Saturday, February 02, 2013

Send Carlos Celdran to Jail...

...or not?

Myself, I'm of two minds. On the one hand, I think he's an annoying pest who could use some downtime in the caboose; and on the other, Christian charity forbids me from wishing ill on another person. Personally, I have no stake in the matter.

But like it or not, Celdran did break the law. Broke into a church, held up a sign, and shouted. During an ecumenical service. Apparently, there is a law against that; who knew?

Celdran and his friends are treating this as a matter of free speech. I don't think so.  The suddenly famous Art. 133 of the Revised Penal Code is clear enough:

The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon 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.

Celdran broke the law, not because he exercised his right to free speech, but because of the manner, time, and place that he chose to exercise it.

Celdran and his friends view Art. 133 as if it stands by itself, zeroing in on "religious feelings" as an archaic construction. But Art. 133 is a part of a larger whole. its position in the Revised Penal Code places it among other provisions dealing with violation of dwelling (trespass), interruption of peaceful meetings, and crimes against religious worship.

Are these provisions odious? Perhaps we should repeal them? But these laws aren't specific to the Catholic Church. If you remove them, you also remove the protection afforded to other religions. What's to prevent disruption of, say, Friday prayers in a mosque, or a Thursday service of the Iglesia ni Cristo? Or does that fall under "free speech?"

Or should the Catholic Church now intervene in the case, ask the judge to reverse the decision? But...but...what happened to the inviolable spearation of Church and State?

Or should we make yet an exception for Celdran because, after all, so many others go scot free? Tu quoque much?

But I say put Carlos Celdran in jail, if only for two months. Not to punish him, but because I think some good will come of it. Celdran is a clown, but he is not without his audience -- perhaps this will put the spotlight on the miserable conditions of Philippine jails and lead to reforms. Who knows? Perhaps Celdran will gain a new and worthwhile advocacy.