Church says it's not behind Celdran case

MANILA, Philippines - Who is behind the legal case against Carlos Celdran?

It wasn’t the Church but lay Catholics who felt passionately about the issue, explained the Archdiocese of Manila in a statement issued on January 30, 2013.

“While deeply disturbed by the incident, then Manila Archbishop Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales gave instructions for the Archdiocese to no longer pursue the case. The criminal case against Mr Celdran was pursued by the State represented by the Public Prosecutor and a lay private prosecutor,” said the Archdiocese in the statement.

The Archdiocese added that the “appeal proceeds from hereon is not up to the Archdiocese of Manila or the Church but to the courts."

Celdran, an outspoken reproductive health advocate, was convicted of violating Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code (or "offending religious feelings") after he disrupted an ecumenical service at Manila Cathedral by holding up a sign with the words “Damaso,” alluding to a villainous priest in the novel “Noli Me Tangere.”

President Benigno Aquino III, who like Celdran supported the Reproductive Health bill, urged the Church to follow the Pope’s example and forgive Celdran.

The Archdiocese said, “Cardinal Rosales has long forgiven Mr Celdran.” The Cardinal was at the Manila Cathedral on Sept 30, 2010 when Celdran staged his protest and shouted, “Don’t meddle in politics.”

OFFICIAL STATEMENT. The Archdiocesan Office of Communications released the above statement on January 30, 2013. Screenshot from cbcforlife.com.

OFFICIAL STATEMENT. The Archdiocesan Office of Communications released the above statement on January 30, 2013. Screenshot from cbcforlife.com.

Lay Catholic prosecutor

The private prosecutor in the Celdran case is Ronaldo Reyes.

He told Rappler he decided to pursue the case because as a Catholic he didn’t want to see Celdran’s actions repeated by others.

“I am a Catholic and I felt offended by what Mr. Celdran did,” said Reyes in a phone interview.

He said he secured the permission of the state prosecutor and was even willing to try the case pro bono. “I wasn’t compensated at all. I wasn’t looking for any compensation,” said Reyes.

He pointed out that the 4 witnesses he called were not direct representatives of the Archdiocese and that Manila Cathedral’s Monsignor Nestor Cerbo never took the stand. 

However, Reyes did update Monsignor Cerbo on the case this week when the verdict was made public. Still, the attorney said, “[Cerbo] was not my client. I was doing it as a representative of the people. The client really is the people of the Philippines.”

“It was a matter of my own personal volition that this kind of action is wrong and should not be emulated or followed by others persons,“ said Reyes. - Rappler.com