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.


The significance of José Rizal to our history as a Filipino

José Rizal was the person who inspired the Filipinos to fight for independence from Spain even though he himself was not in favor for total independence from Spain.

Today, 19 June is the 151st birthday of the national hero of our country, José Rizal. The date of birth was significant to us as a Filipino who fought for independence from the excesses of friar-led Spanish colonial rule even though Rizal personally was not in favor for outright independence from Spain.

His emergence as a patriot, novelist, ophthalmologist, polymath, and a linguist inspired many Filipinos not just during his time but also to later generations to fight for freedom from the excesses of colonial rule of Spain, the United States and also the excesses of post-colonial economic, political, and social policies. His ideas like equality among Filipinos and the Spaniards that time caught him a significant followers regardless of personal ideas like Andrés Bonifacio and many others.

His entire life was practically spent to fight the excesses of friar-led Spanish colonial rule as he was the apparent heir to continue the legacies of his family. His exceptional talents gave him a comparative advantage over his colleagues that time to fight the excesses of the colonial rule like the obvious preferences by the religious orders to Spanish individuals over a Philippine-born individuals of appointing priests to the various parishes in all over the archipelago.

His exceptional talents enabled him to raise the concerns of the Filipino people to the Spanish people when he went to Spain and the entire Europe in order to awaken not just the Spaniards but the entire world on what the grievances of the Filipino people then. It was in Europe when José Rizal wrote his ideals and grievances like Noli me Tangere, El Filibusterismo, and La Solidaridad.

His goals for a better Philippines incurred the ire from the people who enjoys the status quo especially from the friars who got threatened by Rizal’s writings like the exploitation of native Filipino women for personal benefit of some friars in their respective parishes. His writings was the cause of his unjustified death in the hands of the friars on 30 December 1896.

After then, later generations took Rizal’s life as an inspiration to fight the excesses not just against foreign occupiers but also against some local interests who controlled the political, social, and economic lives of the vast majority for their personal benefit. In spite of several interpretations on how should Rizal be remembered to the eyes of the people, José Rizal was still the symbol and the inspiration for the Filipinos that need to be emulated for the next generation of people to come.