Tuesday, January 29, 2013


The story needs no retelling.

By now, everyone knows of the infamous Damaso protest staged by Carlos Celdran.  And right now, the judge's ruling of conviction against him is equally infamous.

For the crime of "offending religious feelings" as per Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, Carlos Celdran -- tour guide, media personality and activist -- is sentenced to suffer imprisonment of two months and 21 days as minimum, to one year, one month, and 11 days as maximum jail time.

And all for disrupting a mass.

Let's get this out straight away: Carlos is guilty. His stunt was premeditated and thought out. He even had the costume and placard at the ready. But should he be punished and jailed as a criminal? Our antiquated laws says yes, but in my opinion, such a stunt only merits a civil liability to be meted out by paying damages. Never jail time.

And like the libel laws currently in place, the punishment is too much for the "crime" committed. But then again, until early last year, our penal code can have you imprisoned for the crime of vagrancy.

Herein lies our problem: our laws are outdated; medieval, even. And even as we say that we uphold the right to freedom of expression and speech, we have libel and offense to religious feelings listed as crimes and are basically a deterrent to said freedom of expression. This is not to say that the freedom to express is absolute; you should still be civilly accountable for your actions, but no one should be imprisoned for it.

And it stinks of hypocrisy when the government claims to be non-sectarian, and then hold you criminally liable for the offence of religion.

What Carlos did was bold and sensational, and not entirely in good taste -- but he should not be imprisoned for it. After all, the bishops' stunt of going en masse to the Congress Session hall and booing the passing of the RH Bill was equally deplorable and in bad taste, and yet no one was imprisoned for it.


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