Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Political Ambiguity?

I received a good email question from a Filipino-American asking:  "Where do the political parties in the Philippines stand on LGBT rights and marriage?  It's impossible to find anything out from any of them!"

Welcome to the world of Philippine politics, my friend.  I'm left scratching my head as well.

Trying to get solid answers on issues (especially social issues) is extremely difficult because the parties aren't ideologically strong.  Their platforms or agendas tend to be quite vague and general, if they even list a platform at all.  It's quite strange to me actually -- I don't know how the people are able to make clear-cut decisions on whom to vote for if they can never get any clear-cut stands out of the parties.  Perhaps they merely vote based on the popularity and likability of the individual candidates rather than on the issues.

Philippine House of Representatives
Of the seventeen parties currently holding seats in the Philippine House of Representatives, only one, to the best of my knowledge, officially has gay rights as part of its platform:  Akbayan Citizen's Action Party.  They were actually the party that first filed the anti-discrimination bill back in 1999.  Unfortunately they're also one of the smallest parties, having just two representatives (out of 287) in the current House.

Another party, the Liberal Party of the Philippines (LP), has just one mention of fighting discrimination based on (among other things) sexual orientation, tucked within the long "Social program policy" page of its website.  That's all it says though -- no specifics, no details, no list of bills supported, opposed, or proposed which would aid in the fight against said discrimination.  But that's not uncommon in Philippine politics.  You basically have to guess, because you're more likely to be abducted by aliens than to get a definitive answer from them on LGBT issues (...or divorce, or the reproductive health bill, or abortion...)  But hey, at least they actually mentioned the words "sexual orientation."  That's a lot more than other parties do.  It's a nice first step I suppose.

The LP confuses me fairly thoroughly from top to bottom.  I get the impression that "liberal" in the Philippines doesn't mean quite the same thing as "liberal" in Europe.  By European standards, the LP isn't very liberal at all; it looks and sounds like more of a conservative party -- or a moderate one at best.  I mean, in Norway even our Conservative Party (Høyre) officially supported and voted in favor of same-sex marriage.  Perhaps Filipino liberals define liberalism solely in economic terms?  Who knows.

None of the other parties talk about LGBTs or their rights at all.  It's a non-issue for them.  Considering that the majority of them are social conservatives I suppose that shouldn't be too much of a surprise.  This includes the party with the most seats in Congress, Lakas Kampi CMD, which is a right-wing party based on "Christian and Islamic democracy," whatever on earth that means.  When I think of the things that conservative Christians and conservative Muslims have in common (e.g. standing together in staunch opposition to gay rights, women's reproductive rights, gender equality and feminism), it sends a shiver down my spine.  Reminds me of the middle ages.

I certainly don't mean to over-simplify the issue.  I'm quite sure there are a number of representatives of many parties who are in support of anti-discrimination legislation, and maybe even a handful who are in support of some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples.  If they're there though, they aren't speaking up about it.

As far as same-sex marriage goes, no party in the Philippines will touch that issue with a ten-foot pole.  The bishops' heads would start spinning if that were to happen.  Akbayan and Gabriela are the only parties that even mention being in support of a proposed anti-discrimination bill (aside from Ang Ladlad Party-list which unfortunately holds no seats in Congress).  But civil unions -- let alone marriage equality -- isn't even on the radar for them either, and they're clearly the most progressive party in the legislature.

On a good news note, three homophobes lost during the congressional and senatorial elections in 2010, including congressman Bienvenido Abante of Lakas Kampi CMD. <:-P  Abante was one of the most brain-dead, vigorously anti-gay rights members of the Philippine Congress, who in 2009 filed a bill to preemptively criminalize same-sex marriage (even though it's already not allowed), as well as make it  a crime for two partners of the same sex to even live together.  He's the genius who also wanted to ban the magazine FHM because he thinks it's "porn."  Good riddance, Abante.

But there are other homophobes still wandering the halls of the Philippine Congress, most notably among them Rodolfo G. Biazon of Muntinlupa City.  His son, the equally-homophobic Rozzano Biazon (like father like son), had previously served in the House of Representatives but did not win re-election in 2010.  Several times, including in 2009, the "Biazon boys" filed simultaneous Senate and House bills to outlaw recognition of same-sex marriages performed outside the Philippines, as well as ensure a ban on same-sex partnerships remains firmly intact within the Philippines.

To me what is most surprising about this is that both of the Biazons were and still are members of the Liberal Party.  Yes, the Liberal Party.  This again leads me to believe that "liberal" carries a different meaning in the Philippines.  How can the LP justify that they are, as a party, against discrimination when individual party members are authoring discriminatory bills??  It's so confusing.  What does the LP actually stand for?  If there's no party platform to follow, what's the point of having a party?  Aren't lawmakers answerable to their party leadership for their actions?  I just don't get it.

Then we have Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, of the People's Reform Party.  Santiago kind of reminds me of someone who paints up their face for a Halloween party, with one side smiling and the other side growling.  Here's why:  in 2000 she co-filed the Anti-Discrimination Bill in the Senate, which would have prohibited discrimination in the private and public sector on the basis of sexual orientation.  Bravo to her for that.  That's a good thing, even though the bill didn't pass and still hasn't passed.

Then it gets loopy.  In 2006 she filed the Senate version of the Biazons's "afraid of gay marriage" bill, which would ban recognition of foreign or domestic same-sex unions, including when one of the persons has undergone a complete sex change operation (which actually wouldn't be same-sex marriage but opposite-sex marriage since one partner has effectively changed their biological sex).  Okay...  So she's against discrimination in the public sector, except the most important public sector:  government recognition of relationships.  See what I mean?  One side smiles, the other side growls.

During his 2010 election campaign, President Benigno Aquino said that "Gays shouldn't be discriminated against in terms of occupation and other aspects."  Again, no specifics from him either.  When asked about same-sex marriage he said, "I'm not prepared to support it."  Of course not.  In fairness that's not surprising.  If he would have said anything other than that during his campaign the bishops would have certainly been urging their parishioners to vote against him.  Plus they probably would have threatened him with the big, scary "E" word:  excommunication.  People who respect other peoples' rights are just so threatening you know.  But also in fairness, the president must have forgotten about what he said regarding discrimination against gays because, since having been elected, he's not mentioned the subject again.

Ahh, politicians.

Update:  22 December 2010
Mr. Cabactulan
While there is good news in that the UN has finally adopted a resolution condemning the extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary killing of gays and lesbians, upholding the fundamental right of all persons to live freely regardless of sexual orientation, it is mixed with a dash of shame and disappointment on the part of the Philippine delegate.  The Philippines abstained from voting on the measure, joining traditionally anti-gay countries such as Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Kenya, Mozambique, etc. which did the same.  This abstention is a sad day for the Philippines, and a great shame upon the Philippines' Ambassador to the UN, Libran Nuevas Cabactulan.  If you're a Filipino, I urge you to contact your President ( and your Foreign Affairs Secretary to voice your disgust over this.  If the ambassador serves at the pleasure of the president, the president should appoint a new and better representative of the Philippines to the UN -- an ambassador with enough common sense to realize that killing gay people just because they're gay, is a bad thing.



aC said... Best Blogger Tips

This is a good read! :) I'll tag this in my facebook account :)

Post a Comment

Please be decent and respectful, and please post all comments in English so that everyone can understand. Thanks!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...