Albay Representative Edcel Lagman filed a bill seeking to repeal the Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code or the Archaic Crime.
Lagman said House Bill 5070 is in memory of Carlos Celdran, one of the advocates of the Reproductive Health Law.
Lagman underscored that Celdran died a freeman because the Supreme Court failed to resolve with finality his latest pending motion for reconsideration of his improvident conviction of “wounding religious feelings.”
It is now incumbent on the Congress to accord justice and redress to Celdran by repealing Article 133 which is “an odious remnant of the Dark Ages” and “offensive to the freedom of expression.”
At the height of the arduous crusade for the enactment of the Reproductive Health Bill, now Republic Act No. 10354, on September 30, 2010, Celdran, dressed as national hero Jose Rizal, walked towards the main altar of the Manila Cathedral where an ecumenical service was being held on the joint distribution of bibles by Catholic and Protestant leaders.
Celdran raised a placard with the name “Damaso” in reference to the villainous friar from Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere.
“It was a clear political statement that unlike Padre Damaso, the Catholic hierarchy must not interfere in secular affairs like preventing the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill even as Protestant bishops did not oppose the measure,” Lagman said.
Celdran, who was charged with violating the said Article 133 on “offending religious feelings”, died of a heart attack in Madrid last October 8.
Article 133 provides: “The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correctional 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.”
Lagman asserted that Article 133 is “utterly subjective and leaves to the undue discretion of the court to divine the inculpatory element of ‘wounded religious feelings’. It is an amorphous offense and fails to set any objective standards on the gravamen of the crime.”
He stressed that the repeal of Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code will foreclose similar prosecutions and travails of well-meaning critics which Celdran unjustifiably suffered and endured.