I’ve got issues with performance artist Carlos Celdran, but I’ll be one of the first in the Get Real community to set those aside and support the call for our legislators to undertake a thorough review of the Revised Penal Code in order to keep it in step with the times.
In his status update, Celdran says, “My statement: It saddens me to hear this decision upholding my conviction for “Offending Religious Feelings”. I’m sad not only for my case in particular, but for the Philippines as well. This conviction is just a symptom of a larger disease. There is a bigger picture of corruption and patronage in the Philippine justice system. We need to address these issues if ever we are to move forward as a people. This case will now be elevated to the Supreme Court to question the law itself and hopefully have Article 133 removed from the Penal Code altogether. This archaic law which which suppresses freedom of speech has no place in modern Philippine society. The timing of this decision couldn’t be more poignant as well.”
I think religious organizations, such as the Catholic Church in the Philippines, have to be more tolerant towards people like Celdran and others who commit acts that may be deemed offensive but still lie within the bounds of one’s right to freedom of expression.
In my view, what Celdran did should be treated as a civil case and not a criminal one. I may have a simple notion about this because my thinking is that disagreements over matters of religion and of faith should be settled between citizens.
The God I choose to believe in can’t be harmed by words on a placard or even a throng of non-believers shouting insults at Him. And, while such things can challenge my faith, I also recognize that my faith is an issue between me and my God — not between me and my fellow human beings.
Then again, there is one comment in Celdran’s Facebook post that bears emphasizing here.
Jose Roco Art. 133 is not archaic and does not unreasonably suppress freedom of speech. It actually promotes freedom of religion — a fundamental right enjoyed by all civilized societies. Freedom of speech is not absolute. If the exercise of free speech offends other fundamental rights (e.g. freedom of religion), exercise thereof can be curtailed.
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Nikolai Pascasio “Laws against blasphemy or “religious insult” (found throughout the world, including half of all Council of Europe member states) are inherently discriminatory against secularists and religious dissenters. They are discriminatory in that secularists have no legal recourse—nor should they—when the words of believers offend their moral sensibilities, nor can gays take the publishers of Leviticus to court for the spiritual affront to them that it surely is. Skeptics and heterodox believers, on the other hand, do have an Article 18 right to live and speak according to their conscience even when it offends the orthodox.
Paragraph 32 of the new comment also cautions states against employing a narrow notion of so-called public morals to restrict speech, effectively ruling out laws that defer to a particular faith tradition: “the concept of morals derives from many social, philosophical and religious traditions; consequently, limitations… for the purpose of protecting morals must be based on principles not deriving exclusively from a single tradition.”
-UN Resolution on the Right to Blasphemy
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Jose Roco Be that as it may, international law tells us that UN resolutions are merely recommendatory and not binding.
In any case, the point of Art. 133 is simple. Walang basagan ng trip. No matter what religious denomination you belong to, you are free to exercise your beliefs provided that it does prejudice anyone. You are also entitled to be protected against acts that would impinge on the free exercise of your beliefs.
You can exercise freedom of speech almost everywhere. But please disabuse your minds that you can say whatever the hell you want in recognized religious spaces (e.g. churches, mosques, temples, etc.)
All things considered, I think Celdran is actually lucky that Filipinos are actually quite tolerant — albeit, sometimes, in a passive aggressive sort of way.
In other places around the world and in the Philippines, Celdran’s act of carrying a whiteboard with words that offended priests and church goers during a gathering inside a church, would have been met with violent reactions.
Just imagine Celdran carrying a sign that said, “Pork is good eating!” inside a mosque?
And the thing is, behavior that is considered disrespectful by followers of one religion or another sometimes results in tragic killings.
Masked gunmen armed with AK-47s and shouting “Allahu Akbar” stormed the offices of a French satirical news magazine Wednesday in a terror attack that left 12 people dead, including the editor and two police officers.
The suspects shot dead one of the officers on the street as they fled — escaping first in a black Citroen that they abandoned after a crash, and then in a sedan they carjacked from a bystander.
There was no verified claim of responsibility or motive for the ambush, but the target, a weekly publication called Charlie Hebdo, has published cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad and was firebombed three years ago.
Prosecutors said two gunmen wearing balaclavas arrived at the building in a black Citroen C3 and killed a maintenance worker on the way in before heading to the third-floor editorial offices of the magazine. There, they shot dead eight journalists, a guest and a police officer who had been assigned to protect workers.
“Hey! We avenged the Prophet Muhammad! We killed Charlie Hebdo,” one of the men shouted in French, according to one video shot from a nearby building and broadcast on French TV.In another video, shouts of “Allahu Akbar” — or “God is great” — can be heard as the shootings took place. The Associated Press reported that the gunmen spoke flawless, unaccented French.
All in all, I guess Celdran going to jail in the Philippines for offending religious feelings is nothing compared to what happened to those people killed in Paris.
If at all, Celdran can actually see it as a big plus for his career as a performance artist as he grabs the limelight once again and actually gets immortalized in a Supreme Court decision, if ever his case merits the SC’s attention.
Moreover, Celdran might also use his time in jail to minister to all the inmates there about the benefits of using condoms and maybe even convert the whole lot of them to his “free thinking” philosophy.
Just think of that!
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