FILE—Fr. Winston Cabading, O.P. (Photo by Miah Terenz Provido)

A QUEZON City judge has tossed back a criminal charge for “offending religious feelings” against former UST secretary general Fr. Winston Cabading, O.P. to state prosecutors, saying there were no factual allegations constituting an offense. 

In a six-page ruling dated Aug. 29, Judge Madonna Echiverri of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 81 instructed the prosecution to revise the charge within 30 days of receiving the order, or else it would be dismissed. 

Harriet Demetriou, a former Commission on Elections chairwoman and former Sandiganbayan justice, filed the complaint against Cabading on Dec. 12, 2022, accusing the Dominican priest and exorcist of mocking the devotion to “Our Lady, Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace” in Lipa City, Batangas in an online program.

Demetriou, a Lipa devotee, called Cabading a “rabid critic” of the Mediatrix of All Grace, whose supposed apparition at the Carmelite Monastery of Lipa in 1948 had been declared by the Vatican as lacking in supernatural origin. 

Cabading was accused of committing the crime of “offending religious feelings” under Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, which penalizes “anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.” 

The former UST secretary general was arrested on May 13, 2023, and released two days later after posting a bail of P18,000.

In its ruling, the Quezon City court said that Cabading’s statements were not his own, as he referred to the Vatican’s statements.

“This court finds nothing in the quoted statements made by accused to be offensive nor punishable by law. No object of veneration was damaged or destroyed by the accused in a religious ceremony nor was there any religious ceremony to speak of,” the ruling stated.

“The statements were not notoriously offensive, there was no scoffing and [the statements] do not appear to ridicule. It was not a personal conviction but that which is stated by the Vatican,” it added. 

The ruling also noted that Cabading’s statements were made in a program uploaded on Facebook, not in a place of religious worship or during a religious ceremony.

“All told, the information failed to state facts which constitute an offense,” it read. 

Cabading earlier filed a motion to quash where he argued that the case filed against him was “defective and insufficient” because it failed to state the elements of the crime.

The motion will be granted and the charge filed against Cabading will be dismissed if the prosecution fails to file a strong charge. 

Travel permission

In the same ruling, the regional court granted Cabading’s motion for permission to travel abroad. 

The court said he was not a flight risk as he returned to the country after being permitted to travel on June 13, 2023. 

Cabading will head to Rome to attend the International Conference of the Association of Exorcists from Sept. 25 to 30, 2023. 

He will have to pay a travel bond double the amount of his bail and return to the country by Oct. 3, 2023. S.M.S. Balagan


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