Lagman files bill seeking to repeal ‘archaic’ crime of blasphemy

Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman |

A bill that seeks to repeal the crime of offending religious feelings, of which the late artist and activist Carlos Celdran was found guilty of, has been filed by Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman.

If passed into law, House Bill (HB) No. 5170 — which would repeal Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code on offending religious feelings — would have a retroactive effect, meaning all pending criminal cases and related civil cases for violation of Article 133 would be dismissed.

Celdran, championed for the passage of the Reproductive Health (RH), was found guilty after staging an impromptu protest in September 2010 at the Manila Cathedral as an act of protest against the Church’s interference in the efforts to pass the RH bill at the time.

The late activist dressed up as national hero Jose Rizal and raised a sign containing the word “Damaso” inside the cathedral, a reference to Padre Damaso, a notorious villain Rizal’s novel “Noli Me Tángere.”

In August 2018, the Supreme Court (SC) upheld the Court of Appeals’ guilty verdict on Celdran, ordering him to go to jail. Celdran, in turn, left the country and moved in self-exile to Madrid, Spain.

Celdran died of natural causes on October 8, 2019. He was 46 years old.

According to Lagman, Celdran “died as a freeman” because of SC’s failure to resolve with finality the late activist’s motion for reconsideration that sought the reversal of the High Court’s ruling.

“It is now for the Congress of the Philippines to render justice and redress to Celdran by repealing the aforequoted archaic provision, which is an odious remnant of the Dark Ages,” he said

“Article 133 is anathema to freedom of speech and expression, which is guaranteed under the Bill of Rights in the 1935, 1972, and the present 1987 Constitution,” he added. 

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