The Ladlad Party, or the Unfolding Party, is a Philippine LGBT political party campaigning to become the first all LGBT party in the world to be represented in any governing body and is bidding for congressional seats this year.
While there are politicians in other countries who happen to be gay, only in the Philippines have gay people moved to organize their own coalition. Keep in mind that no country in all of Asia is officially LGBT-friendly, and some like Malaysia and Indonesia have laws on the books that blatantly outlaw homosexuality, making the Ladlad Party’s initiatives even more ground breaking.
429Magazine breaks down the current situation in the Philippines regarding the Ladlad party as the country approaches this year’s elections on May 13, and interviews congressional hopefuls Raymond Alikpala and Danton Remoto.
Discrimination against LGBT people is a problem in the Philippines. There are no national laws protecting minority groups in the private or public sphere, but in some provinces, LGBT groups have acted to get their cities to opt in on Anti-Discrimination Ordinances - most recently in the densely populated region outside Manila, the Angeles Region.
In a major victory, under the auspices of the Ladlad Party, the National Philippine Police Force opted to undergo LGBT sensitivity training in February. The Philippines remains a very unique, demographically varied country, with numerous small tribes and villages and a blend of a Catholic majority population with the LGBT inclusive MCC (Metropolitan Community Church). The Battle:
The Ladlad were rejected recognition in 2009 when they fought an uphill battle to be recognized by the Comelec (An Agency of Elections) who rejected their application and refused to recognize the party. Then an appeal process began, resulting in a Supreme Court Ruling, overriding the previous rejection. The first time Ladlad was able to run was in 2010.
However, by the time they were allowed to campaign, the elections were less than a month away, leaving almost no time to organize and put in a real effort to win congressional seats.
Despite the lack of time, the Ladlad Party came within a few thousand votes to win a seat in Congress. Now, in 2013, Ladlad congressional hopefuls have organized and reached out to the community with a real chance to win during this year’s election on May 13.
Speaking on behalf of the Ladlad Party are Congressional hopefuls Raymond Alikpala and Danton Remoto.
429Magazine: How is the campaign going?
Raymond Alikpala: The campaign is going well, with a lot more people pitching in the effort. This is a nationwide campaign, and a small partylist like ours cannot afford the millions needed to reach every remote village. So the campaign has been a modest, person-to-person effort, which I believe will serve us well come election day.
There has been a kind of momentum building up, not as much as we would hope, but sufficient. Some late TV exposures and celebrity endorsements will hopefully bring our campaign to even more people.
429Magazine: What has been your campaigning strategy?
Danton Remoto: Our campaign strategy is focused on campaigning in places where we received many votes in 2010. This is level 1 area. Level 2 areas are the places where we have strong local chapters. Level 3 areas are the rest of the country. The campaign is hard and tiring because we do not have a lot of funds.
I just came back from Bicol where we drove for 13 hours and hung posters and tarpaulins along the way. I also met the mayors and the local press. The response is enthusiastic, since the Bicol vote is an ethnic, regional vote. They will only vote for their sons and daughters, and my roots are found firmly in this region.
429Magazine: What are the main principles of the Ladlad Party?
Remoto: Ang Ladlad or ('the unfurling'; also 'out of the closet') is fighting for equal rights in the workplace and the schools of Philippine LGBTs. This is a human-rights campaign. We are fighting for this because discrimination is rampant in the Philippines, especially outside the urban areas.
Please remember that the mind-set prevalent here is macho and shaped (distorted is more like it) by the sometimes ante-diluvian doctrines of the Catholic Church. The Philippines is the only Catholic country in Asia; the Spaniards colonized (degraded is more like it) for 333 years.
429Magazine: If elected, what will be your first priority to focus upon?
Alikpala: Ladlad has chosen to focus on the issue of anti-discrimination of LGBT persons and hopes to see the passage into law of the Anti-Discrimination Bill. We stand for policies that are considerate and inclusive of all minorities, not just LGBT persons.
We will, of course, focus on the issues and concerns of LGBT persons, particularly during our first term, but we hope to align ourselves with our like-minded party list groups in Congress who are genuinely concerned and fighting for the best interests and rights of the Filipino people, particularly the poor and underprivileged.
429Magazine: What has been the biggest challenge for you guys during the campaign thus far?
Alikpala: The biggest challenge for our campaign has been the lack of financial resources. In Philippine elections today, the key medium is television, which practically reaches the entire population. But the cost of TV ads is astronomical and way beyond the budget of our party list. We had hoped to receive donations from more affluent LGBT persons, but the donations we had hoped for did not materialize.
429Magazine: What are the projected election results?
Remoto: A survey done a month ago showed us outside the winning circle, but the survey's margin of error is plus-minus 3% and most of the party list groups garnered survey results like 2.5%, 1.2%, .05%. So it's a dead heat. Only two party list groups that have been winning since 1998 have the edge over the rest of us newbies and re-electionists.
429Magazine: Any last comments?
Alikpala: This election campaign has been long and difficult for us in Ladlad, particularly the three nominees, who have been shouldering the costs of this national campaign. We gain renewed strength and inspiration from the many LGBT persons in provinces all over the country, who personally tell us how they share our belief that the time has come for LGBT persons to have a voice in Congress.
Despite the survey results, we continue to believe that we are on the verge of making history by electing the first LGBT members of the Philippine Congress. All Filipino LGBTs and our friends and supporters must go out and campaign as hard as we can in this next three weeks, and by the grace of God we shall overcome.
The election will take place on May 13. If the Ladlad Party wins even one seat, Bemz Benedito will become the first transgender congresswoman in all of Asia.