‘Ama Namin’ drag video riles pols, church leaders


A DRAG performer’s viral video showing “Jesus Christ” leading an upbeat rendition of “Ama Namin” (“The Lord’s Prayer) while surrounded by a cheering party crowd has drawn the ire of netizens including lawmakers, and Catholic church leaders, sparking fresh debate over the fine balance between freedom of expression and other constitutional tenets.

In a statement, Senate President Zubiri urged authorities to look into the video, citing penal charges against the drag queen, who has said there was nothing to apologize for.

Zubiri cited Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code as a possible charge against the performer.

Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code punishes those “who offend any race or religion in the performance of obscene or indecent plays, scenes, acts or shows in theaters, fairs, or any other place.”

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) also protested drag performer Pura Luka Vega’s portrayal of “Jesus” leading a “remix” of the Our Father.

CBCP, however, has no plans of pursuing any legal charges against Vega.

CBCP executive secretary Fr. Jerome Secillano also clarified that it is not about Pura Luka Vega being queer, but “the very act itself” is “blasphemous.”

CBCP has released statements calling the performance “disrespectful” and “sacrilegious,” alongside several politicians such as Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senators Risa Hontiveros, JV Ejercito, Bataan Representative Geraldine Roman, among others.

CBCP: ‘Don’t twist’ case

In Vega’s Twitter space, the drag performer said, “Was it offensive because I am a queer individual? Or was it of other factors? It was in no way trying to demean naman.”

The CBCP executive secretary urged the artist, however, to “not twist the thing that happened.”

“The very act itself is very blasphemous, disrespectful, a mockery, profanity. Even if he is not a drag queen, even if he is a straight [man], if somebody does that, of course we are going to make a reaction out of it,” Fr. Secillano told BusinessMirror.

According to Vega, the intention was never to mock.

“Feeling ko, I was very careful when I did that because I don’t want it to come across as something that’s very offensive. I also did that intentionally to challenge our notions of how we worship or how we sing our prayers,” said Vega.

Possible consequences

In an interview, Fr. Secillano said, “We don’t plan to take action, except to say that people should be extremely prudent in making fun of religion.”

On Monday, Vega responded against the backlash through Philippine Drag Updates, saying, “I won’t delete it nor will apologize for doing it.”

Vega said their mere existence as queers already offends people, and the performance is just a “yassified worship/lipsync of the Lord’s Prayer.”

“People are free to make interpretations of it. The way I see it, our reactions and perceptions reveal our values which we need to reflect on,” said Vega, one of the contestants of “Drag Den” Season One.

Netizens who denounced the video tagged it as “blasphemous” and deeply offensive to Catholics, who are taught at an early age to pray the “Our Father” in a most solemn way. At Holy Mass, it is sung in various versions, but also with solemnity, not like a party or disco version, the protesting netizens said.

‘Try doing it to another religion’

On Thursday, the current and past Senate Presidents weighed in on the issue, as well.

Former Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a tweet, addressing the drag performer: “Whatever it is, why don’t you try doing that to another religion?” It was an apparent reference to the often violent protests that follow controversial “freedom of expression” acts in other countries, mostly those deemed extremely disrespectful of Islam or Hinduism.

For his part, Senate President Zubiri said in a statement: “In my opinion, this is the height of the misuse and abuse of our freedom of expression that borders on criminal activity. It offends the sensibilities of our Christian brothers and sisters, deeply demeans the faith of millions of Filipinos, and dangerously scales the boundaries of protected speech and expression.”

Hontiveros, a strong advocate of rights of LGBTQ persons, said in a statement: “As a woman of faith, I admit I personally find this regrettable. Alam ko madami ding miyembro ng LGBTQIA+ community, persons of faith among them, find this regrettable. However, I also caution against the use of this incident to deny rights and protections to a community that has long been marginalized and excluded.

“I wish for self-reflection, compassion and healing for both the religious and LGBTQIA+ communities. Our platforms should build bridges. The struggle for SOGIE Equality continues.”

Kabataan party-list also weighed in: “Drag is an art form and is open to criticism. Indeed freedom of expression requires responsibility, so it may be criticized but in no way should it be penalized or censored.”