In a file photo dated Sept. 30, 2010, tour guide Carlos Celdran holds a protest at the Manila Cathedral during a mass attended by Catholic Church officials.
Edd Gumban
SC upholds prison term for activist Carlos Celdran
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - August 8, 2018 - 12:00am

For ‘offending religious feelings’

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the conviction of tour guide and cultural activist Carlos Celdran for offending religious feelings by staging a protest at the Manila Cathedral in 2010 against the Catholic Church’s opposition to the Reproductive Health law.

In a ruling promulgated last March 21 but released only yesterday, the High Court dismissed Celdran’s petition seeking to reverse the rulings of the Court of Appeals in 2015 upholding the guilty verdict handed down by the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 32 in 2012.

“We agree with the CA in finding that the acts of petitioner were meant to mock, insult, and ridicule those clergy whose beliefs and principled were diametrically opposed to his own,“ the SC said.

The High Court held that Celdran failed to present evidence to show that the lower courts and the CA erred in their rulings.

“The petitioner failed to sufficiently show any reversible error in the uniform findings of the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC), the RTC and the CA, so we resolve the deny the instant petition,” it explained.

The SC further stressed that in a petition for review, which was the pleading filed by Celdran in October 2015, questions of fact are no longer revisited, and the “findings of fact made by the trial courts are accorded the highest degree of respect by this Court (SC), especially when the MeTC, the RTC and the CA have similar findings.”

In his petition filed in October 2015, Celdran asked the SC to decriminalize the offense under Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) by declaring it unconstitutional.

The case stemmed from Celdran’s protest when he dressed as national hero Jose Rizal before the Papal Nuncio, Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, several bishops and other religious and held up a placard with the word “Damaso” – a reference to the villainous friar from Rizal’s novel “Noli Me Tangere.”

In December 2012, the Manila MeTC Branch 4 found him guilty of violating Article 133 of the RPC, which penalizes offending religious feelings. The verdict was affirmed by the Manila RTC Branch 32 in August 2013 and then by the CA in December last year.

Celdran was sentenced to serve a minimum prison term of two months and 21 days and a maximum term of one year, one month and 11 days.

Article 133 of the RPC, which has been in the books since 1930, punishes anyone who “in a place of worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony, shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.”

Fr. Roy Bellen, who heads the Archdiocese of Manila’s office of communications, said they are leaving it up to the government to deal with the SC ruling. He reiterated that the archdiocese long ago desisted from pursuing the case. – With Evelyn Macairan

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