Culturally dominated by Catholicism, the Philippines is the only country in the world, other than the Holy See, to ban divorce. A law against “offending religious feelings” has recently been activated against a critic of Catholic Church policies.

Section 4 of the revised penal code (largely unchanged since 1930) covers “Crimes against religious worship”, including a ban on “interruption of religious worship” (article 132) and more pertinently, “offending the religious feelings” (article 133):

“Offending the religious feelings. – The penalty of arresto mayor [suspension of suffrage] in its maximum period to prision correctional in its minimum period [from 6 months 1 day, up to 2 years 4 months] shall be imposed upon 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.”

Dissent from religious beliefs is also restricted in other ways. The Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines has historically played a significant role in politics and governments have generally avoided taking strong measures to curb the birth rate for fear of antagonising the Catholic Church, despite population growth being linked significantly to poverty and inequality in the country. In 2013, several dioceses publicly opposed the re-election of specific senators and House members who voted in support of the 2012 Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act (RH Law), which provided for free contraceptives at government health clinics.

In 2013 the crime of “offending religious feelings” was was used to convict Carlos Celdran for protesting the Catholic Church’s opposition to the Reproductive Health Law.