Free speech has its own limits

Carlos Celdran may face a prison term with a maximum of 1 year+ after a Manila court found him guilty of “offending religious feelings". (Courtesy of Carlos Celdran's Facebook)

Carlos Celdran may face a prison term with a maximum of 1 year+ after a Manila court found him guilty of “offending religious feelings”. (Courtesy of Carlos Celdran’s Facebook)

A Manila court found famous tour guide and reproductive health advocate Carlos Celdran guilty of “offending religious feelings”, according to a statement made by Celdran himself on Twitter.

Celdran was charged with violating the Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code for “offending religious feelings” during an ecumenical meeting at the Manila Cathedral in September 2010 when he unfurled a post with the word “Damaso”,  in reference to the villainous priest in Rizal’s famous novel “Noli Me Tangere.”

He is expected to serve his sentence with a maximum of 1 year+ in prison.

I was not surprised that Carlos Celdran was sentenced for a prison term as what he did of expressing his resentment against the Catholic bishops was a deterrent to the freedom of expressing religious beliefs without disruption. Although I understand and affirm what Carlos Celdran has been fighting for, but we need to set our limits on how to express our resentments against someone we never like. For me, it is a reasonable one that if we resent someone or something, we should find a proper venue where we can express our resentments, not directly attack someone in person or an institution with its premises. We should think that our enemy or an institution we never like deserves utmost respect like how we respect ourselves.

Although the maximum prison term of 1 year+ for Carlos Celdran is too much, but what the law says should be followed not only by Celdran but also by us.

The lessons of the verdict on Carlos Celdran are we should know the limitations on how and what to express our resentments against someone or something. Freedom of self-expression, free speech, or assembly should co-exist with freedom of practicing religious beliefs. If we cannot balance those things, I think there would be more resentments from both sides of an religious-related issues where having resolution or compromise may be impossible.

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