Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May 2016, 08:56 GMT

Philippines: Treatment of homosexuals by society and government authorities; recourse and protection available to homosexuals who have been subject to ill-treatment

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 17 March 2010
Citation / Document Symbol PHL103368.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Philippines: Treatment of homosexuals by society and government authorities; recourse and protection available to homosexuals who have been subject to ill-treatment, 17 March 2010, PHL103368.E, available at: [accessed 26 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.

There are no laws criminalizing homosexual acts in the Philippines (Outrage Dec. 2009; Philippine Daily Inquirer 2 Aug. 2009; Philippines 14 Nov. 2009). A bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was filed with Congress in 1999 (IGLHRC 8 Aug. 2008) or 2000 (Fridae 8 Dec. 2008; Philippine Daily Inquirer 6 Dec. 2008). However, as of 2008 the law has not been enacted (IGLHRC 8 Aug. 2008; Fridae 8 Dec. 2008; Philippine Daily Inquirer 6 Dec. 2008). According to an article published by ABS-CBN News, a network of gay rights and non-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) groups known as Project Equality has protested this fact and is advocating for the legislation to be passed (4 Dec. 2008).

The same source quotes a Project Equality spokesperson as stating the group is planning to advocate to local governments in the Philippines to protect the rights of gays and lesbians (ABS-CBN News 4 Dec. 2008). The spokesperson states that Quezon City had passed an ordinance that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation with respect to employment (ibid.).

Ang Ladlad, a national organization working for non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, filed to become an accredited political party in order to run in the 2010 election (Human Rights Watch 23 Nov. 2009; Philippines 14 Nov. 2009; Philippines 11 Nov. 2009). This accreditation was denied by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) on the grounds that the Ang Ladlad advocates "immoral doctrines" (ibid.; Philippines 14 Nov. 2009). In a statement issued on 14 November 2009, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in the Philippines described COMELEC's decision as being "patently discriminatory." Its Chairperson is quoted as saying "the rights of LGBTs are a human rights issue" (ibid.).

Ang Ladlad filed to have COMELECs decision appealed by the Supreme Court (Manila Standard Today 13 Jan. 2010; ABS-CBN News 12 Jan. 2010; Philippine Daily Inquirer 13 Jan. 2010). The court issued a temporary restraining order that allows Ang Ladlad to stay on the list of accredited party-list groups until such time as the court could rule on the case (ibid.; Manila Standard Today 13 Jan. 2010; ABS-CBN News 12 Jan. 2010).

Social attitudes

The Philippines was among the first countries in the Asia-Pacific region in which groups for gays and lesbians were formally created (Outrage Dec. 2009). According to an article published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, these groups began as social groups but became politically active in the 1990s (2 Aug. 2009).

The first gay pride parade in Asia was held in the Philippines in 1994, and such parades have continued since then (Outrage Dec. 2009; Utopia n.d.; Fridae 8 June 2009). In an article published on Fridae, a Hong-Kong based website focused on "empowering gay Asia" (n.d.), a Filipino gay activist states that politicians in the Philippines provide support for pride marches, albeit "grudgingly" and on the condition of anonymity (Fridae 8 June 2009). He also states that politicians have, until recently, been "scared" of the pride parade and almost never march in it (ibid.). Fridae also reports that the pride parade was subject to public dissent for the first time in 2008 when protestors, reportedly led by foreigners, held up anti-gay and lesbian placards during the march (8 Dec. 2008).

In 2009, the Philippines ended a ban on gay men and lesbians serving in the military (365 Gay 3 Mar. 2009). The same year, a military official was quoted in an article as saying that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) "welcome[s]" gay men and lesbians (ABS-CBN News 8 Mar. 2009). The official who appeared on a morning show "Umagang Kay Ganda" is reported to have said that the military does not discriminate against gay and lesbians, and that gay and lesbian soldiers will have the same assignments as other soldiers (ibid.).

With respect to the police force, in an article published in The Philippine Star, the head of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations for Northern Luzon is reported as saying:

We do not discriminate whether one is a gay or a lesbian if one wants to enter the police force with the foremost aim of serving and protecting the citizenry. (20 Apr. 2009)

However, the Lesbian, Gay, Legislative Advocacy Network (LAGABLAB), reports that police use the anti-vagrancy and anti-public scandal law to "harass, physically abuse and/or extort from gay men" (Akbayan 28 Oct. 2008). The same source indicates that police may raid bars and ask for bribes in order for charges to be dismissed (ibid.). In addition, anti-kidnapping laws are "regularly" used to "break apart" lesbian relationships between consenting adults based on the logic that one of the women must have been kidnapped (ibid.).

Sources report that gay men and lesbians are subject to discrimination (Philippine Daily Inquirer 2 Aug. 2009; Philippines 14 Nov. 2009; Akbayan 28 Oct. 2008). In a 2 August 2009 article, a Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist states gay men and lesbians sometimes experience violence, including rape and violence perpetrated by male family members. Similarly, the Chairperson of the CHR states that gay men and lesbians are discriminated against and are the subject of ridicule and "various forms of violence" (Philippines14 Nov. 2009). Akbayan, a political party that introduced the anti-discrimination bill in Congress, indicates that gay men and lesbians experience discrimination in schools and in the workplace (28 Oct. 2008).

In the article published in Fridae, a gay rights activist is quoted as saying that homosexuality:

is tolerated as part of the social structure, as long as that hidden part knows its place in society; working in salons, prettifying the wives of politicians or campaigning for political bosses at elections. Filipino politicians, and that includes church politicians, are known to be patronizing about what gays say but they won't be caught saying bad things, preferring to say that gays are part of society but that gay sex is sinful, and yes, gays pay their taxes but they better not have sinful sex. (Fridae 8 June 2009)

Similarly, an opinion piece on the rights of gay men and lesbians published in the online magazine Outrage states that the approach of Philippine society is to tolerate gay men and lesbians without fundamentally accepting them (Dec. 2009). Outrage is a Filipino magazine that "aims to be the complete sourcebook for everyone queer" (Outrage n.d.).


In an article published on 6 December 2008 in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Chairperson of the Philippines Human Rights Commission (CHR) is quoted as saying she would work to promote the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people. She is also quoted as saying that anyone experiencing discrimination or human rights abuses on the basis of sexual orientation should report it to the CHR "for investigation and other appropriate action" (Philippine Daily Inquirer 6 Dec. 2008).

Various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are also involved in working for gay rights (R-Rights 10 Nov. 2009; Outrage Jan. 2010; ABS-CBN News 4 Dec. 2008). Project Equality is a network comprising more than 20 NGOs advocating for legislation to protect gay men and lesbians from discrimination (ibid.). Rainbow Rights Project comprises "a group of lesbian and gay lawyers and legal activists" who encourage discussion about gay rights, work to ensure gay men and lesbians understand their rights, and provide legal assistance to those who experience discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (R-Rights 10 Nov. 2009; Outrage Jan. 2010).

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 sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


365 Gay. 3 March 2009. Jennifer Vanasco. "Philippines Ends Ban on Gays in Military." [Accessed 2 Feb. 2010]

ABS-CBN News. 12 January 2010. Purple S. Romero. "Supreme Court Issues TRO for Ang Ladlad." [Accessed 1 Feb. 2010]

_____. 8 March 2009. Abraham Baladad. "Wage 'all-out war' vs Discrimination, LGBT Group Urges AFP." [Accessed 13 Dec. 2009]

_____. 4 December 2008. Trina Lagura. "Pinoy Homosexuals Unite to Fight Discrimination." [Accessed 20 Jan. 2010]

Akbayan. 28 October 2008. "Anti-Discrimination Bill (HB 956)." <<> [Accessed 18 Jan. 2010]

Fridae. 8 June 2009. Justin Ellis. "The First Gay Pride March in Asia." [Accessed 13 Jan. 2010]

_____. 8 December 2008. Laurindo Garcia. "Manila Beams with Pride, Despite Debut of Anti-Gay Protestors." [Accessed 13 Jan. 2010]

_____. N.d. "About Fridae." [Accessed 19 Jan. 2010]

Human Rights Watch. 23 November 2009. "Letter to Honorable Jose A.R. Melo Chairperson of Commission on Elections." [Accessed 19 Jan. 2010]

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). 8 August 2008. "Philippines: Religious Opposition Stalls Progressive Legislation." [Accessed 11 Jan. 2010]

Manila Standard Today. 13 January 2010. Rey E. Requejo. "High Court Orders Comelec to Include Gay Party in List." <<> [Accessed 15 Jan. 2010]

Outrage. January 2010. Mikee dela Cruz. "Rights to Rights." [Accessed 1 Feb. 2010]

_____. December 2009. M.D. dela Cruz Tan. "GLBTQIA Filipinos Unite! Call to Action for Filipino GLBTQIAs." [Accessed 11 Jan. 2010]

_____. N.d. "About Outrage." [Accessed 20 Jan. 2010]

Philippines. Philippines. 14 November 2009. Commission on Human Rights (CHR). "CHR on COMELEC Rebuff of Ang Ladlad Party-list: Homosexuality does not Equate to Immorality." [Accessed 20 Jan. 2010]

_____. 11 November 2009. Commission on Elections (COMELEC). In the Matter of the Petition for Registration of Ang Ladlad LGBT Party for the Party-List System of Representation in the House of Representatives. [Accessed 20 Jan. 2010]

Philippine Daily Inquirer. 13 January 2010. Norman Bordadora. "SC Restraining Order Makes Ladlad Feel Gay." [Accessed 1 Feb. 2010]

_____. 2 August 2009. Michael Tan. "Gay Pride and Prejudice." [Accessed 11 Jan. 2010]

_____. 6 December 2008. "CHR Vows to Promote Gay, Lesbian Rights." [Accessed 11 Jan. 2010]

The Philippine Star. 20 April 2009. Charlie Lagasca. "PNP Still Open to Gay Applicants." [Accessed 11 Jan. 2010]

Rainbow Rights Project. 10 November 2009. "About Rainbow Rights Project." [Accessed 1 Feb. 2010]

Utopia. N.d. "Travel & Resources: Philippines." [Accessed 13 Jan. 2010]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: The Advocate; Ang Ladlad; Amnesty International (AI),, Autostraddle, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Diva, GlobalGayz, Pro-Gay, Lesbian, Gay, Legislative Advocacy Network (LAGABLAB), Philippines — Supreme Court.

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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