Religion is king in the Philippines?
Drag performer Pura Luka Vega – assigned as Amadeus Fernando Pagente at birth – was arrested on Wednesday in relation to their viral “Ama Namin” remix performance.
In July, a video of Pura wearing a Black Nazarene-inspired costume while dancing to a remix of the song of Ama Namin (Our Father) became controversial due to the criticisms of supposedly offended religious people, including politicians and supposedly “Christian” leaders. This led to them being declared as persona non grata in various localities whose “leaders” considered the performance as blasphemous and disrespectful to their religion; these local government units included Manila, Laguna, Nueva Ecija, Cagayan de Oro City, Bohol, Bukidnon, General Santos City, Floridablanca in Pampanga, and Toboso in Negros Occidental.
The drag performer was eventually charged with a criminal case initiated by the Philippines for Jesus Movement, and then by the Hijos del Nazareno.
Among the laws Pura supposedly violated included: Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code, or for “Immoral doctrines, obscene publications and exhibitions, and indecent shows”; the Cyber Crime Prevention Act; and Section 133 of the Revised Penal Code, which states that performing acts “notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful”.
Interestingly, Section 133 of the Revised Penal Code, which grants religious feelings more weight than the freedom of expression, may be a crime, but only if this it was done “in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony.” Pura performed in a bar, and they justified their performance as their way of expressing their own faith.
The warrant stemmed from the case filed by the Hijos del Nazareno, with the warrant of arrest served to Pura for offenses of immoral doctrines, obscene publications, and exhibition and indecent shows. Bail was recommended at P72,000.
Interestingly, Pura claimed that they did not receive any notice from the Manila Prosecutors Office for the case filed by the group Hijos del Nazareno.
The arrest warrant was issued by Manila Judge Czarina Encarnacion Samonte-Villanueva.