Lagman wants repeal of law vs offending religious beliefs
In honor of the late heritage conservationist and activist Carlos Celdran, a lawmaker is seeking the repeal of an “archaic” law against “offending religious beliefs,” on which Celdran was convicted in 2010 for his controversial “Padre Damaso” protest against the Catholic Church’s stand on reproductive health.
Celdran was sentenced to prison for violating Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, on “Offending the Religious Feelings.”
The law 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.”
On Sept. 30, 2010, amid heated debates on what was then the reproductive health bill, Celdran went to Manila Cathedral dressed as national hero Jose Rizal and raised a placard with the name of “Damaso,” in reference to the villainous friar from Rizal’s novel “Noli me tangere.”
He was promptly arrested and charged with violating the religious feelings provision in the Revised Penal Code.
Celdran made his demonstration at the launching of the “Handwritten Bible,” a project of the Philippine Bible Society, which also served as a celebration of the “May They Be One Bible” Campaign being observed among the Catholic Church and other Christian groups.
According to the Archdiocese of Manila, it was the government, through the public prosecutor, that charged Celdran. The archdiocese did not pursue the case on instructions from then Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales.
In 2013, the Manila Regional Trial Court found Celdran guilty and sentenced him to a prison term of not less than two months and 21 days, and not more than one year, one month and 11 days.
Two years later, Celdran asked the Supreme Court to set aside the Court of Appeals’ Dec. 12, 2014, ruling and Aug. 14, 2015, resolution that affirmed his 2013 conviction.
But the high court affirmed last year the conviction of Celdran, who relocated to Spain in February this year and died there on Oct. 8.
“It is now incumbent on the Congress to accord justice and redress to Celdran by repealing Article 133, which is ‘an odious remnant of the Dark Ages’ and ‘offensive to the freedom of expression,’” Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said on Monday.
“It was a clear political statement that unlike Padre Damaso, the Catholic hierarchy must not interfere in secular affairs like preventing the passage of the reproductive health bill even as Protestant bishops did not oppose the measure,” added the lawmaker, who was the principal author of that bill, which became Republic Act No. 10354.
Lagman said Article 133 was “utterly subjective and leaves to the undue discretion of the court to divine the inculpatory element of ‘wounded religious feelings.’” —With a report from Inquirer Research
News handpicked by our editors[forminator_form id="1644364"]
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.