|February 24, 2013||By Patrick Ong under Opinion|
Carlos Celdran unknowingly or knowingly announced the start of an inquisition two years ago after the decision of the court last January 28, 2013, which found him guilty of violating Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code for supposedly offending religious feelings—a law that has been in the books since 1930.
Based on the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court’s decision, Celdran faces an indeterminate sentence of 2 months and 21 days of imprisonment to a maximum of one year, 1 month and 11 days of imprisonment.
For those who do not know, the Damaso incident happened two years ago when Celdran, dressed as Rizal, entered and disrupted an ecumenical service to protest the Catholic Church’s involvement in the Reproductive Health bill, now formally called the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 since President Aquino signed it last December 21, 2012.
I for one believe that Celdran had grounds to air his concern over the Catholic Church because the latter really has much to change. The church needs to acknowledge and understand the animosity it faces because of its history. Yes, the church did steal our wealth, and yes, they have done so many atrocities that would even place Former President Ferdinand Marcos and his alleged 10 billion dollar ill-gotten wealth in good light.
Even today, the Catholic Church is not without its equivalent of government scandals and contradicting statements. One example of which is the Church’s anti-mining campaign, which was good except for the fact that Catholic Church representatives forgot to mention that they have shares of stock in mining companies. And the list goes on and on to the Catholic Church’s statement that the natural disasters were brought by people lobbying for the bill.
For the most part, the church is like the government in that it has lacked in transparency, but just like the government, there have been attempts to change a faulty and very much outdated system. Arguably, the Catholic Church in the Philippines has progressed way beyond the government and traditional politics, which continue to hamper inclusive and real growth in the country.
We cannot discount the institution’s involvement in relief operations nor can we discount its contribution to education, health and the environment.
Carlos Celdran, however, was not entirely wrong about the church. He was right in saying that the Catholic Church should respect the decision of the people, and he was right that the church has gone way overboard in its attempt to attack the RH bill, but he was wrong about many things as well.
His actions, although defended by the highly abused freedom of speech provision in the Philippine Constitution, did violate Article 133, but the gravity of his actions does not lie solely on his violation of the outdated, possibly dangerous law. His actions were wrong because he also violated the right to religion and the right to belief of those who attended the ecumenical ceremony. When he entered the church, he knew that the people inside were praying, and when he said those words against the church, he also said it in front of the people who had a right to believe in their church.
Moreover, Celdran had ironically started an inquisition fueled by faulty arguments and a mob that has taken to the Internet and to the streets.
Two years after, the inquisition still continues. Before the RH bill was passed, the youth, which include a good number of Lasallians, started attacking the Catholic Church. During and even after the bill was passed, a good number of the youth continue to fail to understand the importance of sticking to the facts and succumbed to calling priests rapists, bitc*es and the like.
What these people fail to realize is that the church is part of the Philippine community. Yes, many priests have abused their homilies, and many are have attempted to brainwash people with arguments that do not make any sense at all, but the Internet community, which includes many Lasallians, has done no better. They have abused their right to free speech as well, which really begs the question: Should freedom of speech be a right or a privilege considering the rampant and abusive use from both parties?
Another thing that many students do not acknowledge is that the Catholic Church should be involved in the government in as much as every person has a right and an obligation to have a say in the government. What’s puzzling at DLSU is that many students willingly give up their own rights to have a say in the government yet we continue to persecute a church and many priests who are enforcing their own rights.
Why? Because many of us have distanced ourselves from our religion, arguing (for Catholics) that we are not part of the church, but we are. If we really want to see a change in the Catholic Church, we should make a proactive response—one that values compromise and respect instead of an inquisition that would do no good. In other words, we have to exercise our rights that we have long forgotten. We have to see that we have a stake in the church.
The same is true in the manner we view our being Filipino. We have to see ourselves as relevant stakeholders, and we have to exercise our rights, taking into consideration the rights of others.