MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A Manila court found prominent tour guide and reproductive health advocate Carlos Celdran guilty of “offending religious feelings,” according to a statement made by Celdran himself on Twitter.
Guilty.— carlosceldran (@carlosceldran) January 28, 2013
Celdran was charged with violating Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code (offending religious feelings) after he disrupted a service at the Manila Cathedral on Sept 30, 2010. Clad as the Filipino national hero Jose Rizal, the outspoken reproductive health advocate held up a sign with the words “Damaso,” in reference to the villainous priest in Rizal’s famous novel “Noli Me Tangere.”
A copy of the decision tweeted by Celdran shows that he was sentenced to serve a prison term of not less than two months and 21 days and not more than one year, one month and 11 days.
Human Rights Watch said the decision “is a setback for free speech in the Philippines, which prides itself in being a democracy.”
In a statement signed by Carlos Conde, Asia Researcher of Human Rights Watch, the group said: “This verdict should be reversed. Nobody should be jailed for voicing out an opinion or position, especially on a subject that concerns the lives of millions of Filipino women and mothers.”
“I am calm but I am going to fight this till the end. This issue has become more than just about me or the Damaso protest at this point. Freedom of speech is now under threat for ALL Filipinos,” said Celdran in a Facebook post.
He added that he won’t be giving interviews yet and is spending the day with friends and family as he processes the decision.
Online, netizens weighed in on the issue using the hashtag #FreeCarlosCeldran. “Carlos Celdran” was a trending topic in the Philippines as of 3:38pm on Monday, January 28.