Archive | Freedom of Expression

FF Podcast 69: Lee Kuan Yew and Duterte

FF Podcast 69: Lee Kuan Yew and Duterte

This week, we talk about the late Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew. We discuss comparisons between him and Davao’s Rodrigo Duterte, as well as the popularity of benevolent dictatorships.

You may also download the podcast file here.

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FF Podcast 63: Paint Their Hands Black?

FF Podcast 63: Paint Their Hands Black?

This week, we talk about the Bench billboard that showed a gay couple holding hands and how it was censored.

You may also download the podcast file here.

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#JeSuisCharlie

#JeSuisCharlie

The Filipino Freethinkers unequivocally denounce the recent violence that befell the people of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France. We uphold that speech, however offensive it may seem, should not be met with violence, as protected under freedom of expression. The spirit of this principle is captured in the words of Evelyn Beatrice Hall, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

We offer our deepest sympathies to the bereaved.

cyberscooty-jesuischarlie-remix

Les Filipino Freethinkers condamnent explicitement la violence récente qui est arrivée aux gens de Charlie Hebdo à Paris en France. Nous faisons respecter que l’expression, si offensante soit-elle, ne devrait pas être affrontée avec la violence, comme protégée par la liberté d’expression. L’esprit de ce principe est capté dans les mots d’Evelyn Beatrice Hall, « Je désapprouve ce que vous dites, mais je défendrai jusqu’à la mort votre droit de le dire. »

Nous offrons nos sympathies les plus profondes aux endeuillés.

 

Nous sommes Charlie.

#JeSuisCharlie

Posted in Advocacy, Freedom of Expression, Organization, Press Releases2 Comments

FF Podcast 59 (Audio): UK Bans Kink Porn

FF Podcast 59 (Audio): UK Bans Kink Porn

FF Audio Podcast 059: UK Bans Kink Porn

This week we talk about the United Kingdom’s plans to ban kinky porn, including but not limited to displays of female ejaculation and face-sitting. We also discuss some BDSM basics with an honest-to-goodness BDSM practitioner.

You may also download the podcast file here.

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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

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Homophobia: 60 Years After the Death of Alan Turing

Alan Turing was a mathematical genius, a wartime code breaker, a computer pioneer, and, to some extent, a British spy ala James Bond. He was among a number of code-breakers who decrypted Nazi military codes, saving millions of lives in the process.

Turing

The Filipino Freethinkers LGBT Pride March 2014 Banner

Alan Turing is also one of the pillars that has enabled our current information age. The technology behind computers, mobile phones, and even the Internet was based on the mathematical models he developed. Alan Turing innovated mathematical models that would become the backbone of technological progress. Alan Turing helped defeat the Nazis. Alan Turing is a pioneer, a hero, and a genius. He’s easily one of the greatest men who ever lived.

It’s such a shame that 60 years ago, 1954, Turing was prosecuted by the same government he helped protect, and by the same people whose lives he would improve because of his contributions to science and technology. Why was he prosecuted? Because he was gay.

When Turing was convicted, he was given the choice to either spend 2 years in jail, or undergo a hormone “therapy” that would leave him chemically castrated. With this conviction, he also lost his security clearance as well as his role in the government’s communication headquarters. Aside from that, the side effects of the chemical castration caused him severe depression.

He committed suicide at the age of 41.

Such is the face of homophobia. It’s reveals a picture of humanity at it’s most bigoted. It has robbed humanity of a genius and a hero. Who knows what other contributions Turing may have made if he was given the same liberty extended to straight people.

Homophobia continues to claim victims 60 years after Turing’s death. The persecution suffered by Turing persists until today. Homophobic discrimination is still prevalent. Hate crimes are still committed against the LGBT. Gay kids are still being bullied.

This is the reason why there is a need for events that promote LGBT awareness and tolerance.

The Filipino Freethinkers are happy to announce that we will be marching with our LGBT allies as part of both the Metro Manila Pride March (Dec. 6) and the QC Pride March (Dec. 13). We march in the hope that homophobic discrimination will one day be eradicated from civil society.

Turing 2

The Filipino Freethinkers #ThanksTuring Pride March Shirts

To celebrate Alan Turing’s contributions to science and technology, and to bring awareness to the unfair prosecution of great men and women of the LGBT, the Filipino Freethinkers will be marching with Alan Turing shirts and banners.

We invite everyone to join our contingent in expressing our support for the LGBT community.

 

If you would like to march as part of the Filipino Freethinkers contingent in the 2014 Metro Manila Pride March, please visit our event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/624376127673564/

If you would like to march as part of the Filipino Freethinkers contingent in the QC Pride March 2014, please visit our event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/485520478255588/

Posted in Advocacy, Freedom of Expression, Gender Rights, Science, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast (Audio) 49: I’m an Atheist Pero Respeto Naman, Guys

FF Podcast (Audio) 49: I’m an Atheist Pero Respeto Naman, Guys

FF Podcast 49 - I'm an Atheist Pero Respeto Naman, Guys

This week, we talk about the Pennsylvania kid who is facing two years in prison for simulating oral sex with a Jesus statue.

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Posted in Audio, audio podcast, Freedom of Expression, Religion, Secularism, Society1 Comment

Davao City Declares 4,581 More Personae Non Gratae

Davao City Declares 4,581 More Personae Non Gratae

DAVAO CITY, PHILIPPINES — The city council of Davao has declared 4,581 more people as personae non gratae after only recently doing the same for comedian Ramon Bautista. The 382-page list includes Davao City police chief Senior Supt. Vicente Danao Jr., former Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, and incumbent Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

“We just realized how inconsistent we have been in how we respond to less than ideal behavior,” says City Councilor Joel Durtete. “It didn’t seem fair that a joke from a comedian could get him punished while other far graver acts went completely under the radar. It feels as if we were being butthurt about the wrong things.”

In their press release statement, the following reasons were cited as justifications for the declarations of particular individuals:

* SENIOR SUPT. VICENTE DANAO JR.for the use of excessive force and volume against his spouse

beater

* SARA DUTERTE-CARPIO — for the downright nasty physical abuse of a sheriff

* PAOLO DUTERTE and RODRIGO DUTERTE — for the indecent and insulting treatment of media personnel

Like Father Like Son

Like Father Like Son

Most of the actions cited for the rest of the people on the list include violations of the 30 kph speed limit, 1am liquor ban, and taking Duterte’s name in vain. However, others were very specific, such as “constantly making disapproving looks at frail elderly people”, “deliberately placing dog feces on the sidewalks”, and “making babies laugh at funerals”.

In his defense, Senior Supt. Vicente Danao Jr. was quoted as saying: “I may have hit my wife’s face, but at least I didn’t call it ugly by saying she was hipon.” The Dutertes opted to send a collective reply: a one-page letter containing only the phrase “PAKYU KAYONG LAHAT” and an image of a fist with its middle finger raised.

An anonymous source from Davao City Hall also said that the council was considering adding the members of the “Davao Death Squad” to the list for their disregard for due process and human rights, but ultimately decided against their inclusion due to fear for their lives.

According to Davao City Councilor May Pajabul, the council is still investigating another incident and hope to follow up with another declaration of persona non grata as soon as they uncover the individuals responsible for a website called Hipon City, which seems to have been set up to mirror the contents of the official Davao City website except with all faces replaced by ugly ones.

Some citizens have reportedly expressed concern about the sheer volume of the declarations and have raised questions as to whether or not the status will affect the ability of incumbent government officials to exercise their authority. Pajabul has responded, saying “You really shouldn’t worry; The declaration doesn’t do jack shit.”

Posted in Freedom of Expression, Satire0 Comments

My Body is Not Mine

We are in bed, spooning like lovers although we’re not. He is resting his cheek on my shoulder, creating some contrast with the statement he is about to make. Could you not wear clothes with plunging necklines?

My Body is Not Mine
 

I could have picked a fight but I didn’t. I said okay, thinking that would end a topic I didn’t really want to get into. I have been told that I am highly opinionated and as a woman, this often leads to feeling like my decision to care for cats is a savvy one. Domesticated felines are the only male companions that will never feel threatened by the thought that I might be, sometimes not always, smarter than they are.

But this man holding me felt compelled to explain his demands. just don’t want to get into a fight. That can be categorized as sweet. But then again, I can’t really blame guys for looking if you’re wearing [slutty clothes].

He didn’t use the term, but I’ll make the leap and assume that this is what he means. This is not new, and this is not exclusive to men. My mother can never decide whether to feel horrified when I am wearing a sleeveless shirt that reveals too much of my bra or tsk-tsk at me for wearing long skirts and frumpy tops that make me look about twenty years older than her.

It’s funny that this man felt like he was doing me a favor by essentially commanding me to dress “more appropriately” when I have had to fight every urge to snicker whenever I see him. Half of his wardrobe is composed of collared formal wear with a pattern that’s much more suited to curtains of cabins in the woods. Or picnic blankets. When I finally told him that I think that he wears clothes that, to me, look hideous, I could tell that he was somewhat insulted. He chose not to be a dick about it (points for him), took it in stride, and said that maybe I ought to take him shopping. But, he said, someone else should come along. You might pick clothes that will only make me attractive to you [and not anyone else]. That’s a joke. And, as women aren’t meant to be taken seriously, so am I.

Our relations didn’t get very far. Two months. It reached its end shortly after a fictitious zombie apocalypse in Tagaytay, conjured in jest on a trip with his friends. He wanted to be valiant and save me from the undead. I wanted to fight zombies. He wanted to impress his friends by saying he doesn’t need to call anyone because I was with him. I said I would call a friend of mine, which I didn’t realize made him look bad in front of his friends. He frequently reminded me that he wasn’t ready to be in a relationship and though I liked him, I kept my distance and tried not to do anything that would make me seem, que horror, clingy. He wanted to keep his options open. So did I.

There are times when I feel something close to sad that our interest in each other became just another hump on the road, but this thought saves me: do I really want to be with someone who thinks that I am asking for it (it = perverted thoughts concerning my body) because I choose to wear a top that makes this climate change more bearable? I mean, it’s really hot. Is it unreasonable to want to wear a bare minimum amount of fabric in public? It’s not like I have enormous tits. I fell asleep in commute the other day and the driver called me “brad.”

And, to rephrase a question that’s been asked a million times before and probably a million more times in the future, how is it fine that he can casually tell me that he doesn’t want me to dress him because he wants to remain attractive to other women, whereas I would diminish my chances of getting a regular partner in life if I said that I want to dress a certain way to retain some appeal? I might as well go back to the Middle East and keep wearing a shapeless black robe. My body, in any other fashion, must be seen only by my lover—otherwise known as my rightful owner.

I do not intend to rally on paper and do my “slut walk” with words. I don’t contest the idea that women should be able to wear what they want, but I already do that. It’s a debate that’s settled in my head. A man attempted to rape me when I was wearing a normal shirt and yes, a short skirt, but I was wearing thick tights. Not even that experience stopped me from wearing the “sluttiest” things in my wardrobe. Besides, have you seen what my sex was wearing during the Victorian era? Do you honestly think no woman was raped during that time because they were wearing a skirt that reached past the feet (not just knees) and sleeves that tapered off at the wrist?

What bothers me is not that I am told what to wear, but that they (think) they have the right to tell me what to wear. Is my body not mine?

People debate about whether or not I have the right to prevent a human being from forming inside of me. What happens in my uterus is a social concern. I need a legislation that will entitle me to abort a pregnancy, even if the sperm came from an inebriated man I have never met in my life who felt like it’s perfectly fine to stick his dick inside me without my consent. The vagina is public property. It’s sold. It’s bought. It’s a thing that can be possessed.

No amount of fabric can cover that idea—that belief.

It is romantic, in a way, to be owned. It’s marketed as belonging, a thought that even I find appealing. I do want to belong to someone. I’d wear an abaya until the day I die if the man I love wants me all to himself. But only if I too can possess him and make him feel shame should I find out that he has been giving what is mine to another woman (or man).

My body for his body, in the interest of fairness.

 

Posted in Freedom of Expression, Gender Rights, Personal, Philosophy, Society2 Comments

FF Podcast 31: Cybercrime!

FF Podcast 31: Cybercrime!

This week, we talk with Marnie Tonson, one of the petitioners against the Cybercrime Law that was recently upheld in parts by the Supreme Court. We talk about some of the common misconceptions about the law.

You may also download the podcast file here.

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FF Podcast (Audio) 011: Pinoy Racism and LGBT Rights

FF Podcast (Audio) 011: Pinoy Racism and LGBT Rights

Margie, Red and Pepe host Filipino Freethinkers Podcast Episode 11
Margie, Red, and Pepe are back for episode 11 of the Filipino Freethinkers Podcast. This week, we talk about racism in Filipino culture. Then we take a closer look at the claim that LGBT rights “trample” on the rights of religious people.

You may also download the podcast file here.



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Solidarity with Bangladeshi Bloggers

BANGLADESH — Several atheist bloggers have recently been prosecuted for blasphemy by Islamic political parties. The said parties are calling for the death penalty as punishment for the bloggers’ “insulting religion” online.

bangladesh-bloggers-leaflet-thumb-p1Despite how Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina claims that the Bangladesh constitution is secular, she still goes on to contradict herself by saying that “existing laws are enough” and “If anybody tried to hurt any sentiments of any religion or any religious leader, there is a law. We can take any action.”

The Filipino Freethinkers stand in solidarity with these bloggers as the religious groups of Bangladesh seek to trample upon their right to freedom of speech.

——-

If you would like to help out as well, the following are just some of the many ways to take action:

[the following is taken from this webpage]

 

Express your dissent online. There is a “Scarlet B” campaign for bloggers and others to express solidarity with the Bangladeshi bloggers (use the image on the right). The Twitter hashtag #HumanistSolidarity has also been used in connection with the Bangladeshi bloggers.

 

scarlet-B-zapfino (1)

 

Contact the ambassador to Bangladesh from your country. The American Humanist Association has urged its members and supporters to contact the US Ambassador to Bangladesh and express their concerns. Individuals in most countries can undertake a similar action, writing to protest the arrests, and the threat to freedom of speech they represent. If a national ambassador receives even a small number of letters on the same topic this can draw an issue to their attention and raise its priority with the foreign government.

 

——-

 

It can’t be said enough that ideas do not have rights, but people do, and that no expression of criticism warrants harming one’s fellow humans. To quote Evelyn Beatrice Hall, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

Posted in Advocacy, Freedom of Expression, Politics, Religion, Secularism, Society0 Comments

Why Rude Protest Is Better Than Polite Concession

A Violent Kind of Envy

“Try protesting inside a MOSQUE and let’s see if you can keep your head on your shoulder.”

I have heard this said several times to argue against Carlos Celdran’s actions in the Manila Cathedral in 2010, and I think it is nothing but veiled Islamophobia, not to mention unfair to a group of people who happen to practice a different religion from the Filipino majority.

Saying this actually suggests that ALL our Muslim brothers and sisters are a bunch of violent, vindictive terrorists who will kill anyone who disrespects their faith. I find this offensive because I have Muslim friends and office-mates who are peaceful, reasonable, progressive, and in many ways, better than so many so-called Christians who react violently when someone disagrees with them. Shame on those people for even suggesting that all Muslims will immediately resort to violence. They probably don’t know that many Muslims, and I doubt if they are good friends with one.

‘Fatwa envy’ is the term used for the phenomenon of people complaining that criticism of their religion or political beliefs is wrong because the criticism would never be directed at Muslims for fear of violence or death, according to Rational Wiki (http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Fatwa_envy).

(image source: V-forVictory)

 ‘Proper’ Way of Protesting? 

You can drive out a person who says or does rude things inside your house, but you don’t sue them or send them to prison. It shows how emotionally immature you are. I am of the opinion that there are times when some people need a rude awakening, especially when social niceties and outward politeness are numbing and sheltering them from the fact that they are rudely over-stepping their boundaries.

(image source: FSTDT.com )

The CBCP and their ultra-conservative Catholic cohorts are over-stepping their boundaries, getting access to public privileges without paying taxes, violating the separation of church and state and shutting down art exhibits and protest actions that they find offensive. They can’t surrender pedophile priests to the public, they amass wealth by the billions in a country full of hungry, poor people, they get to ask a former president for gifts of SUVs, and they exercise political influence like it is their birthright. Barging into their church meetings to protest their political meddling is an act of defiance, an act of rebellion against the bigger evil that they are perpetuating, and is a nonviolent way of bringing to light the fact that they are not exercising the same respect that they are now demanding from everyone else.

A Stomping Ground For Stomping on Non-Catholics

It reminds me of the public high school that I went to years ago. Our government-employed Catholic principals and teachers required that all students attend a Catholic catechism class, and not attending will cost you your grade in Values Education. The cathecist teachers they allowed to come in and teach were from the local parish that the school administrators go to every Sunday. These cathecists would routinely ask each student, in the presence of the whole class, whether they are Catholic or not. When they learn that some of us are from ‘born-again’ families, they would proceed to joke that we are ‘burned again’, in reference to the hellfire punishment for apostates. Before we graduated, we were compelled to attend a Catholic mass. Some of our teachers even threatened us that we will not get diplomas if we do not attend.

(image source: Mostphotos.com)

The Catholic Church in our neighbourhood has a tall loudspeaker that rudely blares their prayers and sermons all over the place every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, at the expense of the non-Catholics who also reside in the area. Every Lenten season, messengers claiming to be from the same neighbourhood Catholic church would knock on our gates and ask for donations for the Holy Week celebrations, and we get dirty looks when we tell them that we are not Catholics.

Another incident was when my wife was confined in a Catholic hospital in Manila years ago when she gave birth to our son. We had no choice but to rush her there because it was the nearest hospital in the vicinity. The hospital’s priest visited our room while my wife was still recovering from a Cesarean surgery, asked us if we were Catholics. When we said we aren’t, he told us that we have lost our way and that God welcomes lost sheep when they go back to the fold. He said it in front of my visiting mother, who is a life-long ‘Born-Again’ Protestant deacon. It was a disconcerting experience for my mother and my wife, to say the least.

So a strangely-dressed man with a placard sign saying ‘Damaso’ walks in on an ecumenical church meeting that the CBCP bishops are attending and tells them to stop meddling in politics. For all the rude violations that the ruling Catholic majority keep doing at the expense of those who do not share their beliefs, is it that damnable when a man like Carlos Celdran gets fed up and goes directly to them, to tell them to their faces to stop?

In the New Testament account, an angry Jesus goes into the Temple to turn over the tables of merchants who jack up their prices to rip off the faithful, and whipped the traders with a rope to drive them out of their own legal territory. (Gospel of John 2: 13-16)

(image source: http://revbriceatjourney.blogspot.com)

Now You Do What They Told Ya, Now You’re Under Control

In connection to this, I happen to like punk and metal bands that use rude language to get their messages across, and I have often observed that it has a more immediate impact than any politely-worded political treatise out there because it gets into the heart of the issue. Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of” comes to mind.

To paraphrase fellow freethinker Sass Sasot, polite behaviour is often dictated by those who are in power, the oppressor, to control the oppressed. What we call ‘polite behaviour’ depends on what a certain group of people find acceptable. Who dictates the norm for polite behaviour? If those who are in power are the only ones allowed to decide what proper behaviour is, or what a proper venue for protest is, then the minority is already being restricted by this dictate and are only being bullied to the point of silence. Restrictions imposed by social rules of propriety only serve to delay the efforts of the person complaining of injustice. As Martin Luther King, one of the modern fathers of civil disobedience, would say, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.” (from Letter From Birmingham City Jail)

Polite society often tells us to obey its rules at the expense of things with bigger consequences and to obscure bigger issues that should be addressed. My answer to that is “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!“, as RATM would put it.

NO.

 

Posted in Freedom of Expression, Metro Manila South Chapter, Personal, Politics, Religion, Society10 Comments

Against Empire: The Celdran Revolt

Celdran’s political protest challenges the hegemony of the Catholic Church, while his case tests the independence of the judiciary from the Church

Article 133: Legacy of Colonialism

In her review of Carolyn Brewer’s Holy Confrontation: Religion, Gender, and Sexuality, Barbara Watson Andaya tells us of how Spanish friars aggressively sought to replace the spiritual role of elderly women in the lives of our ancestors. During that time, women were the spiritual leaders.  Summarizing Brewer’s findings, Andaya tells us that “humiliation became a primary weapon [of Catholic friars], as young boys were recruited to locate sacred items and then urinate on them or perform other acts of desecration.” Our indigenous spiritual rituals and beliefs were replaced with “Christian rituals and symbols.” Our indigenous priestesses were called “bruja (female witch),” which we then “localized into bruha.”

If this happened today, we might say that under Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code our indigenous priestesses would have a cause for action against the Catholic Church. After all, what the Catholic Church did to our ancestors was not only “notoriously offensive;” it was arrogant, violent, cruel, and inhuman. They deprived our ancestors of their own beliefs. They oppressed and dehumanized our ancestors because they are of a different civilization. They did this because they were so convinced that they had a mission to civilize the world; and for our Spanish colonizers, civilized and human meant Christian and European. The rest are savages, barbaric, non-human.  Article 133 wasn’t intended to protect our ancestor’s indigenous religions. The revised penal code is largely derived from the penal code of our Spanish colonizers. Since during that time Church and State were not separate entities, Article 133 was probably not meant to protect all religions but a legal tool to secure the hegemony of the religion of our colonial masters, who believed that Christianity is the only one true religion.

Separation of Church and Judiciary

Celdran’s simple act of protest challenges that hegemony. He deliciously used Rizal’s critique of that hegemony: Damaso. Some say that Celdran is just seeking attention.  If we are going to reduce Celdran’s action as mere attention seeking, then what is stopping us from doing the same to all acts of revolt against the Catholic Church that happened all throughout history in all nations that have been colonized by this religion? Others say that there is a “civilized” way of protesting against the Catholic Church. This view needs to be interrogated by an analysis of hegemony.

In The Conservation of “Race,” Kwame Anthony Appiah informs us that “hegemony sets the framework. It defines the dominant system of concepts, the ‘common sense,’ in terms of which social and political reality will be lived.” The “civilized” way of protesting against the hegemon is determined by the hegemon itself, who became the hegemon precisely because of having such authority to determine the norm.  So the civilized way of protesting against the Catholic Church is determined by the Catholic Church. The acceptable way of objecting to the Catholic Church is determined by the Catholic Church. If the Catholic Church says there is no acceptable way of objecting to it, then every form of objection to them will be considered  “notoriously offensive.” This danger is actually reflected in the 2013 ruling against Celdran that quoted the 1939 Supreme Court ruling on the Baes Case.

The 1939 Supreme Court ruled that, “whether or not the act complained of is offensive to the religious feelings of the Catholics, is a question of fact which must be judged only according to the feelings of the Catholics and not those of other faithful ones.” In his dissenting opinion, to which Justice Imperial concurred, Justice Laurel objected to that circular argument:

I express this opinion that offense to religious feelings should not be made to depend upon to the more ore less broad or narrow conception of any given particular religion, but should be gauged having in view the nature of the acts committed and after scrutiny of all the facts and circumstance which should be viewed through the mirror of an unbiased judicial criterion. Otherwise, the gravity or leniency of the offense would hinge on the subjective characterization of the act from the point of view of a given religious denomination or sect, and in such a case, the application of the law would be partial, and arbitrary, withal, dangerous…

Given that the Philippines is 80% Catholic, judges would most probably be Catholics. Whether or not we can get an “unbiased judicial criterion” to determine whether an action is notoriously offensive to the Catholic Church is a question of how courageous our Catholic judges are in ruling against the feelings of their fellow Catholics. Can Catholic judges say that they are not experiencing undue pressure in ruling in favour of their religious group?  This now leads us to the greater significance of the Celdran Case: If the RH Bill tested the independence of the executive and legislative branch against the Church, the Celdran Case is testing the independence of the judiciary against the Church.  Since the passage of the RH Bill into law, we are witnessing what the formal separation of Church and State means in substantive terms. Hence, there are two trials here: a legal one, which involves Celdran; and a political one, which involves the judiciary who must convince us that they are independent of the Church.

To conclude, Celdran’s political protest is a challenge to the hegemony of the Catholic Church, a legacy of Spanish imperialist ambitions. Depending on our attitude towards our colonial masters, we may view Celdran’s political action either as an insult to our masters or as a rightful defiance against our colonizers.  On the other hand, Celdran’s case tests the independence of the judiciary, who must convince us that it can come up with an unbiased judicial discretion that will determine whether or not Celdran’s action is notoriously offensive to Catholics.

Decolonizing the Philippines is an ongoing process. The separation of Church and all branches of government is a continuous struggle. Celdran’s revolt is part of that process and an embodiment of that struggle. Celdran’s action is a legitimate political protest against the oldest living imperial power in the world.

 

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Posted in Advocacy, Freedom of Expression, Politics, Religion, RH Bill, Society1 Comment

Article 133: Special Rights Not Equal Rights

The verdict is out and the courts have sentenced Carlos Celdran to a maximum of 1 year, one month, and 11 days in prison for having “offended religious feelings” under Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code. There is, however, some misunderstanding among those following the case regarding what the crime truly was. As will be clear, Article 133 privileges those with faith above those who have none, giving them special rights. And with these special rights, the faithful enjoy protection with no equal in secular society.

Apologists for Celdran’s imprisonment invariably open their arguments by saying that they are not opponents of free speech. Should Celdran have chosen a different venue, say Mendiola, he would not have been arrested. True enough, I regularly criticize the powerful Roman Catholic Church and have suffered little for it. In this country, I can make all the jokes about silly Catholic doctrines from the comfort of my home without fear of imprisonment. Article 133 specifically stipulates that the offense to religious feelings must be done inside a place of worship or during a religious ceremony.

What Celdran did was not polite, to say the least. But it did send a message, and nobody was hurt, molested, or tortured. There was no fear of clear and present danger with his placard. And nobody shielded him from the police. People like me who sit behind laptops cannot even dream of getting the reach of Celdran’s protest. And because Celdran was very effective, he was seen as a threat. The powers that be in the Church can take the tiny bloggers ranting online. After all, the old men running the Church don’t even use the Internet. They allow the nation this small freedom to appease those who think free speech is about posting half-baked Facebook commentaries. But, no. People didn’t die for the right to idle chatter. Free speech is about saying things that piss people off. Free speech is about saying things where people will hear what you say and be pissed off.

Filipino Freethinkers is a regular attendee of the Philippine LGBT Pride March that happens every December. While not an LGBT organization, FF supports the recognition of LGBTs as equal human beings. During this march, there are also regular Christian fundamentalist protesters. They shout at marchers and hold signs around the parade, saying that homosexuality is wrong. This has caused great offense to attendees, who come out to the parade to celebrate their identity, only to be shouted down in the one place they publicly proclaim their pride.

Because the parade grounds are not religious grounds, because the march is not a religious ceremony, the LGBT Pride marchers must take such offenses in stride, often making their own jokes to make light of the clearly stressful situation. LGBTs experience oppression and violence every day and choose one day of the year and one place to celebrate. They are a true minority deserving of protection. However, because they do not have politicians in their pocket and because they are decent human beings, they do not have special rights under the law to protect them from religious free speech.

It is quite ironic that those who see LGBT equality as affording “special rights” are exactly the people who have special rights under the law. While LGBTs only ask for their recognition as equal citizens, anti-Celdran apologists enjoy a unique class of speech that the non-religious cannot have. Had Celdran done the same kind of picketing the fundamentalists did but during a religious parade, he would still have been charged under Article 133. LGBTs cannot have Christian fundamentalist protesters arrested regardless of the degree of anguish they feel, which is certainly more than the attendees of the Manila Cathedral ecumenical event where Celdran protested. Witnesses even said at the trial that they had no idea what “DAMASO” meant until after the fact and that they thought Celdran was part of the activity. If they found Celdran disruptive, all they had to do was escort him out of the building. At most, they could have filed a case against him for trespassing. After all, the tax-free Manila Cathedral is private property of the Archdiocese of Manila. But, no, the CBCP flexed their muscles and showed the Philippines who was in charge. You can tweet all your criticisms, but don’t you dare make us hear them. Or else.

People have the right to peaceably assemble. People have the right to freedom of and from religion. What we ought not have a right to is unequal speech. Article 133 says that some kinds of speech are more equal than others. Article 133 is clearly archaic. It is a law that belongs to the time when the Catholic Church could do more than send people to prison. It is a law that has no place in a modern society that encourages the free exchange of ideas.

Only people who believe that their faith cannot stand on its own merit need Article 133.

Posted in Advocacy, Freedom of Expression, Religion, Secularism9 Comments

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