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In RH war of words, activist confronts bishops in church

(UPDATED October 1, 12:56 a.m) Famed Manila tour guide and reproductive health advocate Carlos Celdran was detained by Manila police on Thursday for disrupting a mass at the Manila Cathedral, where he staged a protest action against the bishops' opposition to the reproductive health bill.
Dressed as Jose Rizal, Celdran stood in front of the Manila Cathedral altar during a mass, holding a sign bearing the words "Damaso." GMANews.TV
Dressed as Jose Rizal, Celdran stood in front of the Manila Cathedral altar during a mass with Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and several bishops present, holding a sign bearing the words "Damaso" -- a reference to the villainous friar from the novel "Noli Me Tangere." He screamed, "Stop getting involved in politics" before he was taken away by the police at around 4:30 p.m. Manila Cathedral rector Msgr. Nestor Cerbo said that Celdran was guilty of "disruption of worship, which is a very sacred thing which should be given utmost respect." "To make a scene and call that freedom of expression? That is pagbabastos," added Cerbo. At around 8:15 p.m. the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines filed charges against Celdran for violation of Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, which prohibits "offending religious feelings." The exact text of the article says that "the penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional 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."
Aside from leading popular walking tours of Manila's historical spots, Celdran is also a vocal advocate of the Reproductive Health Bill. He has used his blog, Facebook account, and Twitter account to criticize the Catholic church for its stance against artificial contraceptives and sex education. Police said it was Mayor Lim who ordered that Celdran be taken into police custody. "Nandoon si Mayor Lim sa misa eh. Nilapitan siya ng pari. Ang nagmimisa doon, sundalo at mga police. Kinuha (si Celdran) ng mga pulis na nakikinig ng misa," said SPO2 Ernesto Andres, desk officer of the PCP Intramuros. In a telephone interview, Celdran told GMANews.TV that the police were treating him well. "I think I got them on my side, because I told them the reason why I did this," he added. "The fact the police are in semi-agreement with my cause, although they cannot do anything about it, shows how much people want the RH bill to be passed and how much the church should stop getting involved in politics and stop threatening the president," he added. Pres. Aquino said today that he was unfazed by threats from the Catholic church to excommunicate him unless he changes his position that the state should respect the choices couples will make when planning their families. At around 6:00 p.m., Celdran was transferred from Intramuros to the police community precinct in Ermita. "Doon sila maga-areglo," Andres said.
Celdran was placed in handcuffs during his transfer to the MPD Station 5 in Ermita. MARIZ UMALI.
At around 7:00 p.m., GMA News reporter Mariz Umali tweeted that Carlos was placed behind bars while waiting for charges to be filed. She later said that Celdran would stay in jail overnight and possibly into the next day.
This photo taken around 7:00 p.m. shows Celdran, still in full Rizal costume, behind bars at the Manila Police District Station 5 in Ermita. MARIZ UMALI.
Last Tuesday, President Aquino announced that he would continue to support responsible parenthood and informed choice in family planning. "Even during the [the presidential] campaign the president already stated his position on the matter. It's more of responsible parenthood. We believe that parents should be the one to decide on the size of their family, the manner and the method by which the planning should be done," said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda. In response, Catholic bishops threatened to stage protests if the reproductive health bill is passed into law. - YA/HS, GMANews.TV