Celdran: No regrets for 'Damaso' protest


Posted at Oct 01 2010 11:40 AM | Updated as of Oct 02 2010 01:43 AM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) -  Controversial tour guide Carlos Celdran was freed on bail Friday but could face even more sanctions after disrupting Mass at the Manila Cathedral Thursday to protest the Catholic Church's stance against contraceptives.

Celdran walked free from the Manila Police District Station 5 in Ermita at 4:30 p.m. after posting P6,000 bail before the sala of executive judge Sara Almalin of Metropolitan Trial Court branch 15.

The tour guide was arrested and charged with violating Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code after raising a ruckus during Thursday's ecumenical service at the Manila Cathedral.

Police said Celdran, wearing a dark suit and top hat, started shouting and held up the placard with the word "Damaso" in the the middle of a homily.

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

Celdran has apologized for the manner of his protest but not the content of his message.

"I don't blame anybody for what happened. Wala akong sinisisi. Pinaninindigan ko yung ginawa ko. Wala akong regrets. No regrets at all," he told radio dzMM.

Celdran, a much sought-after tour guide in Intramuros, said he made the demonstration to protest the Catholic Church's position against contraceptives.

"I am a Catholic and born Catholic. Marami Catholic sa Pilipinas who are very disappointed with the position of the church because it is anti-women's rights, anti-gay rights and anti-human rights especially when it comes to reproductive health. Ngayong nasa kulungan ako, we can see na anti-freedom of speech din sila," he said.

"Nakakatakot ang precedent na ito, na they have the power to put people in prison like the time of Jose Rizal. If you protest against the church and the bishops, you get hauled to jail. It sends a very scary message to Filipinos when priests can put you in jail," he said.

In response, the clergy of the Archdiocese of Manila issued a statement condemning Celdran's action and urged the Intramuros administration to make him account for his actions. The clergy consists of 238 priests assigned to 85 parishes, 2 chapels, 3 shrines, and hospitals and schools.

The statement said Celdran "willfully and with premeditation executed his protest inside the Manila Cathedral the church of the Archbishop and the seat of the Archdiocese of the Manila. The church is the Mother Church in the Archdiocese and is the central place for worship of the entire flock of the Archdiocese. This is the church where the past Archbishops of Manila are buried (in its crypt). This is where the Cathedra (seat) and the seal (coat of arms) of the Archbishop of Manila are displayed to symbolize his office, an appointment that comes directly from the Holy See."

The clergy said Celdran showed blatant disrespect for Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams and the bishops and priests and representatives of other religions present during the worship service.

It said the tour guide "disrupted the religious proceedings which included reading from the Sacred Scriptures, and preened in front of the altar with his offensive poster. Unstopped (because no one was prepared for such brazen action) he repeatedly pointed his poster towards the religious leaders and at the sacred altar, and at one time even shouted. When he was being peaceably led out of the Cathedral he shouted invectives."

"These actions cannot by any means be considered within the purview of freedom of expression. Instead they were malicious acts directed towards a Faith, a Religion that was represented by its leaders and the faithful gathered. It was desecrating a consecrated place, as every Catholic church or chapel is consecrated by sacred rites. His right to protest in this manner ended after he entered the doors of the Manila Cathedral," the clergy said.

It added that Celdran also showed disrespect to national hero Jose Rizal "by assuming the hero’s looks to perpetuate his shameful deed."
"We demand that the Intramuros Administration make him account for his actions since Mr. Celdran is a tour guide who operates within its confines.  We pray for him that he may receive enlightenment and have remorse for what he has done," it added.  With reports from Edwin Sevidal and Henry Atuelan, radio dzMM