Celdran, Fr. Damaso and jail-A A +A
Monday, February 11, 2013
JOHN CHARLES CELDRAN, a.k.a. the Damaso protester, will appeal to Supreme Court the Jan. 28 Manila Metropolitan Trial Court decision that found him guilty of "offending religious feelings."
Two years ago, on Sept. 30, Celdran, in a Jose Rizal costume (black suit and bowler) and carrying a "Damaso" placard, disrupted a church function by shouting inside Manila Metropolitan Cathedral, "Stop getting involved in politics!"
Stage actor, tour guide, and Aids and RH activist, Celdran seized the attention of the papal nuncio, the archbishop, bishops, priests, and churchgoers. And Celdran became a "cause celebre" of sorts.
Did he exceed limits of free speech? Critics say he could've stage-acted and bellowed elsewhere. But then he couldn't have caught church officials' ears and public spotlight.
The SC will determine if free speech includes the right to disturb religious rites, whether Celdran annoyed officials and devotees but didn't "notoriously" offend religious feelings.
Offensive to whom?
Allusion to Padre Damaso--rapist, father of bastard Maria Clara, and grave desecrator—might amount to disrespect.
Damaso, whose villainy in Rizal's 1887 novel "Noli Me Tangere" is familiar to most Pinoys, could be more devastating symbol than explicit slander.
But to rule if Celdran should be jailed for up to 13 months, the SC has to decide whose religious feelings were violated: those of the collective church and its parishioners or just those of some church officials.
And pray tell, would the high tribunal assault an ancient penal law protecting an orthodox custom?
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 12, 2013.