By Gel Santos Relos
(From Asian Journal)
Carlos Celdran was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the crime of "offending religious feelings," under Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code.
This stemmed from a complaint filed against him by the Catholic Church when he staged a protest inside the Manila Cathedral while an ecumenical service (not a mass, as reported by some) was being held.
Dressed like Jose Rizal, he carried a sign that read “Damaso” and shouted that the Church should stop meddling in Philippine politics. This happened during the heat of the debate on the Reproductive Health Bill.
According to the Revised Penal Code: “Art. 133. Offending religious feelings. — The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.”
Celdran said he would appeal his case, arguing that the court’s decision was in violation of his freedom of speech, which is protected by the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
His supporters likewise said they will file for a petition to free Celdran because he only exercised his right, invoking Section 4 of the Bill Rights: “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”
They will also start a petition for Congress to repeal Article 133, which they say is in violation of the separation of Church and State, invoking Section 5 of the Bill of Rights: “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...”
President Noynoy Aquino expressed sympathy for Celdran and said he hopes the Philippine Catholic priests will emulate the Pope and forgive Celdran, who has already apologized for what he did.
Should a person be imprisoned for “offending religious feelings?"
Here are some of comments from our readers:
"Our constitution is the most powerful law in our country. No Revised Penal Code can nullify its powers." - Critical Thinking Filipinos
"Tama lang ginawa sa kanya, labag na sa batas at pambabastos pa sa simbahan! Freedom of Speech -- doon sya sa labas ng simbahan magsisigaw! Pa-epal sya, kita naman sa actions niya sa camera. He deserves it." - Jun Cj Nofies
"If you changed the names involved, it would sound like you're talking about Middle Eastern countries. This shouldn't happen in any free and un-oppressed country." -- Dr. Edmond Yabut
"Why did he have to offend the Catholic Church in the first place, when our religion in the Philippines is really Catholicism? In the Middle East, there is so much respect for Islam, it is just right to have respect for Catholic faith in the Philippines though there are already some other new religions but still, the Catholic religion dominates the Philippines." - Anna Simpatica Rodriguez Villanueva
"If there is truly the notion of freedom of speech, as well as separation of church and state embodied in the Constitution, then the law in question is probably incompatible. Irresponsible though this person may be, any legal sanction against him should be solely on the basis of trespassing or disturbing the peace, if he refused to leave when asked to." - Karl W. Braun
"Freedom of speech should not be an act of degradation of one person, a group or an institution... freedom itself has boundaries." - Clinton Rey Mirabel
"Article 133 clearly violates Sec. 5 and should be declared as unconstitutional. What if a group of people don't believe in any religion? They would be left unprotected and exposed to offensive ridicule since they don't have any "place devoted to religious worship," or do any kind of "celebration of any religious ceremony!" That violates the Establishment Clause of Sec. 5 as the Phil. gov't would be favoring those with religions over the ones with none." - “Reply”
"If the Catholic Church can stomach and even defend the presence of sexual predators within its ranks, it should certainly be able to forgive and tolerate the occasional activist among its flock." - Tiny Defensor
"I think that CBCP already forgave [Celdran] but he must face the consequence[s] because he not simply offended religious feelings of people but also God, who is truly present in the tabernacle in the Manila Cathedral." - Inaqz Garz
"Mali eh, sana nilagay nya sa lugar ang protesta nya. Hindi yung ang [lumalabas] ay parang gumgawa lang sya ng eksena para mapag-usapan. Nothing is wrong with self-expression, as long as it is done with taste and a little bit of sensitivity. Nagplanking na lang sana sya sa EDSA." - Ray John
"OMG people, what happend to forgiving and having mercy? Isn’t that written in the Bible?"- Jonathan Jason Fabiala
"Sa Islam nga binibitay pa eh. Ganon lang yun. Kung puro kalayaan mo na lang ang gusto mong ipangalandakan sa mundo, maaari sanang makiramdam ka rin na hindi lang ikaw ang tao sa mundo. Matuto kang makisama sa [mga] taong nasa paligid mo at sa karamihan." - Paolo Delos Angeles
"Did Article 133 prevent religious strife in Mindanao? No, because in practice, the Phil. gov't. favors one over the other. That never happens in the US as they practice Sec. 5 to the letter; no need for an Article 133. The Philippines may have Sec. 5 and even an Article 133 to the pot, but in practice favors one over the other that's why there is rebellion in the Mindanao."- R.
"Article 133 is sound. It protects the right of people to practice their religion in peace. Section 5 of the constitution does not give favor to any particular religious establishment, it just says that anyone is free to practice whatever religion and the law protects everyone's right to do so. Nullifying Article 133 would allow the non-religious or even opposing religions to disrespect each other even at their own houses of worship. Many, including myself, admire what he did. But he will lose any respect he has earned by not facing the consequences of his actions." - John Galang