Faith and Spirituality

Harriet Demetriou on case vs exorcist: It’s about law, not church doctrine

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Harriet Demetriou on case vs exorcist: It’s about law, not church doctrine

DEVOTEE. Retired Sandiganbayan justice Harriet Demetriou is pursuing an 'offending religious feelings' case against Dominican priest Father Winston Cabading.

Rhaydz Barcia/Rappler

Retired Sandiganbayan justice Harriet Demetriou says the court, not social media, is the proper venue to discuss her case against Dominican exorcist priest Father Winston Cabading

MANILA, Philippines – Retired justice Harriet Demetriou on Saturday, May 27, broke her silence about her case against exorcist priest Father Winston Cabading, and stressed it is about the law and not church teachings. 

In a text message to Rappler, Demetriou said the proper venue to discuss the issue is the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, where the case against the Dominican priest is pending, “and not the social media platform.” 

“What the public should know and understand is that Father Cabading is being charged for violation of Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, a statutory law of the Philippines, and not of any Catholic Church doctrine,” Demetriou said.

Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, which dates back to the 1930s, penalizes “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.”

The Dominican priest was arrested on May 13, a Saturday, forcing him to spend two nights in detention because courts are closed on weekends. He posted bail amounting to P18,000 ($305) on Monday, May 15.

If convicted, 57-year-old Cabading – a theology instructor at the University of Santo Tomas, where he once served as secretary-general and vice rector – faces up to two years and four months in prison.

Why an exorcist priest was arrested for ‘offending religious feelings’

Why an exorcist priest was arrested for ‘offending religious feelings’

Rappler first sought Demetriou’s side on Wednesday, May 24, but the former elections chief and former Sandiganbayan justice had said she “cannot discuss the case with anyone by reason of the sub judice rule.”

In this case of “offending religious feelings,” Demetriou accuses Cabading of being a “rabid critic of Our Lady, Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace,” a Marian title associated with a reported 1948 apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lipa, Batangas. Demetriou said that she, as a devotee, has “also become a victim of his blasphemous indulgence and thus entitled to a cause of action for a criminal complaint.”

Cabading’s supporters however sought to debunk the Lipa apparition, which they considered the root of the issue. In a statement on Friday, May 26, Filipino exorcists emphasized that the Vatican itself has ruled that the Lipa apparition is not supernatural – “that is, not from God and hence, not worthy of belief.” 

For Cabading himself, the case “boils down to the fact that some people do not want to accept the judgment of the Church that the apparition is not worthy of belief.”

Cabading, in an interview with Rappler on Wednesday, asserted his innocence as well as his right to free speech. The priest said his statement in a 2019 exorcism conference, which Demetriou cited in her case, “is covered and protected by the Constitution.”

“It’s my constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression and freedom of speech,” the priest said. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email