bicol.politics.com.ph

‘Odious remnant of dark ages:’ Lagman wants to decriminalize offense vs religious feelings

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By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman is pushing for amendments to the Revised Penal Code (RPC) to finally repeal what he believed is “archaic” section of the law that penalizes those who offend “religious feelings.”

Lagman made the statement following the death of Reproductive Health advocate Carlos Celdran who was convicted by the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) for violation of Article 133 of RPC following his infamous “Damaso” stunt inside the Manila Cathedral back in 2010.

Lagman said such provision was not only “an odious remnant of the Dark Ages” but also “offensive to the freedom of expression.”

Celdran, at the height of the arduous crusade for the enactment of the Reproductive Health Bill almost a decade ago, dressed as Jose Rizal and raised a placard with the name “Damaso” in front of the cathedral’s main altar.

Lagman said Celdran’s action was a clear political statement that unlike Padre Damaso, the Catholic hierarchy must not interfere in secular affairs like preventing the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill even as Protestant bishops did not oppose the measure.

Because of Celdran’s actions, he was convicted in 2013 for violation of Article 133 of RPC and was sentenced up to 13 months and 11 days in prison.

The Albay solon asserted that Article 133 was “utterly subjective and leaves to the undue discretion of the court to divine the inculpatory element of “wounded religious feelings.”

“It is an amorphous offense and fails to set any objective standards on the gravamen of the crime,” said Lagman.

Lagman said the repeal of Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code will foreclose similar prosecutions and travails of well-meaning critics which Celdran unjustifiably suffered and endured.