Manila: A tour guide turned anti-Catholic Church activist was found guilty of religious offense on Monday for a 2010 stunt which criticised the church’s strong influence on Philippine politics.
Carlos Celdran was guilty of ‘offending religious feelings’ and was sentenced to imprisonment for two months and 21 days and up to one year, one month and 11 days, said Judge Juan Bermejo of the Manila Metropolitan Court in a ruling issued on December 14, but which was released belatedly on Monday.
It was in response to a complaint filed by Monsignor Nestor Cerbo of the Manila Cathedral, in 2010, said Bermejo, adding that his ruling was based on an article of the Revised Penal Code which calls for punishment for 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”.
“I feel okay,” said Celdran, who went to court on Monday wearing the attire of Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero and the persona he carried when he carried out the protest at the Manila Cathedral.
His lawyer said appeals will be filed either at the Supreme Court or at Manila’s regional trial court. Celdran had posted bail earlier when charged. On September 30, 2010, Celdran entered the cathedral dressed as Rizal and held up, during a mass, a placard inscribed with the name ‘Damaso’.
Damaso referred to a bad Catholic priest in Rizal’s novel, entitled ‘Noli Me Tangere (Touch me Not)’, which ignited an anti-Spanish sentiment when it was published in 1886.
Rizal was ordered shot to death by the Spanish colonial rulers in 1896, which ignited the Spanish-Philippine war and led to the overthrow of Spanish rulers in 1898.
Celdran claimed he was promoting the passage of a bill that would allow the government to fund family planning programme for the poor, distribute natural and artificial family planning products and fund sex education for students aged 8 to 18 in government-run public schools. The bill was passed in Congress in 2010 but is strongly opposed by the church.
Celdran is a popular tour guide at Intramuros, Manila’s walled city, off Manila Bay, that was established by Spanish colonial rulers in the 15th century. He is known for telling tourists to “keep your rosaries out of my ovaries”.