Philippines’ top court suspends judge over homophobic remarks

Basilio Sepe and Luis Liwanag
Philippines’ top court suspends judge over homophobic remarks A Philippine LGBTQ activist holds a sign during a rally celebrating Pride Month near the Malacañang Palace in Manila, June 26, 2020.
Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

The Philippine Supreme Court announced Thursday that it suspended and fined a trial judge who uttered inappropriate remarks in court about the sexual orientation of two gay litigants, and who claimed he had used the Bible to settle more than 100 cases.

The case against Manila Metropolitan Trial Court Judge Jorge Emmanuel Lorredo is considered ground breaking in the Philippines, the only predominantly Catholic nation in Asia. Many people here embrace homosexuality, but some Filipinos remain extremely conservative about the issue.

In an 18-page decision written by Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, the Supreme Court sided with the recommendations of the Judicial Integrity Board (JIB) that found Lorredo “administratively liable for conduct unbecoming of a judge for his homophobic remarks, and for simple misconduct, after he imposed his religious beliefs in the conduct of his judicial functions.”

Plaintiffs Marcelino Espejon and Erickson Cabonita filed the case in 2019 after Lorredo asked them if they were homosexuals and warned them it was a sin, the high court said. 

“God doesn’t like homosexuals, tomboy, lesbians,” the court quoted the judge as telling the litigants in Tagalog, adding the remarks could be considered as “homophobic slurs” which “have no place in our courts of law.”

“Thus, for issuing the inappropriate statements, [the] respondent judge violated the New Code of Judicial Conduct, which imposes on judges the duty to ensure equal treatment of all before the courts and to understand diversity arising from race, sex, religion, age, sexual orientation, and social and economic status, among others,” the high court said in a statement.

Lorredo, who previously was fined and warned for improper remarks over a separate case, was suspended for a month and fined 50,000 pesos (U.S. $894) for misconduct “unbecoming of a judge.”

As “front-liners who serve as the visible representations of the judicial branch at the grassroots level,” judges must avoid not only impropriety but the appearance of impropriety, the justices said.

Calls to the regional court seeking comment from Lorredo were not returned. 

The decision spelled out complaints against him.

“He maintained that as a Christian, he merely tries his best to guide lawyers and litigants who appear before his court to arrive at a settlement with the help of the Bible. He claimed further that he had, so far, settled 101 cases using the Bible,” the decision stated.

“Citing Biblical passages again, Judge Lorredo likewise argued that he merely reminded complainants that God hates homosexuality.

“Worse, according to the JIB, Judge Lorredo admitted using the Bible in deciding cases when he should have insulated himself from his religious beliefs and acted only on the basis of the evidence and the law as shown by records of the case before him,” the court ruled.

The suspension is considered a milestone in the Philippines. While society tolerates homosexuality to an extent, gays here are often marginalized and made fun of.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte, who left office last week after six years in power, had joked about curing himself of homosexuality with the help of a string of women.

He has frequently invoked homosexuality as an insult, using it to describe communist rebels, opposition figures, the Catholic clergy as well as a former United States envoy to the Philippines.

Gay rights group supports decision

Ladlad, a Philippine political group that champions gay rights, supported the ruling.

“I think this is the first case,” that a member of the judiciary was suspended for a gay slur, said novelist Danton Remoto, the organization’s president.

Ladlad “applauds the decision of the Supreme Court to suspend the judge for hurling homophobic slurs,” he told BenarNews from New York where he is working on a novel.

“Such behavior of an officer of the court has no place in the civilized world of the 21st century,” he said.

The last time that the high court sided with Ladlad was in 2010 when it sided with the group and allowed it to seek representation in Congress just five months after the case was brought to its attention.


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Jul 08, 2022 10:37 PM

Sad day for the Filipino Christians and Muslims...we don't like the loud LGBT people, they ruin our peace. We'll fight back,