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On August 22nd of 2018, the Board of Trustees and officers of Humanist Alliance Philippines, International (HAPI) released an official statement regarding the recent conviction of activist Carlos Celdran for his protest during an ecumenical service at the Minor Basilica and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in 2010.
The official statement reads:
Eight years ago, heritage advocate Carlos Celdran flashed a white board with the word “DAMASO” — the fictional friar from a novel written by freethinker and national hero José Rizal — on it to Manila Cathedral, and shouted “Stop meddling in politics!” Now, the man popular among the less fortunate communities of Manila and the tourists of Intramuros is in the face of being jailed for a maximum of a year, a month and 11 days. He is never a dangerous man; he only expressed his opinion on a national issue.
Humanist Alliance Philippines, International (HAPI) expresses great concern and sadness by the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the conviction of Celdran for allegedly “offending religious feelings”. HAPI has its own share of memories with Celdran at the 2017 Asian Humanist Conference. Filipino and international Humanists alike call for his conviction to be overturned, and the archaic Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines to be repealed in the name of freedom of speech and expression.
A law that dates back to the Spanish colonization era when abusive friars reigned supreme, Article 133 shields religion from criticism. Such a law has no place in a nation where there is full constitutional guarantee to freedom of expression, and where the separation of church and state is protected by the Constitution. The non-establishment clause of the Constitution means that there is no state religion, and prohibits favoring one religion over another or even non-religion. The 2010 incident was not only instrumental to the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill, but it also became a turning point in the whole advocacy as more people became aware of how powerful the church remains more than 100 years since our freedom from conservative Spain.
HAPI agrees with Celdran and the Office of the Solicitor-General that “Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code is unconstitutional.” It is a fundamental constitutional issue. The controversial law reads: “The penalty … shall be imposed upon anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.” Penalizing a speech that protests the clergy’s position against a bill, without a doubt, infringes on the freedom of expression. His case is important as it is precedent-setting. It is Celdran now; tomorrow, it can be any one of us or our loved ones.
The Archdiocese of Manila has said that they have, a long time ago, stopped pursuing the case and has left it to the government in terms of how the case should be handled. The government, through two Solicitor-Generals, has since stated a clear position to acquit Celdran, and to declare Article 133 unconstitutional. If the supposedly aggrieved party in the case has been uninterested and the government has said that Celdran should be declared innocent, the Supreme Court should heed and take a second look.
In a file photo dated September 30, 2010, Carlos Celdran holds a protest at the Manila Cathedral during an ecumenical service attended by church officials. Photo by Edd Gumban of THE PHILIPPINE STAR
On August 15th of 2018, the Supreme Court of the Philippines received a motion for reconsideration from the Office of the Solicitor-General, asking to schedule oral arguments or put the case under deliberation by the En Banc.
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National Events Director
Currently in between careers, he busies himself with anything that works for the good of humanity. Other than being a humanist, he is a realist, an art aficionado, a frugal foodie and a weary wanderer. He looks forward to working in the central government.