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Amadeus Fernando Pagente, popularly known as Pura Luka Vega, a drag artist, is imprisoned after he was arrested in Manila on October 4, 2023, after being accused of blasphemy and declared a "persona non grata" by several city governments after a video of his July show was shared widely online. Image Credit: AFP

MANILA: A Filipino drag queen was arrested Wednesday after a public outcry in the Catholic-majority country over the depiction of Jesus Christ reciting the Lord’s Prayer during a performance.

Amadeus Fernando Pagente, whose drag name is Pura Luka Vega, was widely accused of blasphemy and declared “persona non grata” by several local governments after a video of their July show was shared online.

Pagente has been charged with the offence of “immoral doctrines, obscene publications and exhibitions and indecent shows”, according to a copy of the arrest warrant shared by Manila police.

Pagente told AFP from behind bars in the capital they had “done nothing wrong” and that their arrest highlighted “the degree of homophobia” in the Philippines.

The 33-year-old was accused of committing “offensive acts” that involved dancing, singing and twerking to the religious song among partygoers in one of two criminal complaints filed by Christian groups.

Before their arrest, Pagente had defended the performance as “art” and argued “drag is not a crime”.

Human Rights Watch senior researcher Carlos Conde said Pagente’s arrest was “an outrage”.

“No one should be arrested, let alone detained, for expressing themselves,” Conde said, calling for the charges to be dropped.

The Philippines is a deeply conservative society. Nearly 80 per cent of the population are Catholic and same-sex marriage, divorce and abortion are outlawed.

Father Jerome Secillano, of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, has described Pagente’s performance as “blasphemous” and “really disrespectful”.