladlad is not alone in their fight for LGBT rights. “Hindi lang sila sa loob ng Congress yung magiging representation ng buong community ng LGBT. Kung mananalo sila, magdedepend pa rin yan kung marerepresent ng tama at may paninindigan yung LGBT community. At sana di sila marepress sa loob ng Congress dahil ganoon na ang nararamdaman ng community.”
Karl Mejia, a UP Diliman Education student, voter and LGBT member also shows optimism for Ladlad’s plans. He says that the LGBT community “will feel more capable of voicing out their needs and rights.” “I think that if Ladlad wins, the perception of our close-minded citizens may be altered which will make equality among “different” genders more feasible,” said Mejia.
However, if history is anything to go by, Ladlad has an uphill climb to their goal. The Anti-discrimination Bill that was supposed to be passed in 2011 has been stalled in Congress because it includes the rights of the LGBT community.
This is the sentiment of another UP Diliman journalism student and LGBT member Jovi Figueroa who is also optimistic about Ladlad if they win a seat. She believes that it will not only be the allies of the LGBT community that will push legislation but the community itself. However, she also believes that one party cannot do much because of the size of Congress.
“Ilang seats lang naman iyon. 2 to 3 seats lang ang makukuha so hindi ako sure kung may magagawa ang Ladlad pero kung meron man, siguro information dissemination and further pagmumulat sa loob ng Kongreso pati na sa mga masa,” Figueroa said. She also adds that it will be more effective for Ladlad to push “information dissemination” outside of Congress “kasi ang makakatulong talaga sa rise ng LGBT ay hindi lang yung mga nasa sa loob kundi yung mga tao na magpupush ng mga rights.”
Of course there will be some members of the LGBT community who are skeptic about Ladlad’s chances of gaining a seat in the elections because of the sheer amount of discrimination against the LGBT community. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has been against the campaign of Ladlad to push for LGBT rights. Also, in the report done by Pauline Hui entitled “LGBT Representation in the works,” the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission reported that there are still numerous hate crimes against the LGBT community in the Philippines in 2012.
This is why University of Sto. Tomas Commerce student, LGBT member and Secretary of the Legislative Board of the College of Commerce and Business Administration and the Vice-Chairman of UST political party Lakas Ng Diwang Tomasino Jessie Abarcar doubts that Ladlad will have success in these elections because for him, Filipinos are not “open minded enough to let reps from this group reach the Congress.”
“But, if ever na may divine intervention na mangyari and merong manalo, that would be good for the LGBT community. Usually kasi ang napapass lang na Laws ay for straight people, like RH is addressed for women’s safety. So as of the moment, walang laws na talagang heavily implemented for the safety of people coming from the LGBT community and maggagrant ng equal work opportunities” Abarcar said.
He also laments the fact that the LGBT community is easily stereotyped. “I’m tired of seeing na majority ng mga bakla ay nasa parlor or nasa comedy bar lang. Kasi pag sinabeng bakla ang usual na iniisip ng tao is funny, therefore, comedy bar,” he adds.
“Gusto ko naman na in the future, marami ring homosexuals ang nagrurule ng corporate world and sa field ng medicine. I’m sure na meron din naman at the moment, and probably they’re keeping it to themselves out of fear of discrimination, and when you’re keeping something like that and you know na you’re actions and thoughts are limited, it affects your performance eh. So when the congress gives way for laws that would cover these issues, clearly it will have a positive effect,” said Abarcar when discussing what the LGBT community should be in the future.
Finally, Abarcar hopes that if ever Ladlad does get a seat, “laws for the LGBT will be pushed” so that “masabi natin talaga na we are living in a democracy, where everyone is free to express themselves without thinking na baka may consequences yan later.”
No one knows what will happen in May or if Ladlad will be successful. But one thing is for sure, the whole LGBT community is backing them and that they are pushing to end the discrimination that has long shadowed them.