'Offending religious feelings' case vs Dominican exorcist junked

Rommel F. Lopez - Philstar.com
'Offending religious feelings' case vs Dominican exorcist junked
Fr. Winston Cabading, OP.
Screenshot from UST video via CBCP News

A Quezon City court has junked a case filed by retired Justice Harriet Demetriou against Dominican theologian and exorcist Fr. Winston Cabading for “offending religious feelings”.

Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 224 judge Zita Marie M. Atienza-Fajardo wrote in her decision dated May 7, 2024, that Demetriou failed to provide sufficient evidence that Cabading violated Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code which provides penalties for offending religious feelings and Section 6 of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 which covers crimes defined and penalized under the RPC and "if committed by, through and with the use of information and communications technologies".

"We thank the judge for the decision. Despite the arrest of May last year, I was confident that the truth will eventually prevail, for I have faith in our justice system," Cabading said in an interview with Philstar.com.

In December 2022, Demetriou filed a case against Cabading, whom she calls a “rabid critic” of the Mediatrix of All Grace, for offending her and the faithful's religious feelings when the Dominican expressed his views about devotees of the twice-Vatican-debunked Marian apparition at a Carmelite Monastery of Lipa in 1948.

The former Commission on Elections chair cited a Facebook video that quoted Cabading’s statements against the Lipa apparition and image.

In May 2023, Cabading was arrested on May 13 and granted provisional liberty on May 15 after posting bail.

The court said the personal statements of Cabading were not performed in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony since the statements of Cabading, as alleged by Demetriou, were uploaded, shown, and live-streamed through the Facebook account of Wendell Talibong "Pananampalataya at Katuwiran" which Cabading does not own or manage.

Demetriou's allegations that "a Facebook page dedicated solely on evangelism and propagation of faith" did not make Talibong's program a religious ceremony, the court ruled

"A religious ceremony includes masses, baptism, weddings, funerals, rituals and similar practices which involve prayers, hymns, readings and symbolic actions by the religious or the Church with the Church premises...Religious ceremonies are [also] those religious acts performed outside of a church, such as procession and special prayers for burying dead persons," the decision read.

It said the program is a "mere vlog posted in the Pananampalataya at Katuwiran Facebook account, which is a personal social media account of Bro. Talibong."

The court also did not agree with Demetriou's accusations that Cabading's statements were notoriously offensive to the feelings of the people since the "acts must be directed against religious practice or dogma or ritual for the purpose of ridicule, as mocking or scoffing at or attempting to damage an object of religious veneration."

The video where Cabading made the alleged offensive statement was posted on a Facebook account that the Dominican theologian does not own and he was not the one who "uploaded, shown and livestreamed" it, the decision said.

The “offending religious feelings” case is the first of three cases filed by Demetriou against the priest. The second case, a perjury case filed in a Makati court, was dismissed on Jan. 24, 2024. A third perjury case filed in a Quezon City court is still pending.

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