MANILA –The group Ang Ladlad has found an ally with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in its ongoing row with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
The CHR on Sunday released a statement in support of Ang Ladlad, whose petition with the Comelec to be included in the list of party-list groups accredited to run for the 2010 national elections was denied. The would-be party-list said it represents lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders. (LGBT)
Comelec’s second division denied the group’s petition on grounds of "immorality."
CHR said however that the poll body's decision "smacks of prejudice and discrimination."
"Homosexuality is not a counterculture. It is part of the diversity of Philippine culture. Homosexuals are part of the Filipino family and unavoidably must be part of our politics," CHR chair Leila De Lima was quoted in the statement as saying.
"There is no governmental policy which characterizes homosexuality as illegal nor immoral," De Lima said.
"There is or can be no basis in law to deny the registration of the party, directly or indirectly, on the grounds of homosexuality, much less on homosexuality equated to immorality. To make assertions based on their homosexuality is patently discriminatory," she said.
The statement highlighted as its basis the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it said both focus on the equality of all peoples.
"These two instruments are looked upon and provide the principle and standards that must be demonstrated by the COMELEC in its mandate under the Constitution, the Omnibus Election Code and the Party List Law," the CHR said.
"The UDHR and ICCPR also prescribe the normative direction that States must practice in line with the rights laid out in the instruments. The norm of non-discrimination of persons running for elections is at issue in this instance," the CHR added.
'Retrogressive way of thinking'
The CHR chair explained that Ang Ladlad is discriminated against in their right to participate as an organization in the party list elections, thereby violating the right against discrimination and their right to be voted for.
"We do not think that Ang Ladlad seeks accreditation to promote immorality in the country, but to give a voice to a marginalized sector to push for further protection of their rights. It is a fact that gays are often objects of discrimination through ridicule, contempt and various forms of violence, just as this decision clearly illustrates," De Lima remarked.
"[The] COMELEC has exhibited, at the very least, a retrogressive, not progressive, way of thinking. Our views on homosexuality must be in accordance with progressive human rights thought. In an age of growing, rather than receding, tolerance and promotion of human rights, this Decision appears to be a misplaced edifice of arcane views on homosexuality,” she added.
'Clear breach of secular-religious divide'
De Lima also said that the Comelec's choice of basis for its argument on immorality was a "clear breach of the secular-religious divide" enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.
"Citing both Christian and Islamic doctrines [as the basis to justify the Decision] are certainly beyond the scope of authorities which the COMELEC may employ in resolving the petition," De Lima said.
The CHR chairperson also explained that the reference to Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code as the only statutory ground to support the finding of immorality begs the question: is there in fact a secular, governmental policy against homosexuality?
"And if this test were to be rightfully applied for ANG LADLAD, shouldn’t this be equally applied to each and every candidate running for public office?” De Lima added.
"The CHR will support the ANG LADLAD Party’s plea for reconsideration most probably through a Motion for Intervention so that we can formally present our own views, insights and position on the issue as a premier national human rights institution in the country. The rights of LGBTs are a human rights issue," she added.