First I presented the facts surrounding the Carlos Celdran ‘Damaso’ circus in my previous article. Evidently, facts alone don’t resonate loudly enough in Filipinos’ ears nor get processed effectively within their limited intellectual faculties. So I shall state my opinion about said facts a bit more explicitly here.
Carlos Celdran is entitled to express an opinion under that doctrine of “freedom of speech” his supporters keep invoking. But his right to do so is forum-dependent as commentor “jcc” pointed out…
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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.
In short, your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins. Though in that amusing metaphor and in this case of the Church versus Celdran, limits to said freedom are implied, there is no threat to “freedom of speech” that is proportionate to the loud whining we currently hear from the chattering classes today. True to the emo spirit, some of Celdran’s defenders point out how the “Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines too reserve the right to freedom of speech. They are after all, Filipinos themselves and have the right to speak.” But of course. The difference between our modern-day Damasos and Celdran is that our 21st Century Damasos exercise that right within their own premises (their Churches, their vassal private schools, and their colonial properties), and via their own channels (their own blogs, websites, radio stations, and television programs).
Celdran stepped into the Manila Cathedral and flashed a “Damaso” placard. Nice statement — one I happen to agree with. In fact I recall finding myself nodding my head a bit in bemusement back in 2010 when it broke the news. Indeed, as one Tweetizen asserted, Celdran’s Damaso stunt did a lot to raise the profile of the pro-RH Bill activist voice. I agree with that too.
But that does not change the simple fact that a law was violated in a clearly pre-meditated act. Some of us choose to express our views within the domain of what the Law allows. Celdran chose to do the same outside of it. He once accused moi of troll-like behaviour. Fair enough perhaps. I express myself in ways that annoy people and am as proud of that as any shock-jock is. Celdran did the same when he dressed as Jose Rizal and flashed “Damaso” in the Manila Cathedral in 2010 — proof that troll-like behaviour is not necessarily confined to online activity. The difference between witty trolls like moi and plain emo real-life trolls like Celdran is that witty guys like me do my trolling without violating other peoples’ property rights and impinging on people’s entitlement to practice their religion without unwarranted interruption. My audience comes to me. Celdran’s audience gets their door kicked down.
Whatever service that happened to be transpiring in the Manila Cathedral at the time (whether it was a Holy Mass or some sort of “ecumenical service” ek ek) is not relevant.
The only thing relevant is where the stunt was exhibited.
Celdran is a martyr indeed. He will go to jail to serve the cause for legal artificial contraception in the Philippines. He should do his time with his chin up, because he chose to risk being sentenced to that punishment by knowingly violating the law and then apologising for doing so. When you apologise for an offense, said apology implies a willingness to suffer the consequences associated with said offense. Celdran has two choices: (1) march into prison with dignity or (2) be dragged into the slammer costumed and kicking and screaming like all the other social media attention-junkies out there.
I suggest he goes for Option 1. That way he does a bit of justice to the smug look he flashes while posing in those handcuffs in the numerous publicity photos he’s been tweeting out since 2010.
Freedom of speech is not dead, nor will it die in the aftermath of Celdran’s imprisonment. It will thrive for as long as idiotic stunts are played by emo activists for witty people like moi to write about intelligently. The armchair on which I sit is quite comfy indeed. That’s what being at the top of the ideas food chain is all about.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.