Court junks offending religious feelings case against former UST SecGen

Art by Janssen Judd Romero/THE FLAME

A QUEZON City court has dismissed the case filed against former UST secretary general Fr. Winston Cabading, O.P., saying his actions related to his stance on the alleged apparition of the Virgin Mary in Lipa do not offend religious feelings.

Quezon City Regional Trial Court judge Zita Marie Atienza-Fajardo ruled that Cabading’s actions would only be punishable if they were directed against religious practices and beliefs with the intent “to ridicule, mock, scoff at or attempt to damage” an object of religious veneration.

“The court finds that the subject statements made by the accused and alleged in the Amended information are not notoriously offensive that are designed purely to ridicule or deliberately hurt the feelings of the faithful, or the devotees of Our Lady, Mary, Mediatrix of All grace,” Fajardo said in a nine-page order dated May 14.

In December 2022, retired Commission on Elections chief and Mary Mediatrix of All Grace devotee Harriet Demetriou filed a case against Cabading, alleging that he violated Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code or the provision against offending religious feelings.

The case stemmed from the Dominican priest’s statements about the supposed Marian apparition at a Carmelite Monastery in Lipa in 1948.

“And the petals, they are not unique, just like the Lipa apparition, the Vatican said, it is not from God…So, by that alone, they are not true Marian devotees listening to the Church. They only want to listen to their own. They listen if it pleases them, they reject what they do not agree with. So they become the basis of truth, not the discernment of the Church,” Cabading said in an online religious show.

According to Demetriou, the Dominican priest was a “rabid critic” of Mary and was “consistently” mocking the Blessed Mother and her devotees.

But the latest ruling dismissed Demetriou’s complaint due to failure to provide sufficient evidence to support the allegation.

According to the court order, the Dominican priest’s commentaries were not performed in a place devoted to religious worship or during a religious ceremony, contrary to Demetriou’s claims that the statements were made during an online religious ceremony.

“Adding the clause ‘Facebook page dedicated solely to evangelism and propagation of faith’ or making a general declaration that it is an ‘online religious ceremony’ did not convert the ‘program’ of Bro. Wendell Talibong into a religious ceremony,” the order read.

The court also said the livestream where Cabading made the statement was not uploaded by him but was posted on a Facebook account he did not own.

In May 2023, Cabading was arrested by virtue of a warrant issued by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, but was given provisional liberty after posting bail.

In January, the Makati prosecutor’s office dismissed Demetriou’s perjury complaint, saying it did not find probable cause to indict Cabading for making false statements under oath. F – Ma. Alyanna Selda

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