The Philippines will be holding its midterm elections next week.
Aside from senators and congressmen, Filipinos will also be voting for party list representatives in Congress. They give voice to certain marginalised sectors. One of the parties is Ang Ladlad, a gay political party.
Armed with leaflets and flyers, members of the Ang Ladlad, or the “Out of the Closet”, a political party for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Filipinos, visited beauty parlours and public markets in the district of Makati.
They explained to all who would listen about the importance of voting for their party.
Bemz Benedito (pictured), congressional nominee from Ang Ladlad, said: “We are fighting for equality; we’re fighting for equal rights. Those laws and protection under the law being enjoyed by heterosexuals should be given to the LGBT Filipinos as well.”
In 2007, the elections commission denied the group accreditation as a party-list group because of insufficient membership.
It was again rejected in 2010, this time, for being quote “immoral”.
The Supreme Court then voted to reverse the commission’s decision, and the group was able to participate in the party list race in 2010. But with only a month left to campaign, Ang Ladlad failed to win a seat in Congress.
Ms Benedito said: “It’s make or break for us. Under the party list system law, two consecutive losses, we will be delisted. So this means we’ll be wiped out, so there will be no political party anymore that caters to the LGBT sector.”
Changing the perception of the country’s voters towards the LGBT community is a tough task, especially with the few resources the party has.
Ang Ladlad is taking it slow and not including the passage of a same-sex marriage bill in their platform.
Ms Benedito said: “We don’t have that in our platform right now, no same-sex marriage. We are patterning our campaign just like in the west, in the US and in Europe. They first had the anti-discrimination bill, so our legislative focus right now is to first file the anti-discrimination bill and to pass it.
“What I might try to test the waters is to file for a domestic partnership bill, because we’re not after the rituals and ceremonies of the church. I think that’s what they are really angry about us: we’re not after the ceremonies. What we want is protection under the law.”
The Ang Ladlad party is among more than a hundred party list groups vying for seats in Congress.
Despite being at the bottom of the recent surveys for party list, the Ang Ladlad party is still hopeful that the Philippine electorate will give them a chance and have LGBT Filipinos finally represented in Congress.