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Manila court affirms Carlos Celdran conviction in 'Damaso' case

A Manila court has affirmed an earlier ruling finding Manila tour guide and RH advocate Carlos Celdran guilty of "offending religious feelings" when he disrupted an ecumenical service at the Manila Cathedral in September 2010. Celdran was protesting the Catholic Church's opposition to the then Reproductive Health bill.

On his Facebook and Twitter accounts, Celdran announced that a Manila trial court has junked an appeal to reverse a decision last January by Judge Juan Bermejo Jr. of the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC).

After Bermejo ruled on the case, Celdran immediately filed a notice of appeal, prompting the MTC to forward his case to the regional trial court for raffling.

"The decision for my #Damaso appeal is in: GUILTY WITHOUT REASONABLE DOUBT. Two months and 21 days in jail," said Celdran.

Celdran, dressed as national hero Jose Rizal in that incident, complete with bowler hat, held up a placard with the word “Damaso” before the Papal Nuncio, Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, several bishops and other religious inside the Manila Cathedral.

"Damaso" refers to the villainous friar from Rizal's novel "Noli Me Tangere."

In its original ruling, the MTC said Celdran violated Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code which penalizes offending religious feelings. The law has been in the books since 1930.

Article 133 punishes anyone who "in a place of worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony, shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful."

"All told, the positive declaration of the (prosecution) witnesses... (is) sufficient to satisfy the quantum of evidence needed for a criminal conviction," said the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court at the time.

Celdran's case is not the first time someone was accused of violating Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code. There have been numerous instances since the 1930s in which people have been hauled to court over the law.

An early example is the August 1934 case, in which a group of people were accused of disrupting a pabasa in La Paz, Tarlac, when they began putting up a barbed-wire fence in front of the chapel where the religious activity was being held.

The group was acquitted after the court ruled that the act of building the fence was, while irritating to those present, could not be seen as offensive to the Catholic faithful.

Earlier, Celdran had said he was willing to appeal his case all the way to the Supreme Court. – LBG/HS, GMA News