Tour guide and reproductive health (RH) advocate Carlos Celdran pleaded not guilty to the criminal charge filed against him for the protest he held inside the Manila Cathedral in September.
On Thursday, dressed as the national hero Jose Rizal, Celdran entered his not guilty plea before Judge Alfonso Ruiz II of the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 4 during his arraignment.
The complaint was filed by Monsignor Nestor Cerbo, rector of the Manila Cathedral, where Celdran staged a protest on September 30 against the Catholic bishops’ opposition to the reproductive health bill.
Celdran was charged for "offending religious feelings" or for alleged violation of Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code.
In an article posted the website of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on October 1, Celdran held a protest inside the Manila Cathedral while an interfaith prayer service was going on.
Celdran is a known advocate of the controversial RH bill and is usually seen distributing condoms to residents of Intramuros in Manila. The Manila Cathedral is also in Intramuros.
On September 30, Celdran, dressed as the Filipino national hero Jose Rizal, shouted inside the cathedral that the Catholic Church should stop meddling in government affairs, especially in its birth control programs.
Celdran held a sign that read "Damaso," referring to Padre Damaso, the antagonist priest in Rizal's novel Noli Me Tangere.
After yelling "stop getting involved in politics," he was taken away by Manila police for violating Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, which prohibits "offending religious feelings." [This report did not say that he directed his shouts towards the sitting prelates, among them the Cardinal-Archbishop of Manila and the Papal Nuncio.]
Article 133 says "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."
On why he dressed up as Rizal again, Celdran told reporters after the proceedings: "I wore this because it’s Halloween, [The first time he wore it was not Halloween.] and I want to keep the spirit light [Light? He insulted the prelates and the faithful praying in the Cathedral!] and the spirit of creativity going in this fight. I really think that creativity will become our best weapon in winning any war in this world." [Creativity? Get your own TV show!]
Celdran said he is "prepared to take whatever comes" but maintained that he is not willing to issue a public apology on the matter, stressing that he has done nothing wrong. [Unrepentant. Calloused.]
"The battle has only begun... For now, I want to keep the argument focused. Let’s all keep talking about the RH bill, and the importance of human rights and the separation of Church and state," he said. [Good! And I won't stop unless he accepts my challenge!]
Lawyer Marlon Manuel, counsel for Celdran, meanwhile said that Monsignor Cerbo seems to be interested in pursuing the case against his client because the Manila Cathedral official sent lawyer Ronaldo Reyes as representative in the proceedings.
"It’s an indication that Monsignor Cerbo is interested in pursuing the case. Otherwise, there will be no need for him to send a lawyer," Manuel told GMANews.TV in a separate interview. [Seems to be?! He filed the CASE!!! I think this lawyer was hoping that by playing the "forgiveness card" against the bishops, the case won't prosper! And You-Know-Who gets away with his stunt without suffering the consequences. Imagine how Humpty Dumpty would gloat after "claiming victory" once he gets his "forgiveness" Nah...I'm just saying... BUT...Now that the monsignor is willing to pursue the case, expect the "minions" to call this an example of Church harassment! Damn you if you do, damn if you don't.]
Manuel likewise said that his client "open to discussing anything with the Manila Cathedral officials" and to the possibility that the charges will be dropped. [Did your bratty client even thought about this before he launched in PR stunt?]
"That [the dropping of charges] remains to be a possibility, given that the holidays are coming. We will see what happens next," he said, adding that the next court proceeding is scheduled on December 7. [Who are the bishops, Santa Claus?]
Celdran’s supporters, who were clad in white shirts printed with the word "Damaso" — the same word the tour guide wrote on a placard he hoisted during his protest in reference to the villainous friar in the novel "Noli Me Tangere" — were also present during the court proceedings.
"Walang basehan ang kasong ito kaya dapat itong i-repeal. Sinabi lang niya [Celdran] ang isang mensaheng matagal nang iparating ng maraming Pilipino," Red Tani, one of Celdran’s supporters, said after the court proceedings. [Why would he not say it to the INC who are meddling in politics as well? Going KFC?]
Celdran has already apologized for the method he used in protesting, but he remains defiant and has vowed to continue supporting the controversial RH bill. [Will forgiveness be given to someone who is unrepentant?]
On September 30, Celdran held his protest in front of the Cathedral's main altar, a few meters away from Papal nuncio Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams, Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, and other prelates.
Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, government and police officials were also present during the gathering.
Celdran is an RH advocate. Several versions of the RH bill have been filed in previous congresses. In the present Congress, the RH bill is known as "Bill 96" whose main proponent is Minority Leader Edcel Lagman of Albay.
The RH is based on the premise that the country's population growth impedes economic development and exacerbates poverty.
The bill seeks to “guarantee to universal access to medically-safe, legal, affordable and quality reproductive health care services, methods, devices, supplies and relevant information."
The bill also seeks a “consistent and coherent national population policy," citing studies that show that "rapid population growth exacerbates poverty while poverty spawns rapid population growth." [Nobody is talking about how the bill defines an adolescent: 13 to 24 years old. And how it grants 13 year olds the access to artificial birth control!]
The reproductive health bill has been a contentious social issue in the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country. It is estimated that 80 percent of the country's population are baptized Catholics. According to the National Statistics Office, there were 88.57 million Filipinos as of August 2007. The projected population for 2010 is 94.01 million.
However, not all Catholics are against the RH bill. In an earlier report, Ben De Leon, president of the Philippine Center for Population and Development, which organized the recent Women Deliver conference, some members of the CBCP have expressed their support in the RH Bill but not publicly. [So if majority of Catholics say that Jesus is not God, that is ok, then? If majority of Catholics say that abortion is ok, would you want it to be accepted then?]
CBCP President Nereo Odchimar earlier said the government must protect the sanctity of life by putting an end to contraceptive mentality.
Odchimar said the bishops hope the Aquino administration will not pursue programs that promote the use of contraceptives such as condoms and pills.
The Catholic Church accepts only natural family planning (NFP) methods. The NFP has two distinct forms:
* Ecological breastfeeding (a form of child care that normally spaces babies about two years apart on the average), and
* Systematic NFP (a system that uses a woman’s signs of fertility to determine the fertile and infertile times of her cycle).
Does the name Doña Consolacion ring a bell?
Seems appropriate to You-Know-Who eh?
Thanks Doc Ben for giving me the idea.