Carlos Celdran faces prison for allegedly offending Catholic faithful in his ‘Damaso’ stunt in 2010

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.

Carlos Celdran in his 'Damaso' costume

Carlos Celdran in his ‘Damaso’ costume

Padre Dámaso is one of the notorious characters in the novel Noli Me Tangere. The novel was written by José 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. — 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 Christ’s Resurrection brought to us. We are constantly given the chance to return to the Father’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.”

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 “rule of law”. 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 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.]

24 Replies to “Carlos Celdran faces prison for allegedly offending Catholic faithful in his ‘Damaso’ stunt in 2010”

  1. I guess one contributing factor to the Pinoy’s “spectacle” behavior is the exaltation of media (TV, radio and internet) to the point that Pinoys perceive everything in it to be true, or at least representative of a desired lifestyle.

    Personally, I think Celdran should just suck it up and serve his two months. If Lindsey Lohan could do it (several times even), so could he.

  2. It is hard to believe that the Church of Rome is stupid enough to send Carlos Celdran to jail, thereby giving him buckets of free publicity — oh, hang on, these are the people who opposed the RH Bill with slogans that read “No to Safe Sex…” — they ARE that stupid!

    1. I personally have a little bit more respect for the Roman Catholic Church rather than the Philippine Catholic Church. At least Rome is classy; the CBCP is unfortunately stuck in something darker than the Dark Ages.

  3. i just can wander what will happen, if he pulled a similar stunt offending other religious faiths, like INC, Islam and others

    1. Well, it will never be happen inside INC’s church :D, first no priest and his attire is appropiate except no hat allowed inside or remove your cap or hat.

  4. Free Speech is forum-dependent. You have no more right to enter church premises to give your anti-church speech than your neighbor to enter your household to give you free speech. You can be charged for tresspassing in both situations, but the church charged you with the crime with religious tone. But that is a crime under the Revised Penal Code.

    The case of Celdran must not be framed under the free-speech clause because in order to exercise it, you must have your own forum to vent your speech. You can use the public plaza for that. If you want to use a school auditorium, you must ask permission from the school first. If you want to use the pulpit or the church premises, you must ask the permission of the church first. Inside church premises, your speech that is anti-church cannot be tolerated. You were demanding an untramelled speech inside the premises that does not welcome it.

    Put it in another scenario, Congress. Protesters there are allowed their free speech outside the premises. You cannot get inside the session hall and deliver your speech unless you are a member of congress itself.

    The provision of the constitution is clear. “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech.” It is an invocation directed against State actors. The Church is not an agency of the State. It is an independent group operating outside the framework of what the constitution considers state actor.

    Or you cannot go inside the supreme court session hall while it is about to hold an en banc session and criticize the court for its erroneous decision under the wrong notion that you weresimply exercising your free speech.

  5. An other “Pussy-riot” stunt gone wrong!!!
    Good luck in prison, the fags are gonna love you! Oh, and do not forget to write!!! Who, I don’t know but don’t forget anyway!

  6. Catholic church should forgive Mr. Celdran wrong act. Sometimes, human committed mistakes through their emotions that is hard to control. And the church who teaches morals and words of God should be the first to understand weakness of human.

  7. I agree that freedom of speech is not in danger because of this. What is in danger is people’s ideas of what is the right thing to do. “Offending religious feelings” is part of the Penal Code, as stated above. If they have a problem with it, they should call for its re-revision (since it’s already a Revised Code).

    Frankly, I don’t think Celdran’s protest, or others like it, will help move people against perceived abuses by the Catholic Church. I think it serves only to strengthen people’s egos, that if they hate something, all need do is make a tantrum. These tantrums are one too many though. Best thing to do, if one doesn’t like what the Catholic Church is doing, is just to go to another church. I did that.

  8. If you do that in an Islamic country. Celdran’s head would have been cut off…good , it is just a prison sentence. I believe, your religion is your own business. Let us respect each others’ religion…I thought, the Catholic religion preach about “forgiveness”. Now, it wants a “pound of flesh” on Celdran. Vindictive Church…

  9. In confession, you ask for forgiveness because it is God that you have offended, not the priest or the church. Now, the priest gives you penance for your sins as consequence and condition prior to complete forgiveness. He may or may not forgive your sins. In Celdran’s case, he is responsible and accountable for what he did. He broke the law and the court said he must pay for it. Sen.Sotto has right to say what he wants and he plagiarized, and many were angered. So, freedom and responsibility must go hand in hand. Your freedom, your responsibility.

    1. And pinoytards like you are not following simple rules like throwing garbage properly even if it’s a candy wrapper. Once again woman you’re being dominated. Enough with your desperation troll already.

  10. three points to ponder…
    1) mexico, south america and philippines were invaded by spain (under the banner of the vatican) where hundreds of millions of the population were murdered when they were made to choose between the cross and the sword. subsequently, gold, landholdings and possessions were seized as spoils, which enriched the bankrupt economy of spain (so much for the 10 commandments [that the vatican replaced with her 1,000 canonical laws]). wonder no more then that after excising the cultures and languages of these nations, and substituting it with the corruption and vileness of the idolatrous invaders, that… mexicans, south americans and filipinos are remiss with their own identity and do not care about national pride and patriotism
    2) all religions worship graven images. and it is written in the ancient manuscripts aka old testament that they are predestined for perdition, for their unfaithfulness To THE CREATOR, and their mockery Of HIS 4 Divine Laws of the Holy Covenant (aka decalogue) will not go Unpunished. *in which case, what is the big deal of this otherwise idol-worshiping publicity-seeking celdran to lambaste his own church organization that he is still beholden to? and where his self-serving critique is exonerated after his profuse apologies and subservience to boot? and to cite the noli mi tangere even? why, the ignorant fool
    3) jose rizal was born catholic, was under 5 feet in height, and dark-skinned. he was the classic stereotyped brown monkey or pega la tierra (hampas lupa) which earned him derision from the otherwise fair-skinned, straight-nosed, tall spaniards. unknown to many, rizal had an inferiority complex that compelled him to excel, and thus gain entry where the insulares and peninsulares congregated, despite his criticisms of spain. but rizal was not executed for this, rather that after reading the bible, rizal quickly renounced his catholicism. as he stood there waiting to be blindfolded, rizal was asked by the murdering friars to recant, and all would be forgiven. rizal declined. and the rest is a history of disinformation

  11. fantastic publish, very informative. I’m wondering why the opposite specialists of this sector don’t understand this.
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