Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

Philippines: Treatment of homosexuals and state protection available (2000-2005)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Ottawa
Publication Date 15 September 2005
Citation / Document Symbol PHL100477.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Philippines: Treatment of homosexuals and state protection available (2000-2005), 15 September 2005, PHL100477.E, available at: [accessed 28 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Gay rights activists state that in Southeast Asia, the Philippines "has blazed the trail" in creating greater acceptance of and freedom for sexual minorities since the mid 1990s (IPS 18 Jan. 2002). According to the co-editor of an anthology of gay literature, the Philippines "has among the most progressive attitudes toward and among homosexuals" (Philippine Daily Inquirer 21 June 2003). The executive director of the Philippine section of Amnesty International reported that during the 1980s and the 1990s, gays have begun to find public life "'more conducive'" (IPS 18 Jan. 2002). The first Gay Pride march in Asia took place in the Philippines in 1994 (ibid.), and today Gay Pride month is used as a forum for communicating key issues of concern to the gay community, including empowerment and social acceptance (Philippine Daily Inquirer 21 June 2003). Since approximately the beginning of the new millennium, gay rights activists in the Philippines have lobbied for the legalization of same-sex unions and the rights of "homosexual-led families" (ibid.). Agence France-Presse reported that "[w]hile a huge section of [Philippine] society remains conservative, open homosexual behavior is increasingly tolerated by the younger western-oriented generation" (AFP 21 Apr. 2005).

However, a 2004 Reuters report points out that "[w]hile homosexuality is accepted as an element in entertainment and comedy on popular television shows, true tolerance is hard to come by" in the Philippines (11 Oct. 2004), where over 80 per cent of the population is Catholic (BBC 20 Apr. 2005; GLBTQ n.d.; see also Reuters 11 Oct. 2004), and a "paternalistic, often macho culture" presides (ibid.). According to a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) article, most Filipinos largely agreed with the late Pope John Paul II's stand against homosexual marriage (20 Apr. 2005), and the Roman Catholic Church is, according to the Reuters report, "the single greatest barrier to acceptance of homosexuality" (11 Oct. 2004). According to gay rights groups, about 10 per cent of the 84 million who live in the Philippines are homosexual and are "frowned upon by the influential Roman Catholic Church" (DPA 7 Feb. 2005; see also Philippine Daily Inquirer 21 June 2003). Stereotypes of the "flamboyant" homosexual (bakla in Tagalog) who works as an actor, a hairdresser or a fashion designer predominate (Reuters 11 Oct. 2004).

There is greater tolerance of homosexuality in the large cities than in the rural areas, where the economic base is mostly agricultural and family ties are strong (Reuters 11 Oct. 2004). The president of the Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (Progay) remarked in a Reuters article that "'[w]hen the family unit is strong in rural areas, it is very hard for an average Filipino gay to assert an identity'" (ibid.).

Homosexual activity is not considered to be criminal under Philippine law, but engaging in homosexual acts in public places can lead to charges of "grave scandal" under the Revised Penal Code (ILGA 31 July 2000; see also GLBTQ n.d.).

While in Southeast Asia generally the instance of hate crimes or public harassment committed against homosexuals is low compared to regions such as Latin America (IPS 18 Jan. 2002), social intolerance of and discrimination against homosexuals exist in the Philippines (Philippine Daily Inquirer 21 June 2003; Reuters 11 Oct. 2004). Abuse within the family is often directed at children who reveal their homosexuality (IPS 18 Jan. 2002; Philippine Daily Inquirer 21 June 2003). Girls, in particular, are pressured into abandoning their homosexuality, and some parents have resorted to having their daughters raped (IPS 18 Jan. 2002). Other forms of intolerance towards homosexuality in the Philippines include discrimination in the workplace (ibid.; Manila Times 4 Mar. 2004).

The Lesbian and Gay Legislative Advocacy Network Philippines (Lagablab) has argued that some companies will not hire "effeminate" male applicants or will ask pointed questions about marital status during a job interview to determine applicants' sexual preference (Manila Times 4 Mar. 2004). Lagablab also claims that many co-educational private schools prohibit homosexual behaviour and refuse admittance to students who are perceived to be gay (ibid.). However, spokespersons at the Bureau of Working Conditions at the Department of Labour and Employment and at the Personnel Management Association of the Philippines denied that discrimination against gay employees always took place and stated that most employers look at job qualifications and not sexual preference when hiring (ibid.). Nevertheless, at a news conference the newly appointed national police chief contradicted earlier statements welcoming homosexuals into the police force when he discouraged homosexuals from becoming police officers (Manila Times 23 Aug. 2004). In reacting to the police chief's statements, a spokesperson for Progay noted that homosexuals are hesitant to join the police force for fear of discrimination and can enter the force only by not revealing their sexual orientation (ibid.).

While same-sex marriages are not allowed in the Philippines (AP 11 June 2004), in February 2005 rebels of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) held the first gay wedding in the country (AFP 8 Feb. 2005; DPA 7 Feb. 2005). A spokesperson for the party, whose New People's Army has been fighting an insurgency campaign for over 30 years (AFP 8 Feb. 2005), told a news agency that though the movement has allowed homosexual members to live together since 1992, some discrimination against gay members in the party continues (DPA 7 Feb. 2005). Military officials argued that the wedding was simply a publicity stunt to encourage homosexuals to join the New People's Army (AFP 8 Feb. 2005). Homosexuals are forbidden from joining the Philippine military (GLBTQ n.d.).

In 2002, the Justice Department issued a legal opinion stating that because the Philippine constitution and the Family Code do not recognize same-sex marriages, a family immigration visa could not be granted to the same-sex spouse of a foreign national working in the Philippines (AP 21 Nov. 2002). The foreign national had married her spouse in the United States, but the Justice Department ruled that "the legality of the couple's marriage abroad does not invalidate Philippine law" (ibid.).

Reports on the treatment of homosexuals by police were scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. In 2003, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) reported that police in Quezon City raided a theatre frequented by gay patrons and subjected the latter to "physical and verbal abuse as well as extortion attempts" (IGLHRC 15 Mar. 2003). Sixty-three of the men were detained "for verification" purposes and five were arrested (ibid). The police were allegedly acting on a tip from a television news reporter, and scenes of the raid were filmed by television crews (ibid.). In Mindanao, one publication reported that among a group of young suspects who were detained by police in connection with a store bombing, 18-year-old Jejhon Macalinsal claims he was being questioned on a daily basis and harassed by police because he is gay (Minda News 12 May 2002). The police denied the allegations (ibid.).

A house bill that outlaws sexual orientation-based discrimination in the workplace, the public service, and educational, police and military establishments was approved by the Philippine Congress in early 2004 (IGLHRC 26 Jan. 2004). However, by June 2004, as Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted in a letter to the Philippine president, the anti-discrimination legislation had been "shelved by the Senate" (HRW 8 June 2004), which must approve all bills before they can become law (IGLHRC 26 Jan. 2004). Further information on state protection available to homosexuals could not be found among the sources consulted within time constraints.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France-Presse (AFP). 21 April 2005. "Philippines Homosexuals Fear 'Repression' under Pope Benedict." (Dialog)
_____. 8 February 2005. "Group Tells Philippines to Follow Communist Rebels and Allow Gay Unions." (Dialog)

Associated Press (AP). 11 June 2004. "Rights Group Criticizes Philippines for Threatening to Ban Gay TV Shows." (Dialog)
_____. 21 November 2002. "Philippines: No Family Visa for Same-Sex Spouses of Foreigners." (NEXIS)

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 20 April 2005. Sarah Toms. "Philippines Rejoices at New Pope." [Accessed 9 Sept. 2005]

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA). 7 February 2005. "Communist Rebels Hold First Same-Sex Wedding in Philippines." (Dialog)

GLBTQ. N.d. Ruth M. Pettis. "The Philippines." [Accessed 8 Sept. 2005]

Human Rights Watch. 8 June 2004. Scott Long. "HRW Letter to Philippines President on Censorship and Anti-Discrimination Bill." [Accessed 12 Sept. 2005]

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). 26 January 2005. "Update: Philippine Congress Approves Anti-Discrimination Bill." [Accessed 8 Sept. 2005]
_____. 15 March 2003. "The Philippines: Condemn Police Brutality in Theatre Raid; Protest Unethical Journalism." [Accessed 8 Sept. 2005]

Inter Press Service (IPS). 18 January 2002. Marwaan Macan-Markar. "South-East Asia: Sexual Minorities Find Greater Acceptance." (NEXIS)

International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). 31 July 2000. World Legal Survey. [Accessed 8 Sept. 2005]

The Manila Times. 23 August 2004. Darwin G. Amojelar. "Gay Group Says Discrimination Still Strong in the Workplace." [Accessed 8 Aug. 2005]
_____. 4 March 2004. Darwin G. Amojelar. "Gay Group Says Discrimination Still Strong in the Workplace." [Accessed 8 Sept. 2004]
_____. 30 June 2002. Dulce Arguelles and Darwin Amojelar. "Religious, Economic Biases Haunt Pinoy Gay Community." [Accessed 8 Sept. 2005]

Minda News [Davao City]. 12 May 2002. Vol. I No. 2. Carlos H. Conde. "Gay Suspect Decries Sexual Harassment by Police." [Accessed 8 Sept. 2005]

Philippine Daily Inquirer [Makati City]. 21 June 2003. Sonny Zablan and Doy Roque. "Coming Out with Pride." (Factiva)

Reuters. 11 October 2004. Noor Zaidi. "Filipino Gays Battle Stereotypes, Traditional Ideas." (Factiva)

Additional Sources Consulted

One oral source did not provide information within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International, Asia Times Online, Manila Standard, Philippine Headline News Online, Progay, United States Department of State.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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