Announcement: Join the FF Saturnalia Party 2017.

Tag Archive | "damaso"

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.



Posted in Advocacy, Freedom of Expression, Politics, Religion, RH Bill, SocietyComments (1)

What Offends My Religious Feelings

With Carlos Celdran having been convicted and sentenced to jail time for the crime of ‘offending religious feelings’, reactions online have ranged from triumphalist anti-RH diatribes to sympathy to outrage to concern over the curtailing of freedom of speech. There also seems to have been a resurrection, so to speak, of the old discussion back when he first walked into that mass with the Damaso sign in support of separation of church and state. Did he have a right to do so? Isn’t he just getting what he deserves? Sure, maybe he doesn’t deserve jail time, but as a Christian I’m still offended, and shouldn’t that count for something?

The short answer is no, under international conventions to which the Philippines is a signatory, the shared possible offense to us Christians does not count for anything, nor should it. While there is currently some debate ongoing, the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in its General Comment No. 34, Article 19 clearly laid out that freedom of speech is incompatible with blasphemy laws like the one Carlos was convicted of violating. In this, the UN has essentially enshrined being able to commit blasphemy as a human right.

The reason for this is admittedly somewhat counter-intuitive, but there are documented historical examples of how badly laws banning blasphemy backfired in India that I’ve included in the links section below. I think it is summed up nicely by US President Obama in a speech explaining why he didn’t ban a video that offended Muslims (it should be noted that our constitution enshrines the same right to free speech he is talking about here):

“I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws: our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech. Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs.

Moreover, as President of our country, and Commander-in-Chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so. Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views — even views that we disagree with.

We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our Founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views, and practice their own faith, may be threatened. We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can become a tool to silence critics, or oppress minorities. We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech — the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.”

One argument I often hear religious people throw at advocates of free speech in an attempt to get at the non religious sensibilities said advocates presumably hold, is ‘how would you feel if someone insulted your father or your mother?’

As an Episcopalean myself, I don’t even need to make that hypothetical leap. I can ask myself directly, how would I feel if Carlos Celdran walked into my church and held up that sign?

I’d want to know why. Though I might be annoyed at the interruption, I would genuinely be curious as to what this obvious act of protest was trying to get at. I’d say that the interruption of a single mass might be worth it, if it was to be made aware of something vitally wrong with the institution I literally put my faith in. I have been blessed in having been born and baptized into a loving and supportive church whose stance on social issues are in line with mine (pro-RH, pro-LGBT, pro-secularism), and which holds a tradition of relatively democratic involvement by the laity in church affairs. With the exception of the actions of some rogue, roundly publicy decried elements in Africa, I took the effort to research and make sure that it is not engaged in any activities I have a problem with. If it was, both as a member of the congregation and as a serving member of the church vestry council, I would want to know about it and work with the rest of the congregation, our parish priest and if need be the diocesan assembly and our presiding bishop to see what could be done to rectify it.

And that is what confuses me most about people who assert that they’re offended by Carlos Celdran’s action. If I found out that my bishops were bullying politicians to kill legislation that would save mother’s lives -and- reduce abortions, I wouldn’t want to attend a mass with those bishops in it anyway. Where is their offense and outrage over the lies being spread about how condoms supposedly don’t work, leading to more AIDS cases? Where is their offense and outrage at the ivory smuggling, or the bribes they took to keep quiet through all the corruption perpetrated by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo? Why do they keep giving money to an organization that not only can’t seem to stop raping nuns and children, but keeps spending that money to cover it up?

What really offends my religious feelings are people who go out, declare themselves holy, and then spread hate and fear and lies and pain in the name of God and Christ. I am deeply offended at how the words and deeds of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) are giving us Christians a bad name, and that is why I actively and openly fight them. I live in hope that someday more Catholics, like Carlos used to be before they banned him from San Agustin, may rise up to do the same.

source links’that-she-may-dance-again

Posted in Advocacy, Freedom of Expression, Personal, Politics, Religion, Secularism, SocietyComments (82)

Carlos Celdran Declared Guilty of “Offending Religious Feelings”


On September 30, 2010, Manila tour guide Carlos Celdran was charged for Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, or “offending religious feelings,” when he displayed the now-infamous Damaso placard to the crowd at the Manila Cathedral.

Two years later, after many efforts from the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) to shirk and delay the hearings, the Manila court has declared Celdran guilty of the said charge.

Below is the complete written decision:



You may also access the document here.

Posted in Advocacy, Politics, Religion, RH Bill, Secularism, SocietyComments (6)