Repeal of ‘archaic’ provision of Revised Penal Code eyed

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    THE principal author of the reproductive health law yesterday filed a bill seeking to repeal the “archaic” provision of the Revised Penal Code, which punishes those who offend “religious feelings.”

    Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, a member of the opposition, filed House Bill No. 5170 repealing Article 133 of the RPC in memory of Carlos Celdran, a fellow reproductive health (RH) advocate.

    Article 133 states that “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 said Celdran, an activist, “died a free man” because the Supreme Court failed to resolve with finality his motion for reconsideration on his 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,’” he said.

    Celdran died of a heart attack in Madrid last October 8. He had been charged with violating Article 133 on “offending religious feelings.”

    In September 2010, Celdran dressed as hero Jose Rizal and walked towards the main altar of the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, where an ecumenical service was being held on the joint distribution of bibles by Catholic and Protestant leaders.

    It was at the height of the campaign for the enactment of the RH bill, now Republic Act No. 10354.

    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,” he said.

    Lagman said 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,” Lagman said.

    Lagman stressed that the repeal of Article 133 will prevent similar “prosecutions and travails of well-meaning critics which Celdran unjustifiably suffered and endured.”

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