Students of the premier University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, have elected Heart Diņo as chairperson of the university student council (USC). Diņo is a trans woman and this is being hailed as an important show of tolerance in a country where acceptance for LGBT rights is an ongoing struggle.
In elections concluded Thursday night, Heart Diņo bested three other candidates, including independent candidate Martin Loon of the UP College of Law and Amancio Melad III of the militant Stand UP coalition.
Danton Remoto, chairman of the national Ang Ladlad party called Diņo’s election a “historic moment” and a victory that “opens doors for the LGBT community into the political sphere.”
“We applaud the UP constituency for voting Heart Diņo,” he told the Inquirer in an interview.
“The party also lauds the election of Alex Castro, a bisexual woman, as vice chair of the UP Diliman USC,” said Remoto, adding “Ladlad hopes that this is the start of a new diversity that will emerge in mainstream politics.”
Another openly transgender student, film major Pat Bringas, also won a council seat.
Over 11,300 students cast their votes. Diņo (Alyansa) got 3,290 votes; Loon (independent) got 2,743; Melad (Stand UP), 2,218; and Shaina Santiago (Kaisa), 1,900.
Diņo recently completed a bachelor of science degree in mathematics, magna cum laude, and is currently an Applied Mathematics major. She has previously served as the councilor and gender committee head of the USC, and was the councilor for the UP College of Science Student Council from 2010 to 2011.
Diņo is quoted as saying she is happy at the news, adding: “It was a close fight. But even when we were just campaigning, I already conditioned myself that even if I win or lose, I should be happy. The opportunity given to me to run in the USC elections is enough reason for me to be happy.”
The Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines is quoted as saying: “While we are aware that much more still needs to be done towards the equality of men and women in the Philippines, the candidacy of Heart is a testament to the progress that has been gained in the struggle for sexual rights in our country.”