Manila street artist jailed for offending religious beliefs
A popular Manila street artist and walking tour guide has been convicted of an "archaic" crime of offending religious beliefs
"It was worth every moment," Carlos Celdran, 40, told friends yesterday after Manila Judge Juan Bermejo Jnr sentenced him to over a year in jail for performing acts "notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful" in a place devoted to religious worship - a violation of Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code.
During the verdict, Celdran was dressed in the same 19th century garb of national hero Jose Rizal, which he wore when he burst into a ceremony at Manila Cathedral two years ago. He had held up a placard saying "Damaso" - the name of a predatory Spanish priest in one of Rizal's anti-clerical satirical novels. Celdran had yelled out for the Catholic Church to stop meddling in politics by blocking passage of the Reproductive Health Law.
Among those present at the ceremony were several bishops and Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, who had Celdran arrested. (Lim was earlier criticised for the botched rescue attempt in August 2010, when seven Hong Kong tourists and their guide were shot dead after their tour bus was hijacked by a sacked Manila police officer.)
The church, which sued Celdran, said it would issue a statement today. Convictions for the crime are rare and took place before the birth of the republic in 1946, according to Ibarra Gutierrez, professor of criminal law at the University of the Philippines.
He said a man was convicted before the second world war for holding a burial ceremony inside a Catholic cemetery for a non-Catholic. In a post-war case, which the top court reversed, a man was convicted of engaging a church minister in a debate during a religious ceremony.
"I find the whole idea of Article 133 archaic," Gutierrez said. "More than a hundred years ago, we threw off the yoke of Spain, yet we are still dealing with this kind of law - a throwback to the Spanish era where the state and the church was one and the same."
Celdran's popularity soared after his conviction. He now has over 38,000 "likes" on Facebook.