Celdran found guilty in ‘Damaso’

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NO THEATRICAL SCENE Tour guide Carlos Celdran is put behind bars in this file photo taken in 2010 when he was arrested for his “Damaso” act. INQUIRER PHOTO

It was the kind of court decision that—for some—could only please Padre Damaso.

A Manila court on Monday found tour guide Carlos Celdran guilty of offending religious feelings when, dressed like Jose Rizal, he stood in front of the main altar of Manila Cathedral during an ecumenical service, shouted and raised a placard with the word “Damaso” on it.

In an eight-page decision, Metropolitan Trial Court Judge Juan Bermejo Jr. sentenced Celdran to a minimum of two months and maximum of one year in prison for violating Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code.

Celdran was protesting against the Church’s opposition to the reproductive health (RH) bill then pending in Congress. The measure was passed into law last year.

Damaso is a hated character in Jose Rizal’s novel “Noli Me Tangere,” which depicts the abuses of  friars in the years of Spanish rule.

Judge Bermejo cited a law which penalizes “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.”

An act is considered offensive to a religion when it is “directed against religious practice or dogma or ritual for the purpose of ridicule, as mocking or scoffing at or attempting to damage an object of religious veneration.”

‘Still flexing muscles’

Celdran, who was in court with his wife Leny to hear the verdict, said his legal team was preparing to appeal the decision, adding  it set a “bad precedent” and that he was ready to take his fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

“The time of Damaso is not yet over,” Celdran told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in Filipino. “As a matter of fact, Damaso is flexing his muscles to get back [into the picture].”

Also a theater artist and a painter, Cedran has been known to use his celebrity status to take on social issues.

“I am afraid for the Filipino people because this is a precedent that, when you question the Catholic institution, they can bring you to court and put you in jail,” Celdran, who is out on bail, said. “I am lucky that I have legal support but what about other Filipinos who don’t?”

Stay away from politics

Celdran said he was not surprised by the court’s decision and that he suspected it was payback for his vocal stance against the Church position on the RH measure.

Bermejo also cited a 1939 Supreme Court decision stating that the determination of an act’s offensiveness was “a question of fact which must be judged only according to the feelings of the Catholics and not those of other faithful ones.”

Prosecution witnesses testified that at 3 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2010, inside the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Celdran interrupted an ecumenical prayer when he went near the altar and flashed the “Damaso” placard.

Dressed like Rizal, he shouted that the Church “should stop getting involved” in politics.

The incident occurred during the second anniversary of  the “May They Be One Bible Campaign” and the launch of the “Handwritten Bible,” a project of the Philippine Bible Society (PBS), with a two-part program—the ecumenical prayer and the Holy Mass.

The occasion was attended by then Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, the papal nuncio, other bishops, PBS members, and military and police officers, witnesses said.

Fr. Oscar Alunday, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission for Biblical Apostolate (Ecba), said the incident was “insulting, aggrieving, and an intrusion of the holy liturgical worship.”

Witness Angelito Cacal, a staff of Ecba, said he was “surprised, offended and angry since he did not expect such incident will happen considering that it was a solemn celebration.”

“The positive declaration of the witnesses for the prosecution and the circumstances surrounding the incident are sufficient to satisfy the quantum of evidence needed for a criminal conviction,” the court decision said.

‘Damaso still strong’

Celdran said the verdict would not slow him down because he believed  the decision violated freedom of speech, human rights and the separation of Church and State.

“There was a case in the 1950s but it was never taken to trial because that law was never taken seriously. Now, in the age of technology, of the mobile phone, Damaso is still strong,” he said.

Celdran, who has apologized to the Archdiocese of Manila,  said the Church leaders had forgiven him in the name of the Lord but not on the earthly realm.

“As far as they are concerned, I can go to heaven, but I have to go to jail first,” Celdran said.

Msgr. Nestro Cerbo, rector of Manila Cathedral, declined to comment on Celdran’s conviction.

“I am not authorized to give a statement. I might get sanctioned. Please take pity on me,” Cerbo told reporters. He directed the media to the Archdiocese of Manila’s communications office for an official comment.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch said: “This is a setback for free speech in the Philippines, which prides itself on being a democracy. This verdict should be reversed. Nobody should be jailed for voicing out an opinion or position, especially on a subject that concerns the lives of millions of Filipino women and mothers.” With reports from Jocelyn R. Uy, Leila B. Salaverria and Inquirer Research

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Tags: Carlos Celdran , Catholic Church , Government , Judiciary , Legislation , Religion , RH bill , RH law , Social Issues

  • bogli_anakdami

    in flipland, if you shout inside a church = kalaboso

    if you kill ‘sang tambaks na flip gung gongs in broad daylight = goodtime dito sa kanilang mansions/resorts

    kapag ninakaw ang pondo ng bayan = ‘bakwet sa ‘merka, tambay doon sa vegas…

    hay naku, flips, puro mga gung gongs…

    • barok

      are you referring to the entire Filipino race when you say “flips”? in ‘merka when you curse a certain race or minority it is racism…

      • bogli_anakdami

        there are african-americans and n!ggers; there are whites and honkies/trailer-trash; there are latinos and wetbacks, etchastera, etc…

        u get my drift?

  • AntiAko

    Sad day, indeed, for democracy… all in the name of zeal… tsk, tsk, seems like our priests have not learned the virtues of love and forgiveness which our Lord has showed and taught.

    • Vincent Tuason

      mercy also requires justice. otherwise, wala ng silbi ang korte.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_X7ZXAWDLJZ4YDF2BTYTFXBNNEU ISCA

    “I am afraid for the Filipino people because this is a precedent that,
    when you question the Catholic institution, they can bring you to court
    and put you in jail….”

    We can question the Catholic Institution any day we want but there are better ways and  places to do that. I may not agree with the Church in their position regarding family planning but a little respect is needed everytime.

    The Church has forgiven him. But as we always say, we can forgive but not forget. The Law says he still has to answer for his deeds. Freedom of Speech doesn’t mean you can disrespect someone anytime.

    • bogli_anakdami

      celdran committed a cardinal sin (ooopsie cardinal sin, ‘wag akong multuhin ha?)..  in flipland, shouting inside a church is a heinous crime… worst than murder and thievery…

      dapat ipako sa krus si celdran sa biyernes santo… total eh malapit na naman ang mahal na araw, di ba?

      mga flip gung gongs, ano bang araw ang biyernes santo???

      • $20722540

        ikaw ay flip na flip at gung gong!

      • bogli_anakdami

        pogi naman, di ba?

      • $20722540

        yeh pogi with flat nose at gung gong pa

    • duviz7533

      we can show our opposition sa issue pero right place in the righ time…medyo grandstanding na din ang ungoy na ito or pakawala ng manufacturer ng mga condoms and contraceptives…bakit hindi niya hamonin si sila enrile at sotto..di ko din gusto ang position ng catholic church pero di ako magwawala sa loob ng simbahan

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CRBW2RJR4WNWVIDZVSCLFQK4KQ Spike

    Wow and  to think the current president is the son of the so called champion of democracy

    • Marx Louis Wang

      I-ispiking kita diyan, e! Bakit ang presidente ang sisisihin mo? Hindi naman siya ang gumawa ng law na ito?

  • $20722540

    hey celdran, go home and plant kamote

    • bogli_anakdami

      not too fast…

      kailangan eh may bendisyon ni kaksaker padre dumbasso yung kamote before planting, di ba?…

      para maganda ang talbos… ymmmy, talbos ng kamote at bagoong…

  • Marx Louis Wang

    Ang ginawa ni Celdran ay expression of his freedom of speech. 

    • barok

      ang ginawa naman ng mga kinauukulan ay rule of law…a church is a house of God just like your house is home to your family…kung ganun din kaya gawin a bahay mo, matutuwa ka ba?

  • http://enria.org/ scconcern

    Being convicted and imprison because of ones belief and ideals is honorable, unlike our goverment officials and friar who cheat and steal from the people.

  • bogli_anakdami

    dito sa flipland, pwedeng gawin ang lahat ng krimen…pumatay, kumabits, magnakaws, mag-squat, at saka jay walking… libre, walang kaso…

    pero, kapag binatikos si padre dumbasso, kalaboso ka…

    dat’s a no no, di ba, mga kabayang flip gung gongs? 

  • Albert Einstien

    impliedly repealed na yan provision ng 1932 RPC art 133 ng 1987 constitution HINDI lang ininvoke ng lawyer nya…pwede pa i-invoke yan sa appeal…issue of jurisdiction din yan….

    celdran’s lawyer should have INVOKED religious belief…what he has done inside the church is a RELIGIOUS BELIEF…under the 1987 constitution art 3 Section 5. NO LAW shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or PROHIBITING the FREE EXERCISE thereof. The FREE EXERCISE and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, WITHOUT DISCRIMINATION or preference, shall FOREVER BE ALLOWED …

    celdran is just exposing the misdeeds of some men of god to GOD himself…NAGSUSUMBONG lang cya sa GOD….religious exercise yan..

    • Jane Tan

      True. Even though I doubt that was what he was really doing. But, it wouldn’t help. Article 133 of the RPC will still apply. There is no acknowledged religion which practices such actions.

  • John_Galt_II

    This judge should be jailed for offending my non religious beliefs!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FKE56ZWNI2XKEVVLZQGRWG7WBI BURADOR—Phil. Voice

    CELDRAN knew the PROBLEM of Philippine society and it is OVER POPULATION—–And CELDRAN KNEW who is to BLAME on this PROBLEM—-the Catholic of the Philippines—————-CELDRAN was JUST EXERCISING his FREEDOM of SPEACH to PROTEST on the DAMASSOS——–and therefore NOT CRIMINAL——
    ——————–REALEASE HIM ————

    • barok

      Pasalamat pa rin sya kasi he is in a free country, eh kung sa Russia kaya nya gawin yun. Parang pag sinabi mo kasing freedom of speech eh pwede mong gawin ang gusto kahit nakakasakit ka na ng kapwa at damdamin, I think it should come with respect.

  • duviz7533

    I don’t agree sa stand ng catholic church pero we should not cross the line..mga senators na pro life kuno ang pagbubulwayan niya sana

  • Mamang Pulis

    kapag bumabanat si bishop arguelles—-ok lang

    hindi–hindi pambabastos yun…. ginagawa nun matanda prayle…ay..

    na ngangaral sa mga naliligaw na tupa…

    si celdran—?? medyo na carried away 

    di kaya paihelera na nagangaral din si celdran?

    o nga pala–malakas pala si obispo kay gad…de met sheet

  • Ronald

    Wag kasi OA at KSP, ang luwag luwag sa labas e manggugulo ka sa nagmimisa. Jail time will do you good.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/VS5EYSP4FPOTVQCJZ24NRE6Z2M Edgardo Mendoza


  • Vertumnus

    Should have been a misdemeanor charges.  The Church holds too much power over the people of the Philippines.

    “directed against religious practice or dogma or ritual for the purpose of ridicule, as mocking or scoffing at or attempting to damage an object of religious veneration.”

    Since when did we venerate a snake of a priest like Damaso? The only mistake Celdran made was interrupting the mass, maybe trespassing.   But then again, that was the only way to get attention and TV exposure over the cause of the RH bill.   There’s room for appeal on this case.  Hopefully Celdran wins.  He doesn’t really need to serve more time in jail.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/VS5EYSP4FPOTVQCJZ24NRE6Z2M Edgardo Mendoza


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