The lower court ruled against activist Carlos Celdran guilty of “offending religious feelings” after he disturbed an ecumenical service at the Manila Cathedral in September 2010 when RH Bill was a hit.
During the ecumenical service, Celdran stood before several bishops and other religious crowd, dressed as if the national hero, Jose Rizal, and held up a placard with “Damaso” written on it. He furthermore, shouted, ‘You bishops, stop involving yourself in politics…’ and so on and so forth.
The consequence of Celdran’s action has become celebrated, and now that the court decided against him, the decision would become a landmark case of the right to freedom of speech under attack. But the question is: Was the right to freedom of speech misinterpreted by Celdran? Or was it under threat after the court ruled against him?
There may have been two simple issues involved over Carlos Celdran case:
- Is the right to freedom of speech absolute?
- When does the right to freedom of speech become unconstitutional?
Suppressing the right to freedom of speech endangers the Constitution. It is the primary aim of the Constitution to safeguard that all men are equal under the law, and thus all principles and values in it deserve equality and just interpretation by considering all involving values, rights, and principles be carefully weighed against conflict interests. The Constitution never promotes inequality and injustice. Ergo, the right to freedom of speech, just like any other rights when it becomes injustice or when it endangers other rights, should not always be treated as such letting it to prevail over any conflicting values and principles enshrined in the Constitution. Therefore, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute.
The Constitution protects the right to a peaceful assembly to address the government for redress of grievances. The right to freedom of speech is obviously involved in this process or action. It is an unwavering pursuit of the Constitution to discourage violence at all cost. Moreover, it is the mandate of the Constitution to protect the rights of citizens from abuse. Nobody has been granted of an absolute right, especially the right to freedom of speech, or else the Constitution would disregard the due process.
Over Celdran case, he may not have become violent to himself as he thought of himself against others, but the action he took might be disruptive to the peaceful assembly, putting the rights of others in danger. Celdran may have exercised his right to freedom of speech, but he may have neglected the rights of others, basically. The right to freedom of speech is everybody’s right to use it responsibly and reasonably. When other constitutional values and principles under conflict with the right to freedom of speech, be it conspicuously provoking violence, and since it is the mandate of the Constitution to safeguard justice and equality; then the right to freedom of speech has no option rather than to pay for the consequence. Ergo, this right in this light ca be considered injustice and therefore, be considered unconstitutional.