A lawmaker on Monday sought the repeal of a provision in the Revised Penal Code penalizing anyone “offending religious feelings.”
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the principal author of the Reproductive Health Law, filed House Bill 5170 to get rid of the “archaic” Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code in memory of Carlos Celdran, a fellow RH advocate.
Lagman recalled that on Sept. 30, 2010, Celdran, dressed as national hero Jose Rizal, walked toward the main altar of the Manila Cathedral, where an ecumenical service was being held on the joint distribution of bibles by Catholic and Protestant leaders.
Celdran raised a placard with the name “Damaso,” in reference to the villainous friar from Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere.
“It was a clear political statement that, unlike Padre Damaso, the Catholic hierarchy must not interfere in secular affairs like preventing the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill, even as the Protestant bishops did not oppose the measure,” Lagman said.
Celdran, who was charged with violating Article 133 for “offending religious feelings,” died of a heart attack in Madrid on Oct. 8, 2019.
In 2018, the Supreme Court upheld the decision against Celdran.
Article 133 says “The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correctional in its minimum period 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.”
Lagman said Article 133 was “utterly subjective and leaves to the undue discretion of the court to divine the inculpatory element of ‘wounded religious feelings’. It is an amorphous offense and fails to set any objective standards on the gravamen of the crime.”
He said the repeal of Article 133 will end the travails of well-meaning critics who suffer unjustifiably as a result of it.
He said Celdran died a freeman because the Supreme Court failed to resolve with finality his latest pending motion for reconsideration of his conviction for “wounding religious feelings.”
“It is now incumbent on the Congress to accord justice and redress to Celdran by repealing Article 133, which is “an odious remnant of the Dark Ages” and ‘offensive to the freedom of expression,’” Lagman said.