Celdran pleads innocent to offending religious feeling

by Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 28 2010 04:51 PM | Updated as of Oct 29 2010 12:51 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Celebrated tour guide Carlos Celdran pled not guilty Thursday to offending religious feelings for disrupting an ecumenical service at the Manila Cathedral last month.

Dressed in his signature Spanish-era Jose Rizal costume, Celdran was arraigned at the Branch 5 of the Metropolitan Trial Court on charges of violating Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, which prohibits offending religious feelings. He was accompanied by supporters who wore controversial Damaso shirts.

Celdran was arrested after he held up a sign that read "Damaso" in the middle of the homily at the Manila Cathedral last September 30.

"Damaso" refers to Father Damaso, an abusive priest who is a character in Jose Rizal’s novel "Noli Me Tangere."

Celdran said he made the demonstration to protest the Catholic Church's position against contraceptives.

Celdran's camp said they are open to a possible dialogue with the Church but will not apologize for the protest. Also present during the arraignment was Atty.Reynaldo Reyes, counsel for the complainant Monsignor Nestor Cerbo.

"The fact that they have a lawyer present means that they want the case to prosper," Celdran's lawyer, Atty. Marlon Manuel, said.

Reyes said his client could be open for forgiveness if Celdran would make a public apology.

"Sa mga Katoliko, dapat may pagpapatawad pero dapat naroon din yung aspeto na may pag-amin at paghingi ng tawad, " he said.

The next hearing is scheduled on December 7.