Popular tour guide and activist Carlos Celdran was found guilty of acts deemed “offensive to the feelings of the faithful.” Celdran was arrested for a publicity stunt he performed back on the 30th September 2010 to raise awareness for his advocacy. Dressed in costume that presumably depicted him as Philippine national hero Jose Rizal, Celdran allegedly entered the Manila Cathedral Church and interrupted an on-going Roman Catholic mass by holding up a placard with the name “Damaso” written on it.Padre DÃ¡maso is one of the notorious characters in the novel Noli Me Tangere. The novel was written by JosÃ© Rizal, one of the leaders of the Propaganda Movement in the Philippines. Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not or “Social Cancer”) is a controversial and anticlerical novel that exposed the abuses of the Spanish friars (belonging to the Roman Catholic Church) and the Spanish elite in colonial Philippines during the 19th century.
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Celdran was then charged for offenses relating to Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines:
Art. 133. Offending the religious feelings. â€” 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.
While the law is quite clear with regard to the place where the offense was committed, the basis for measuring the extent or nature of how offensive an act is to the “feelings of the faithful” is left open to interpretation.
Nonetheless, Celdran later formally apologised in an open letter to Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales for his actions. In the letter, Celdran sought forgiveness and called for all to learn to set aside “differences and work towards a better future together.”
[…] I would like to seek peaceful resolution with the Church. I am comforted by the grace of forgiveness and reconciliation that Christâ€™s Resurrection brought to us. We are constantly given the chance to return to the Fatherâ€™s house, to reclaim the state of grace that is always there for us to receive as his children.
However, Celdran later denied that his stunt interrupted a Holy Mass in progress posting on his Facebook account a photo of the Manila Cathedral supposedly taken at the time of the incident and pointing out that there are “posters onstage, no priest by the altar and several layman speakers sitting around.” He added, “This was NOT a mass at all, no?”
A movement to call for the overturning of the court decision is growing from the ranks of human rights activists and advocates of free expression. The principle being made the cornerstone of this movement is “freedom of speech.” One of the first statements released in Celdran’s defense was issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW)…
Human Rights Watch said the decision “is a setback for free speech in the Philippines, which prides itself in being a democracy.”
In a statement signed by Carlos Conde, Asia Researcher of Human Rights Watch, the group said: “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.â€
Filipinos have long been known to pay lip service to the notion of Rule of Law while at the same time consistently failing to uphold this principle in practice…
There is very little evidence that Filipinos are capable of living by the â€œrule of lawâ€. The society is quite extraordinary in the sense that simple rules and regulations whether on the road or in the work place are for the most part ignored. This is because each individual has this baseless sense of being more important than everybody else. It is why you see people cutting you off on highway lanes on the road or pushing their way in lines ahead of the rest in a queue. In other words, Filipinos in general tend to put their own interest first before other people.
Indeed, spectacles often take precedence over intelligent discussion in the Philippines; “[Filipinos] lack the discipline to engage in discussions in a civilized way and lack the discipline to not turn a public forum into a circus.”
[NB: Parts of this article were lifted off the Wikipedia.org article “Father Damaso” and used in accordance with that site’s Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License consistent with the same license applied by Get Real Post to its content.]
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.