Carlos Celdran asks SC to reconsider its decision on his ‘Damaso stunt’
Cultural activist Carlos Celdran on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to reconsider its decision affirming a lower court’s ruling that convicted him for offending religious feelings when he pulled off his “Damaso stunt” in 2010 at the Manila Cathedral.
In a 36-page motion for reconsideration, Celdran said he cannot be convicted purely based on the word “Damaso” that he flashed during an ecumenical service in the cathedral in 2010.
Through his lawyer Atty. Marlon Manuel, Celdran explained that the second element of an offense against religious feelings was not present. The second element that he was referring to was that such act must be notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.
“Both Spanish and Philippine jurisprudence teach that ‘Damaso’ cannot be a ‘notoriously offensive act’ directed against any dogma, practice or ritual,” Celdran’s appeal stated.
“If there is anything that the word ‘Damaso’ does criticize, it is the Roman Catholic Church’s interference in state affairs. But again, this is neither a dogma nor a ritual of the said church,” he added.
Under the Revised Penal Code, Article 133 or Offending Religious Feelings what is being punished is a ‘notoriously offensive act’, “not a word, a thought, or an idea.”
Celdran noted that his conviction was based only on what the word “Damaso” means.
“He was not also indicted and convicted for raising a placard. He was simply held liable for the connotations of a word…The cornerstone of the lower court’s decisions is not an act but a word: DAMASO,” said the appeal.
At the same time, Celdran also asked the high court to declare the crime “offending religious feelings” under Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code as unconstitutional.
“The petitioner submits that the crime of ‘offending religious feelings’ contravenes the constitutional mandate to separate State and Religion. The 1987 Constitution mandates that “the separation of Church and State shall be inviolable,” he stated in his appeal.
“Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code is an archaic provision that is anathema to a constitutional, and secular, democracy. It infringes on the freedom of expression as a prior restraint that inhibits individuals from speaking their minds,” it stressed.
Joining Celdran in this call is Solicitor General Jose Calida who filed a separate motion seeking his acquittal.
Calida said under Article 133, “by penalizing acts offensive to religious feelings through vague and overbroad standards, casts a chilling effect on what would otherwise be protected speech and to that extent constitutes a prior content-based restraint on free speech.”
“The assailed provision, thus suffers from heavy presumption of invalidity,” Calida added.
In its ruling, the High Court held that Celdran failed to present evidence to show that the trial courts and the appellate court committed an error in its assailed decision.
The SC further stressed that in a petition for review on certiorari, which was the pleading filed by Celdran in October 2015, questions of fact are no longer revisited, and the “findings of fact made by the trial courts are accorded the highest degree of respect by this Court (SC), especially when the MeTC, the RTC, and the CA have similar findings.”
In his petition filed in October 2015, Celdran asked the SC to decriminalize such criminal offense under Article 133 of RPC by declaring it unconstitutional.
The case stemmed from Celdran’s protest when he dressed as national hero Jose Rizal before the Papal Nuncio, Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, several bishops and other religious and held up a placard with the word “Damaso” – a reference to the villainous friar from Rizal’s novel “Noli Me Tangere.”
In Dec. 2012, the Manila metropolitan trial court Branch 4 found him guilty of violating Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, which penalizes offending religious feelings. The verdict was affirmed by the Manila regional trial court Branch 32 in Aug. 2013 and then by the CA in December last year.
Celdran was sentenced to serve an indeterminate prison term: minimum of two months and 21 days and maximum of one year, one month, and 11 days. /vvp
RELATED STORY: SC upholds Manila court’s guilty verdict for Carlos Celdran
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.