Carlos Celdran— reproductive health activist and artist —has just been been sentenced to up to 13 months imprisonment for the crime of “Offending Religious Feelings” punishable under Article 133 of the Philippine Revised Penal Code.
On Sept. 30, 2010 - Carlos entered Manila Cathedral dressed as Philippine national hero Jose Rizal carrying a placard with the word "Damaso". "Damaso" is the name of an abusive priest in Jose Rizal's novel, Noli Me Tangere. To Filipinos, the character "Damaso" has since symbolized the corruption and abuse done by Spanish Catholic clergy in the 19th century that caused the Philippine revolution.
Because of this protest action in front of Catholic bishops, Monsignor Cerbo of the Manila Cathedral charged Carlos in court under Article 133, a Spanish era law carried over to the existing penal code. A law that most Filipinos did not even know existed until it was used against him.
After two years of court hearings, last January 30, 2013, Judge Juan O. Bermejo, Jr. convicted Carlos of "offending religious feelings" and sentenced him to up to more than a year in prison.
As a passionate performance artist whose battle cry is to change the way the world sees Manila, we have been awed by Carlos' passion in reviving national pride in Filipinos. It is his love for the Philippines and deep frustration over the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines' continued interference in Philippine political affairs, repression of human rights, and hypocrisy that propelled his act of defiance.
If there’s anything he is guilty of, it’s that he stood up for women’s rights. His bold act became a turning point in bringing the importance of providing reproductive health education and services to the poorest of Philippine society to mainstream consciousness.
Carlos' act also emboldened more Filipinos to speak up against the Catholic hierarchy's bigotry and hypocrisy. It was a wake up call.
And for this, he faces up to more than a year of jail time.
Carlos' conviction sets a dangerous precedent. This law can now be used for religious persecution of critics of the Catholic Church. This law sends a chilling effect on Filipinos and runs contrary to the Philippine Constitution's guarantees of freedom of expression.
Join our campaign to #FreeCarlosCeldran! Protect the rights and freedoms of Filipinos!
Ask President Benigno Aquino III to grant Executive clemency to Carlos Celdran.
Call on Congress to repeal "Offending Religious Feelings" under Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code.