Should Carlos Celdran Be Punished or Not?

Article excerpt

In September 30, 2010, tour guide and reproductive health activist Carlos Celdran surprised a number of churchgoers at the Manila Cathedral by showing up in the middle of an inter-faith gathering dressed as Jose Rizal, carrying a placard with the name "Damaso", referring to Padre Damaso in Rizal's novels "Noli Me Tangere" and "El Filibusterismo" who symbolized corruption and abuse in the Church.

Celdran was protesting the Catholic Church's position on the controversial bill, which is now a law.

Two years after making this brave and bold stand, Celdran is now convicted of the crime of "offending religious feelings'', which is punishable under Article 133, Section 4 of the Philippine Revised Penal Code. Manila City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 4 Judge Juan Bermejo sentenced him to a prison term of a minimum of two months to a maximum of 13 months and 11 days.

The conviction sparked outrage from many netizens who cried out for his freedom because he was merely exercising his freedom of expression. Others said he deserved his fate, arguing that he disrespected a certain proceeding under the law and should have aired his protest at a proper time and place.

The Manila Bulletin Students and Campuses Section asked students for their reactions on the issue. In their eyes, does Celdran deserve the punishment or not? Here's what they have to say.

"No. What he did was quite scandalous but putting someone in jail for a year for offending 'religious feelings' is just absurd. We're not going back to the dark ages. Kung gusto nila mag sampa ng mga kaso na ganyan at napoprotektahan sila ng batas, siguro oras na para buwisan ang simbahan." -Judel Arugay, third year, Journalism, Polytechnic University of the Philippines

"The law says he is bound for imprisonment for violating Article 133 of our Revised Penal Code. But the issue is: is 'airing out' our sentiments amidst religious gathering or even amidst any gathering or any place including the cyberworld, a crime? As long as it is non-violent, it should not be considered a crime. Hence, our campaign for the decriminalization of libel and the junking of the Cybercrime Law.

On the other hand, seeing things from a Catholic's perspective, the Church could have just forgiven Celdran. Blessed John Paull II did that to his assassin. Moreso, Christ is doing that to His people as He teaches them not to hate the sinner but the sin. It is then ironic that the Filipino Catholic Church went after an individual for committing an act that did not physically harm anyone whereas it is not aggressive in going after those who have physically abused, even killed people who were just asserting for their rights and liberty." -Kristian Jacob Abad Lora, fourth year, Computer Science, University of the Philippines-Cebu

"I believe that Carlos Celdran must not go to jail for offending religious feelings because I know that there is no law that he violated regarding that. I believe though that he did offend the clergy through his actions, and so he and the Church must just make amends and settle their dispute." - VJohn Dizon, second year, Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, De La Salle University

"No, he must not go to jail. Although he offended the sensibility of the Catholic faith, history proved to us that 'Damaso' is once again interfering with the affairs of the state which is beyond their usual duty and obligation." - El Mar John Alera, fourth year English major, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela

"Carlos Celdran should go to jail. The act he did is a clear manifestation of the Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code. For me, he is guilty in relation to that law. I understand that he just wants his advocacy to be heard by the leaders of the Catholic Church, but there is always a good and proper way, time and place to communicate with them or to the people. Freedom of speech should be accompanied with the responsibility to communicate in the most respectful manner, and not to offend the persons involved. …