MANILA, Philippines -- Ang Ladlad, a group of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT), has been disallowed from participating in the party-list elections in May because of its purported failure to prove nationwide membership.
In a three-page ruling issued on Tuesday, the Commission on Elections? second division dismissed Ang Ladlad?s application for accreditation ?for lack of merit.?
The division chaired by Commissioner Florentino Tuason Jr. said that contrary to Ang Ladlad?s claim ?that its membership is national in scope, reports from our field offices reveal that it doesn?t exist in most regions of the country.?
The division cited Section 6 of Republic Act No. 7941 (the Party-List System Act of 1995), which provides that an applicant may be denied accreditation for making an ?untruthful statement? in its petition.
Its other members, Commissioners Rene Sarmiento and Nicodemo Ferrer, also voted to reject Ang Ladlad?s petition.
Ang Ladlad filed its petition for accreditation on Sept. 15, 2006.
Danton Remoto, its president and founder, went to the Comelec office Wednesday afternoon to get a copy of the decision. He said he would confer with the group?s lawyers to discuss their next move, which included the filing of a motion for reconsideration.
Under Comelec rules of procedure, any motion for reconsideration of a division?s ruling must be heard by the commission en banc, meaning all commissioners sitting as one body.
?Where did fees go??
Remoto, a professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, expressed disappointment at the division?s ruling.
?I ask, did they go to the houses of our members to check? We paid the required P3,050 as filing and research fees. Where did these go?? he told reporters.
If the group?s motion for reconsideration is denied, it will take the case all the way to the Supreme Court, he said.
?Let?s be fair and square in the fight and to allow real marginal groups, not relatives of people in the Comelec, to run for public office,? Remoto told reporters.
?If not, we will have a party-list system that will become a refuge of the mediocre and obscure, destroying its true spirit,? he added.
In a message e-mailed to Ang Ladlad members, Remoto said: ?This is the way it is; our hands are clean. We took no bribes and gave none. In the end, [we will be able to participate in the elections] if not in 2007, then in 2010. I know we will be vindicated, and we will win.
?Other party-list groups fabricate their membership [but] in our case, our membership is real.?
Equal rights for LGBT
Ang Ladlad planned to seek seats in the House of Representatives on the platform of equal rights for and end to discrimination of members of the LGBT community.
Concerned that the Comelec was taking a long time to decide on their accreditation to take part in the party-list elections, Ang Ladlad officials had decided to field Remoto in the senatorial race instead.
Remoto filed his certificate of candidacy last Feb. 10 as an independent candidate.
He had begun campaigning to solicit the votes of the members and supporters of the LGBT community.
But he said on Wednesday that he was considering junking his senatorial candidacy for the meantime and instead seek to represent Quezon City?s third district in the House.
Comelec education and information department chief James Arthur Jimenez said Ang Ladlad?s petition was rejected simply because it had failed to comply with all the legal requirements.
?The question of constituency is very important especially if you declare your party or organization as a national party with national membership,? he said.
But Jimenez clarified that in reaching its decision, the Comelec had never doubted Ang Ladlad?s sincerity in pushing the LGBT agenda if elected to Congress.
Ang Ladlad is one of 153 groups that applied to participate for the first time in the party-list elections in May.
Only 37 have so far been accredited by the Comelec. Those not yet accredited were allowed to campaign for the meantime until the agency rules on their petitions.
Two other parties denied accreditation for not being nationwide in scope, as they had claimed in their petitions, were the MARE Foundation Inc. headed by Sen. Luisa ?Loi? Estrada, and the Union of the Masses for Democracy and Justice.
Of the 77 party-list groups able to run in the 2004 elections, the Comelec delisted 33 for failing to win or participate in two previous consecutive elections.
Many of the delisted groups and those who failed to be accredited have filed motions for reconsideration before the Comelec.
The list of incumbent party-list groups and new party-list groups that were accredited may be viewed at the EID website, http://www.bagongbotante.com.