SC affirms guilty verdict vs. Carlos Celdran over ‘Damaso’ act

MANILA The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed the conviction of cultural activist Carlos Celdran for "offending religious feelings" for barging inside the Manila Cathedral and denouncing the Catholic Church's opposition to the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill in 2010.

In a resolution dated March 21, the High Court's First Division denied Celdran's plea seeking to reverse the Court of Appeals (CA) ruling, which upheld the decision of the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC) Branch 4 and the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 32 convicting him for offending religious feelings over his stunt.

We agree with the CA in finding that the acts of petitioner were meant to mock, insult, and ridicule those clergy whose beliefs and principled were diametrically opposed to his own.

The SC said Celdran failed to present evidence to show that the trial courts and the appellate court committed error in its assailed decision.

The petitioner failed to sufficiently show any reversible error in the uniform findings of the Metropolitan Trial Court, the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals, so we resolve the deny the instant petition, part of the SC ruling said.

Celdran has asked the SC to reverse the 2015 ruling of the appellate court, which affirmed the Manila MTC and RTC's decision convicting him of offending religious feelings under Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code.

Celdran has argued that his display of the words Father Damaso in his banner inside the cathedral is a political speech and was his way of conveying to the priests inside that he strongly disagreed with their stand on the RH Law.

In affirming the lower courts' decision, the CA dismissed Celdran's arguments noting that the said provision of the Revised Penal Code shield religion from criticism.

Celdran then brought the case to the SC.

The Manila MTC Branch 4 handed down its decision on Jan. 28, 2013 while the Manila RTC Branch 32 issued its ruling on August 12, 2013; and the CA on December 12, 2014 and August 14, 2015.

Celdran was sentenced to serve an indeterminate prison term of two months and 21 days as minimum, to one year, one month, and 11 days as maximum.

The High Court pointed out that in a petition for review on certiorari, which was the pleading filed by Celdran in October 2015, questions of fact are no longer revisited, and the findings of fact made by the trial courts are accorded the highest degree of respect by this Court (SC), especially when the MeTC, the RTC and the CA have similar findings.

The case stemmed from Celdran's "Padre Damaso" stunt inside the Manila Cathedral Church on Sept. 20, 2010 during an ecumenical service attended by Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, the Papal Nuncio, former Philippine Ambassador to Rome Henrietta De Villa, and leaders of different Christian denominations.

Celdran wore a black suit and bore a plackard that read, "Damaso" to protest the position taken by the church against the then Reproductive Health Bill which is now passed into law.

In 2016, then Solicitor General Florin Hilbay asked the SC to acquit Celdran of the crime saying that the case under Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code is unconstitutional and that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Celdran is indeed guilty of the offense for which he was charged.

In a Facebook post Monday, Celdran confirmed the SC's decision.

It's come to pass. My appeal in the Supreme Court has been denied and my sentence is upheld. Three months minimum to a year and a month and a day maximum, Celdran said in his post along with a copy of the resolution of the SC's First Division. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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