The Philippine elections commission (Comelec) has refused to allow a political party representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Filipinos from taking part in the 2010 elections.

Earlier this month, Comelec denied Ang Ladlad’s petition to be registered as a political party on the grounds that it “tolerates immorality, which offends religious beliefs.”

The unjustified ruling violates rights to participate in public life and protections against discrimination under Philippines and international law, said Human Rights Watch in reaction to the ruling, urging the commission to immediately reverse its decision.

“Comelec’s rejection of Ang Ladlad’s petition on grounds of sexual orientation is an ominous breach of its democratic obligations,” said Dipika Nath, researcher in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “Prejudice and fear should not be permitted to shut people out of the political process.”

In a letter, Human Rights Watch criticised Comelec for excluding the party and labelling it as immoral while allowing General Jovito Palparan, a military officer implicated in extrajudicial killings that were the subject of a government investigation, to represent party-list Bantay.

“Comelec should immediately accept Ang Ladlad’s petition to participate in elections,” Nath said. “Its job is to defend public freedoms, not to set itself up as a moral arbiter.”

Ang Ladlad was formed in 2003 as a network for LGBT people and their allies. It has regional chapters throughout the country and a membership of over 22,000 nationwide.

In 2007, the elections body denied Ang Ladlad’s petition for accreditation on the grounds that the organisation did not have an adequate national presence.

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