How to make LGBT vote count: The gay discourse in Philippine politics

Tomorrow, the country will mark its next presidential elections. Throughout the campaign, there is no denying that LGBT rights have become an issue – if not a central one – in scrutinizing a candidate.

Here are a few moments throughout the 90-day campaign that prove that even in the Philippines, the LGBT vote matter.

  1. Social media backlash against Manny Pacquiao over homophobic remark

 

Pacquiao same sex marriage

Senatorial candidate Manny Pacquiao received backlash on social media when he made a hate remark about gay marriage, comparing the LGBT sector as worse off (“mas masahol”) than animals.

His comments about gay marriage caused Pacquiao a blow on his survey ratings at the time – in the Pulse Asia survey conducted Feb. 15 to 20, his place went down from 11th to 14th place, shedding 12.1 points, according to an Inquirer.net report.

But Pacquiao, who recently scored  a win against boxer Timothy Bradley, later shot up in the survey ratings. According to the latest Social Weather Stations survey conducted April 18 to 20, Pacquiao ranked at third place with 37 percent, assuring him a slot in the Senate “Magic 12,” this report said.

But already, some LGBT groups are calling for zero votes against the Bible-preaching Pacquiao, who had an unremarkable stint in Congress as the frequently absent Sarangani representative.

2. Same-sex marriage a topic in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) vice presidential debates

Perhaps the more compelling reason that the idea of same-sex marriage is penetrating the consciousness of the conservative Filipino society is the fact that this issue was included in the Comelec-sponsored vice presidential debates.

In the debate organized by CNN Philippines, the vice presidential candidates were asked about their opinion on same sex marriage in the “Yes or No” segment of the debate.

All the vice president bets raised a thumbs down sign, even administration bet Leni Robredo, who once said she supports civil unions for LGBT couples, as shown in this CNN Philippines report.

But the fact that it was included as a topic in a mainstream debate proves that the idea is slowly entering the Filipino consciousness.

3. Eric Habijan, a gay councilor bet in Marikina

Habijan
Photo from Eric Habijan’s Facebook account (www.facebook.com/erickhabijan)

Eric Habijan is an openly gay candidate for councilor in the city of Marikina in the Metro Manila capital.

He gained a social media following with his political advertisement online that bravely expressed pride of being a gay candidate.

“Bagong pulitika, bonggang Marikina,” his ad said.

“Bata at may talino. Bago at handang matuto. Bakla at totoo,” it added.

Besides the usual promises of better health services and free tuition, Habijan vowed to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance in Marikina.

“Masisigurong ang bawat LGBT ay magkakaroon ng pantay na oportunidad sa pag-aaral, trabaho, paraan ng pamumuhay, at karapatang pantao,” he said in his ad.

Habijan also vowed to make Marikina a “fashion capital” with its booming shoe industry.

It may be the first time a candidate actually made his gender preference a central identity in his candidacy.

4.Bataan congressional candidate Geraldine Roman

Geraldine Roman
Geraldine Roman with her father the late Bataan congressman Antonino Roman and mother incumbent Rep. Herminia Roman. Photo from Geraldine Roman’s Facebook account (facebook.com/geraldine.roman.90)

For the first time, a transgender candidate is vying a congressional district in Bataan.

But she is no ordinary transgender – Geraldine Roman happens to be the daughter of a political scion in Bataan. She is seeking to run in her mother’s stead Bataan Rep. Herminia Roman, who is serving her last term.

A  member of the ruling Liberal Party, Roman said she would like to continue the legacy of quality service started by her family in Bataan.

Roman said if elected, she would fight for the passage of an anti-discrimination bill in Congress, and also vowed to make changing gender legal, according to an Inquirer.net report.

The candidate knows how to speak three European languages, holds two master’s degrees, and worked as an editor in a news agency in Spain. She also underwent sex reassignment survey and legally changed her name and gender in the 1990s. Roman had been in a relationship with a man in the past 18 years.

Roman said her entry to Congress would send a statement that even transgenders have the capability to serve.

“That somebody of my condition is going to enter Congress for the first time is a statement that even transgender people can serve our country and should not be discriminated against,” Roman was quoted in the report.

***

These are just a few of instances in the campaign that prove that the voice of the LGBT has a place in Philippine politics. Make the LGBT vote count.

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