Arguing that Carlos Celdran and “most Filipinos” may have been unaware that Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) existed is like arguing that someone who grabbed lunch money off a scrawny kid in the schoolyard not knowing said scrawny kid had a big stick within reach did not deserve a whack in the head.
Truly ethical (and smart) people donâ€™t decide to not commit a crime on the basis of how severe the punishment is. Regardless of oneâ€™s knowledge of the law, one wouldâ€™ve intuitively known that barging into a Catholic church and waving a placard with the word â€œDamasoâ€ written on it is simply wrong and disrespectful.
At the end of the day the law is the law. As stated in Article 133, â€œarresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposedâ€ for anyone found guilty of this offense. You argue severity of penalty with a judge within that stipulated range. Beyond that range it is an issue you lobby for in Congress to amend the law (or repeal it). So the degree to which you plead does-the-punishment-befit-the-crime? will determine to which branch of government you will need to put in the paperwork. You count on having good judges and good legislators respectively for the system to work. If Philippine society can’t produce good judges and legislators, then you know where the issue lies. All roads lead to that issue.
Perhaps, some would argue, the punishment does not befit the crime. Indeed, the Philippines in this regard could be described as some kind of Asian Russia where petty criminals are supposedly banished to the Gulag. Then again, maybe that’s not the case as the RPC has been described as a law that stood the test of time and has aged like a fine wine. Whichever assertion you subscribe to will not change the Law as it stands. There are procedures through which you need to slog through to change that simple reality. Itâ€™s called democratic governance. Institutions and process protect people from arbitrary or summary rule by individuals. You want the democracy? You got it â€” along with all that red tape.
Carlos Celdran’s Damaso stunt is not a step forward, but a step backward to the tired old heady days of street parliamentarianism and emo politics that were fads at the height of Filipinos’ addiction to extra-procedural and extra-institutional “social change” made romantic by Aquinoist rhetoric. It is quite ironic that those Chicken Littles flapping about inciting ocho-ocho outrage over Celdran’s conviction and making it out to be a “dangerous precedent” that will open a Pandora’s Box of “religious persecution of critics of the Catholic Church” are the very same people who are at the forefront of initiatives to “educate” voters presumably so that they vote for the right people to represent them in Congress.
Let us recall the whole point of voting the right people into Congress: it is to improve our chances of seeing laws that truly represent the common good’s interests getting passed in the future. If Article 133 is summarily deemed to be not a nice law by these “activists”, then the way to get that fixed is through existing procedures within an existing institution.
You can’t go around stomping your feet over being convicted for violating a law that you, right there and then, decide shouldn’t have existed. The law is there whether or not you think it shouldn’t have been. And you broke it.
Deal with it. Like a man.
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