MANILA, Philippines -- Advocates and defenders of the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) rights in the Philippines should be prepared to work harder and to face greater persecution as they gear up to participate in this May?s party-list election.
Mable Elmore, a Canadian provincial legislator, issued this piece of advice to Ang Ladlad, an LGBT group founded by academician and poet Danton Remoto. It has been tentatively included by the Commission Elections in the list of party-list groups eligible to participate in the polls, while questions on its right to join the partylist polls are pending before the Supreme Court.
?The campaign for LGBT rights takes a lot of work and courage. I offer them my support and encouragement,? Elmore told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview on Saturday, a few hours before her flight back to Vancouver, British Columbia.
Elmore is the first Filipino woman to be elected to the British Columbia provincial legislature. She is also second openly lesbian Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in the province.
The MLA said the struggle for LGBT rights in Canada, like in the United States, took decades. Today, gays in Canada enjoy equal rights and have become productive members of society?s mainstream, according to Elmore.
?LGBT groups should be allowed to actively participate in the legislation and help change the general attitude of the people towards homosexuality,? she said.
Elmore was in the country for two weeks meeting local officials and visiting relatives in Cebu City and Tuburuan, Cebu.
Asked about the first-ever automated national elections in the Philippines, Elmore said Filipino citizens in Vancouver have been interested in participating in the democratic exercise via overseas absentee voting.
?It?s important that the voters trust the voting system; that there?s transparency and easy auditing,? she said. In British Columbia, only municipal results are automated, according to Elmore.
Elmore, the daughter of an immigrant Filipino nurse and a Canadian, moved to Canada when she was a child.
She worked as a bus driver for 10 years in the city of Vancouver, where there are many Filipinos. She became an auto-works union organizer, migrant and LGBT rights advocate and peace activist.
In the general elections in May 2009, she won as the MLA candidate of the opposition New Democratic Party of Canada for the Vancouver-Kensington riding (electoral district), which is 75 percent Filipino.
Migrant rights are the priority in Elmore?s legislative agenda is migrant rights. She has been pushing for the right of caregivers and other temporary migrant workers to apply for immediate residency and eventually citizenship in Canada.
Elmore said she opened a community center in Vancouver City where her constituents could meet her. On weekdays she is in capital Victoria, where the British Columbia parliament holds its session.