SolGen backs Carlos Celdran's appeal for acquittal over 'Damaso' ruling

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FILE PHOTO. On September 30, 2010, Reproductive Health law advocate Carlos Celdran marched into Manila Cathedral and carried the sign "Damaso."

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 15) — Tour guide and cultural activist Carlos Celdran got an ally in the Office of the Solicitor General in seeking acquittal on a charge for "offending religious feelings" over his 2010 anti-Church stunt.

In a 20-page appeal signed by Solicitor General Jose Calida, the OSG asked the Supreme Court (SC) to reverse its decision that upheld the conviction of Celdran for lack of "enough factual basis."

It also urged the high court to declare as unconstitutional Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code that defines the crime offending religious feelings.

"The prosecution failed to prove, much less identify, a religious practice, dogma or ritual that was allegedly ridiculed by Petitioner's act of displaying the placard 'DAMASO' in the Manila Cathedral resulting in an offense to religious feelings," the OSG said in the pleading.

Celdran today also submitted a motion for reconsideration calling for his acquittal and even urging the SC to conduct oral arguments on the case.

Celdran, through his lawyer, argued that the crime of offending religious feelings contradicts the constitutional mandate that separates state and religion.

He also pointed out the crime violates the constitutional right to due process for being "vague and overbroad."

Celdran also stressed that the criminal prosecution raises a free speech issue.

The SC last week released a resolution affirming the Court of Appeals' decision in 2012 that found Celdran guilty of violating Article 133.

The charge came after Celdran in September 2010 interrupted an ecumenical service at the Manila Cathedral to protest against the Catholic Church's opposition to the Reproductive Health Bill that was then pending in the Congress.

Dressed-up like national hero Dr. Jose Rizal, he stood at the main altar and shouted while raising a placard with the word "Damaso" on it. The word is a reference to a notorious character in Rizal's novel "Noli Me Tangere."

CNN Philippines correspondent Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.