MANILA, Philippines — President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Tuesday he sympathizes with tour guide, cultural activist and reproductive health advocate Carlos Celdran, who was convicted by the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC) for “offending religious feelings.”
He said, however, that while there is freedom of expression, there are limitations to such freedom bound by law.
In a decision by MTC Judge Juan Bermejo, Jr., Celdran was convicted for a minimum of two months and up to a maximum of one year in prison for violating Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code after disturbing an ecumenical service at the Manila Cathedral in 2010
In said incident, Celdran was dressed in a Jose Rizal costume and held up a placard on which was written “Damaso, (a hated character in Jose Rizal’s ‘Noli Me Tangere,’ which depicts friars’ abuses during Spanish rule)” while calling on the Church to stop “getting involved in politics,” referring to the Church’s active anti-Reproductive Health Bill stance. The bill has, since, been enacted to law
“I sympathize with Mr. Celdran’s position,” President Aquino said in an ambush interview during the anniversary of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) yesterday. “And perhaps, with the Pope as an example, the Catholic clergy could hopefully forgive Celdran so we could all move on from that issue.” and move on.”
Meanwhile, Cebu Archbishop and Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) head, Jose Palma said in a statement, “We have long before forgiven him.”
However, he said he will not oppose the decision of the court convicting Celdran for “offending religious feelings,” because “we respect the processes of the court and more than anything else love should prevail and we have already learned our lesson in the process. Respect should be given to every religion, respect the place and above all we should pray.” said Palma.
“The Court has spoken and we just say AMEN to the court’s decision,” he added. (With a report from Leslie Ann G. Aquino)
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