5 February 2013
Sen. Pia files bill repealing controversial law punishing acts ‘offending religious feelings’
Senator Pia S. Cayetano is seeking to repeal a Spanish-era provision in the Revised Penal Code (RPC) which punishes acts deemed to “offend religious feelings,” which she said could be used to curtail freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed under the 1987 Constitution.
Cayetano on Tuesday filed Senate Bill No.3402 repealing Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code which punishes “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.”
Read full text of the bill here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/123928712/Senate-Bill-No-3402
In her explanatory note, the lady senator said, “Given the fact that the Revised Penal Code was enacted in January 1, 1932, more than 50 years before the 1987 Constitution, there is a need to revisit antiquated criminal laws such as Article 133.”
“Freedom of speech and expression is essential to a sovereign state. In fact, the curtailment thereof has been one of the main reasons for revolts in the country throughout Philippine history,” she added. “A person living in a democracy surely cannot expect that his beliefs will be free from all criticism.”
While Article III, Section 4, of the Constitution provides that no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech and expression, she noted that Article 133 has the effect of a law that restrains these guarantees.
She stressed, however, that the repeal of Article 133 does not mean that one’s right to freedom of religion will be entirely disregarded.
“A person can still be held liable for civil damages under Article 32 of the Civil Code which provides for redress in case there is a violation of the different Constitutional rights enumerated therein, including the freedom of religion, and of speech.”
Article 133 figured in the headlines in the case of activist Carlos Celdran, who was recently sentenced to jail by a Manila court for disrupting an ecumenical service at the Manila Cathedral in September 2010.
Protesting what he called the Church leadership’s interference in politics, particularly in its campaign against the passage of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill, Celdran held a placard that said ‘Damaso’ in the Cathedral’s main altar in open view of prelates and other church leaders. ‘Damaso’ refers to the character Padre Damaso Verdolagas, an abusive friar in Dr. Jose Rizal’s novel, ‘Noli Me Tangere.’ #
Photo: Sen. Pia Cayetano receives a gift from pro-Reproductive Health (RH) bill activist Carlos Celdran – a bowler hat – at a forum held on the RH bill at the University of the Philippines College of Law in Diliman, Quezon City, in September 2011.