Philippine Activist Confronts Catholic Church

Famed Manila tour guide and reproductive health advocate Carlos Celdran was detained by Manila police on Thursday for disrupting a mass at the Manila Cathedral, where he staged a protest action against the bishops’ opposition to the reproductive health bill. Dressed as Jose Rizal, Celdran stood in front of the Manila Cathedral altar during a mass with Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and several bishops present, holding a sign bearing the words “Damaso” — a reference to the villainous friar from the novel “Noli Me Tangere.” He screamed, “Stop getting involved in politics” before he was taken away by the police at around 4:30 p.m.

Manila Cathedral rector Msgr. Nestor Cerbo said that Celdran was guilty of “disruption of worship, which is a very sacred thing which should be given utmost respect.” At around 8:15 p.m. the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines filed charges against Celdran for violation of Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, which prohibits “offending religious feelings.” The exact text of the article says that “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.”

Aside from leading popular walking tours of Manila’s historical spots, Celdran is also a vocal advocate of the Reproductive Health Bill. He has used his blog, Facebook account, and Twitter account to criticize the Catholic church for its stance against artificial contraceptives and sex education.

Police said it was Mayor Lim who ordered that Celdran be taken into police custody.

“Nandoon si Mayor Lim sa misa eh. Nilapitan siya ng pari. Ang nagmimisa doon, sundalo at mga police. Kinuha (si Celdran) ng mga pulis na nakikinig ng misa,” said SPO2 Ernesto Andres, desk officer of the PCP Intramuros.

In a telephone interview, Celdran told GMANews.TV that the police were treating him well. “I think I got them on my side, because I told them the reason why I did this,” he added.

“The fact the police are in semi-agreement with my cause, although they cannot do anything about it, shows how much people want the RH bill to be passed and how much the church should stop getting involved in politics and stop threatening the president,” he added.

Pres. Aquino said today that he was unfazed by threats from the Catholic church to excommunicate him unless he changes his position that the state should respect the choices couples will make when planning their families.

At around 6:00 p.m., Celdran was transferred from Intramuros to the police community precinct in Ermita. “Doon sila maga-areglo,” Andres said.

For more on this story, click here. Also, shout-out to Lorely Trinidad for sharing the story. For a personal account on Celdran you can visit her blog or you can get to know  Carlos Celdran.

Update: Manila tour guide and Reproductive Health (RH) bill advocate Carlos Celdran walked free on Friday October 1st after his family posted a P6,000 bail. Celdran spent the night at the Manila Police District Station 5 after disrupting a public gathering at the Manila Cathedral on Thursday.

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