Let LGBT Party Contest Elections

The Philippine elections commission should immediately reverse a decision denying a political party representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Filipinos from taking part in the 2010 elections, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to the chair of the elections commission. Human Rights Watch urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to review this decision when its full bench meets on Thursday, November 26.

On November 11, 2009, the Second Division of Comelec denied Ang Ladladâ??s petition to be registered as a political party on the grounds that it â??tolerates immorality, which offends religious beliefs.â? The unjustified ruling violates rights to participate in public life and protections against discrimination under Philippines and international law, Human Rights Watch said.

â??Comelecâ??s rejection of Ang Ladladâ??s petition on grounds of sexual orientation is an ominous breach of its democratic obligations,â? said Dipika Nath, researcher in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. â??Prejudice and fear should not be permitted to shut people out of the political process.â?

In its letter, Human Rights Watch criticized Comelec for excluding a party representing the LGBT community and labeling it as immoral while allowing Gen. Jovito Palparan, a military officer implicated in extrajudicial killings that were the subject of a government investigation, to represent party-list Bantay.

Leila de Lima, chairperson of the national Commission on Human Rights, has spoken out strongly against Comelecâ??s discriminatory action. Human Rights Watch called on Comelec to reverse its decision before December 1, the final date to qualify for listing in the May 2010 elections.

Ang Ladlad was formed in 2003 as a network for LGBT people and their allies. It has regional chapters throughout the country and a membership of over 22,000 nationwide. The elections body denied Ang Ladladâ??s petition for accreditation in 2007 on the grounds that the organization did not have an adequate national presence.

Comelec’s recent decision did not raise issues specifically related to Ang Ladlad’s activities but denied the petition on religious grounds and unsubstantiated claims that granting the petition would “compromise the well-being of the greater number of our people, especially the youth.â?

The ruling violates basic freedoms and rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Philippines. The Constitution guarantees the separation of church and state, full respect for all Filipinosâ?? human rights, and equal access to opportunities for public service. It also prohibits any â??religious testâ? in determining the exercise of civil and political rights and freedom of expression.

The decision also violates the Philippinesâ?? obligations under international human rights law. Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the Philippines in 1986, guarantees the right to participate in public affairs, including the right to be elected. In its 1994 landmark decision in Toonen v. Australia, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which is charged with interpreting and monitoring states’ compliance with the Covenant, ruled that sexual orientation was included in its anti-discrimination provisions.

â??Comelec should immediately accept Ang Ladladâ??s petition to participate in elections,â? Nath said. â??Its job is to defend public freedoms, not to set itself up as a moral arbiter.â?

By News Wire


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