An early declaration from Ang Ladlad | Inquirer Opinion
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An early declaration from Ang Ladlad

“Hindi na ako papayag (I won’t allow it to happen),” declares TV personality Boy Abunda. He’s referring to the loss in last year’s elections of the party-list Ang Ladlad, which sought to represent the LGBT or lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community.

Most observers ascribe Ang Ladlad’s loss to the mere three weeks it was given to campaign, given that it was at first refused accreditation by the Commission on Elections, a decision the party had to fight all the way to the Supreme Court which reversed the poll body’s ruling. Still, despite enjoying less than a month’s time to garner votes, Ang Ladlad managed to get 120,000 votes, not a number to sneeze at, but still short of the estimated 150,000 votes necessary to win a seat in the House.

Which is why Abunda—who, aside from being one of the more recognizable faces on local TV, is also a commercial endorser, spokesperson for many causes and political campaign strategist—has now come out early and in earnest in support of Ang Ladlad. As the “senior party adviser,” Abunda stoutly denies any plans of his own to run as one of the party nominees in the 2013 polls. “If ever I decide to run for office (which he stresses he hasn’t decided yet), I think I would prefer to run for local office, in my home province of Eastern Samar,” says Abunda.

But even if he does run for a local post in Samar, Abunda would have a political lineage to fall back on. His sister is now mayor of their hometown, after having served as vice mayor. His mother, who was a public school teacher for over 40 years, also served as a town councilor, while another uncle had previously been mayor.


And Abunda himself has been instrumental in the election of national officials, having been involved in the campaigns and political organizations of two presidential aspirants and “many” senators. In short, he is no neophyte in politics, and parlays his huge “face value” and credibility among the public to secure electoral victories for his candidates.

Can he work the same magic for Ang Ladlad?

* * *

“We need a lot of time to explain the cause and the party, we need time to educate the public about the issues we espouse, including ancillary issues like social attitudes towards gays, and the role of the Church in shaping these attitudes,” explains Abunda when asked why the “early” exposure for Ang Ladlad.


“We are not just an ordinary party list,” he adds, “we are fighting for causes that just cannot be explained in six months.”

“We don’t look on this as just another electoral campaign,” adds Malu Marin, likewise an adviser to the party. “We’re here for the long term. Our ultimate goal is to change attitudes towards lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals, transgenders and others who are still searching. We plan to mobilize communities and scale-up our membership drive.”


Party chairperson Bemz Benedito says they can count at the moment on some 50,000 members, among whom, she stresses, are “straights” as well as gays. Party literature states that Ang Ladlad is “inclusive, sustainable, and responsive” and that it seeks to “consolidate, empower, strengthen and represent the LGBT community.”

* * *

In fact, says Malu with a smile, “May 10, 2010 served as a coming-out day for many LGBTs.” This was because many who had been hiding in the closet finally found a cause to compel them to come out to their families, friends and neighbors. “Many urged their parents and family members to vote for Ang Ladlad, and when they were asked why, they finally had to explain themselves. And we are so grateful for the support of our families and supporters, many of whom, even if they were not LGBTs, voted for the party as a show of love for us.”

Sadly, that love is not shared by everyone. Priests, religious and bishops, for instance, routinely declare their condemnation for the sin (homosexuality, but especially homosexual sex) but not for the sinner (LGBTs). As one of the guests at the press con wryly declared: “I hope they don’t wish to extend their vows of celibacy to the entire LGBT community.”

But to this Abunda himself, who briefly went to a seminary in his youth, counsels “patience and prayer.” “I think we can continue talking to others, even to those who may be well-meaning but are not aware that they are homophobes, and find some kind of middle ground.” In the end, he says, “I do not believe that our God is a judgmental God. I believe that God created us to be who we are.”

Well, tell that to the Comelec commissioners who rejected Ang Ladlad’s petition based on the admonitions of the Bible and the Koran. It was left to the Supreme Court to remind the commissioners that ours is a secular State, and that religious or spiritual grounds cannot be used to rule on the legality or propriety of any organization seeking a mandate from voters. Perhaps this explains Ang Ladlad’s staunch stance on the separation of Church and State, which, says Marin, “should be reflected in the actuations of the State.”

* * *

Abunda and his fellow Ang Ladlad warriors are right. Theirs is not just an electoral campaign, although they speak freely of their intent to win three seats in the 2013 party-list polls. Theirs is a campaign to change hearts and minds, and erase centuries of bigotry and persecution.

Already on their plate are cases of sexual harassment, on-the-job discrimination and “hate” crimes that local police often dismiss as mere robbery or break-ins. And as Benedito articulates: “Even if we are thankful for the support of other party-list groups which have already filed anti-discrimination bills, we believe that LGBTs can best represent our community and speak of our concerns.”

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In the end, says Abunda, “we stand for a universal struggle, the struggle for human rights.”

TAGS: Boy Abunda, Comelec, discrimination, gay, lesbian, party list, transgender

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