Wednesday, January 13, 2010

High court orders Comelec to include gay party in list

by Rey E. Requejo

Original Story:

THE Supreme Court has stopped the Commission on Elections from denying accreditation to Ang Ladlad, an organization seeking to represent gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders under the party-list system.

A spokesman for the Court, Jose Midas Marquez, said the decision to issue a temporary restraining order on the Comelec effectively allowed the group to stay in the running for party-list elections in May.

“The Court ruled that the petitioner should still be in the list of accredited party-list groups for the time being because, if later on the Court finds that Ang Ladlad should be qualified, it might be more difficult if not impossible to include them in the ballots,” Marquez said.

The group had asked the Supreme Court to reverse the Comelec decision denying it accreditation as a sectoral party on grounds of immorality.

The group, led by Danton Remoto, an associate professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, had accused the Comelec of grave abuse of discretion and violation of the Constitution and international laws through the Nov. 12, 2009 resolution of its Second Division, which was affirmed by the poll body on Dec. 17.

Ang Ladlad argued that the Comelec “made conclusions unsupported by records” when it ruled that the group “goes against teachings of certain religions” and that it “advocates sexual immorality.”

The group was furious at how the Comelec invoked Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code, dealing with the glorification of criminals, violence in shows, obscene publications, and lustful or pornographic exhibitions, to support its determination that Ang Ladlad espoused doctrines contrary to public morals.

“It may not be amiss to say that the principle of ejusdem generis [of the same kind] suffices to declare that homosexuality per se does not fall within the ambit of the penal law,’’ the group said.

“That one’s affections towards people of the same sex easily translate to lust and immorality is obviously a non sequitur.”

Ang Ladlad also told the court that being gay or lesbian was “neither a sin nor a sickness,” and therefore should be respected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty to which the Philippines was a signatory.

“Each state party to the present covenant undertakes to respect and ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights in the present covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status,” the group said.

“Among these rights that must be respected and ensured, without distinction of any kind, are the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives, and the right to vote and be elected at genuine periodic elections.”

In its decision, the Comelec’s Second Division, composed of Commissioners Nicodemo Ferrer, Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph, said that although Ang Ladlad presented the proper documents, it could not be accredited because the group “tolerates immorality which offends religious beliefs.”

On appeal, the commission’s First Division, composed of Commissioners Gregorio Larrazabal, Rene Sarmiento, and Armando Velasco voted to grant Ang Ladlad’s appeal for accreditation.

But Chairman Jose Melo sided with the Second Division to dump Ang Ladlad’s appeal, saying the original decision used “moral parameters and precepts that are generally accepted.”

Though the morals applied were based on religion, Melo said, centuries of Muslim and Christian influences had made them an accepted norm in society.

He also said that the community of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders was not a “special class,” and was therefore not marginalized or under-represented.

“Thus, even if society’s understanding, tolerance, and acceptance... is elevated, there can be no denying that Ang Ladlad constituencies are still males and females, and they will be protected by the same Bill of Rights that applies to all citizens alike who are amply represented also by the males and females who compromise our legislature,” Melo said in his separate opinion.

He said homosexuality was not a protected right under the law.

Since gays enjoyed the same rights as other citizens, Melo said, their representatives could also seek other elective posts as long as they met the requisites for the position.

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