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JAILBIRD. In dark suit and hat, RH activist and tourist guide Carlos Celdran looks out at the world from a detention cell at the Manila Police District Station 5 on Friday morning. EDWIN BACASMAS


Celdran released; ‘Damaso’ draws raves in cyberspace

By Jeannette Andrade
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:06:00 10/02/2010

Filed Under: Population, Churches (organisations), Protest, Internet, Family planning, Government, Religions

MANILA, Philippines?Tour guide Carlos Celdran, clapped in jail on Thursday for protesting the Catholic Church?s opposition to the Reproductive Health (RH) bill, was released Friday after posting bail.

But not before an uproar erupted in cyberspace, with a Facebook page calling for his release garnering more than 6,500 supporters as of noon Friday, with comments flooding its wall by the minute.

Celdran himself expressed no regret for his protest action that disrupted an ecumenical service at Manila Cathedral. But he admitted surprise that Church officials went ahead and charged him with ?offending the religious? feelings,? City Prosecutor Ma. Elaine Cerezo having found probable cause for the violation of Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code.

He was released at around 4 p.m. Friday from the Manila Police District (MPD) Station 5 in Ermita after posting a P6,000 bail bond.

Celdran spoke with the Inquirer while he was detained at the holding cell, jokingly describing his protest action as a ?crime of passion.? He had disrupted a Mass attended by Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales and other Church personages by shouting that the Church should not involve itself in politics and hoisting a placard bearing the name ?Damaso,? a reference to the hated Spanish friar in national hero Jose Rizal?s novel ?Noli Me Tangere.?

?I would do it again for the first time if I did not do it before. Hopefully I would not have to do that again and Filipinos will be more vigilant,? he said.

?Fix your own house?

Clad in a yellow shirt printed with the words ?RH Rocks,? Celdran said the Church should not meddle in matters that it purportedly knew nothing about.

?They obviously don?t know anything about sex,? he said. ?They should fix their own house first.?

Celdran said that he had been actively advocating the passage of the RH bill for four years, and that his protest action happened on ?the spur of the moment.?

?I was only planning to hold up the white board outside Manila Cathedral, but it was raining so I went inside. I was so near the altar that I got tempted, so I went ahead with my message. I thought it was only a regular Mass,? he said.

Asked if he would do the same thing again, Celdran laughingly replied: ?I never wear the same clothes twice.

?I have always been very respectful. I still love the Catholic heritage. I am a Catholic but I am very, very disappointed with the Catholic Church.?

Nevertheless, Celdran said, he was surprised that Church officials pursued the case against him.

He told the Inquirer that Msgr. Nestor Cerbo, the rector of Manila Cathedral, talked with him on Thursday night and asked him to sign a promissory note stating that he would never repeat what he had done.

He said he signed the note thinking that the charge would be dropped, but it was not.

?Notoriously offensive??

Celdran was freed after his lawyer Marlon Manuel and members of his family posted bail and Metropolitan Trial Court Executive Judge Sarah Alma Lim signed the order for his release.

Manuel said what had to be proven in court was whether hoisting a placard with ?Damaso? written on it was ?notoriously offensive to the faithful.?

Celdran told reporters: ?I have nothing against them (the Church). I understand where they are coming from.

?I have no animosity against the Catholic Church. But reproductive health is a basic human right.?

Celdran also said he supported the Church in its other advocacies, particularly agrarian reform.

?We are entering the age of secularism. If a trial has to prove it, so be it,? he said.

?How can we progress??

Celdran?s sister Denise told the Inquirer that she was not surprised at what her youngest sibling did.

?He is impulsive and theatrical. It just comes out,? Denise said.

She said that in her brother?s nine years of staying in Intramuros, he was exposed to all forms of poverty: ?There are more children in the depressed areas than adults? How can we progress as a country if it?s like that??

Denise also said her brother had been involved in the distribution of condoms to impoverished families in Intramuros and even spent for the tubal ligation of some of the mothers.

In a picket Friday outside the MPD Station 5 compound, some 10 members of a group calling itself the Filipino Free Thinkers expressed support for Celdran?s stand against continuing Church intervention in state affairs.

Organizer Red Tani told reporters that not all Catholics and not all Filipinos held the same view as the Catholic Bishops? Conference of the Philippines, which had chided President Aquino on his stance that couples should have a free choice on the method to be used for family planning.

Tani also called for the repeal of the ?archaic? Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, saying: ?We are no longer in the dark ages.?

He also said that while his group was not proposing civil disobedience, Celdran?s advocacy should be supported.


At the House of Representatives, Minority Leader Edcel Lagman criticized Celdran?s detention for his protest action.

Lagman, a prime proponent of the RH bill in the House, issued a statement that said in part:

?The criminal complaint of the Archdiocese of Manila, which caused the prolonged detention of RH activist Carlos Celdran in a police cell, smacks of intolerance and unchristian conduct by the Catholic hierarchy.

?It is stretching too far the Church?s opposition to the [RH] bill because the ejection of Celdran from the Manila Cathedral premises was sufficient and his incarceration at the time when prosecutory and judicial offices were closed was unnecessary and unwarranted.?

Lagman, a lawyer, also said the charge of ?offending the religious? feelings? was ?of an archaic and colonial vestige.?

He pointed out that priests opposed to the RH bill?s passage had been using the pulpit to a campaign against it despite the solemnity of a Mass.

The page ?Free Carlos Celdran,? created by Celdran?s friends, condemned ?the antiquated views of the Church? and supports the RH bill.

?Like Martin Luther?

Some of the comments backed the President and his stand on the matter.

The page?s creators likened Celdran to Martin Luther, who spoke out against the Church?s sale of ?indulgences? in the 16th century, and whose writings inspired the Protestant reformation:

?Back then, Martin Luther nailed his protests against the Catholic Church on its door. Now, Carlos brought his protests through more creative means. And with the advent of social media, our collective protests should be heard, loud and clear.

?The silent majority has finally found its courage to speak up against their qualms about the Church, thanks to the boldness of Carlos? actions. Carlos, our friend, we are proud of you and support you all the way. NOBODY has guts like you do. You are shaping history.?

The page drew comments from Facebook users coming from all walks of life?Catholics, Filipino-Americans, foreigners, and even non-supporters of the RH bill.

?Church meddling?

Here is a sampling of the comments:

?Sometimes the Church thinks that the population explosion is still a blessing. It is a blessing, if the government can support its people.? ?Sy Christine

?I?m a devout and practicing Catholic but the Church meddling in government affairs is too much!? ?Rowell Durana

?[RH] bill teaches responsibility and not immorality. Let us start becoming responsible.? ?Emmin Yrl Santos

?This is why there is no progress, our religious leaders still have medieval attitudes.? ?J Nomer Macalalad

?The Philippine Catholic Church ... remains blind to the poverty perpetuated by ignorance, overpopulation and indifference. To condemn measures that address this is criminal, not holy. Free Carlos and in the process, free this country from the dark ages.? ?Angelica Esguerra Pettersson

?The Church can freely express their view regarding family planning. But it?s another thing to [threaten] the government if they do not get what they want. Pardon me, but that?s the way of spoiled brats. Mr. Celdran, thank you for standing up for this. I think you just started something. Good luck to us.? ?Louis Santos

?What Carlos did and how the Church consequently acted forced us to stop being quiet. I agree, the silent majority is no longer silent. The friars? days are numbered. Mabuhay ka Carlos!? ?Mabeth C. Costales-Taplac

?You?ve got guts?

?[I support] Carlos Celdran in his stand against the Catholic Church?s rigid principle on the RH program. The approach employed may be unorthodox, theatrical even, but it clearly demonstrates the sentiments of the majority of Filipinos.? ?Rolisa Meneses

?You?ve got guts, Carlos. The Church is worried about the decline of morality. The President has to deal with babies in garbage bags & the population growing and eating into our natural resources. Why can?t the Church put their efforts into urging people to abstain through education, prayer & counsel? We Catholics cannot possibly decide what?s best for a nation that is not ENTIRELY Catholic. We need to respect that we?re not the only faith here in this country.? ?Claire Seelin-Diokno

?I don?t support the RH bill but I support freedom of speech.? ?Jenavee Valenzuela

?I?m not Filipino but I definitely applaud this man for standing up [to] the self-declared power of the Catholic Church. I hope to see the entire empire collapse around its corrupt feet.? ?William Fink

?Why [doesn?t] the Church excommunicate those priests who sexually abused little boys in school first instead of threatening the President? And what about those priests who have kids? ... Carlos Celdran, the modern day Rizal!? ?Philip Co

?P-NoY should stand by his position for informed reproductive choice! The Catholic Church must realize that access to information is the only issue here. Whether people would use artificial means or not is a testament to how effective (and credible) the Church is to govern its people... Go Carlos Celdran!? ?Jc Valenzuela With a report from Michael Lim Ubac

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