The Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) has decided to halt the publication and distribution of five books it deemed containing “anti-government” texts, an internal memo of the country’s official language commission revealed.
KWF, in the memo dated August 9, 2022, said that these books may contain texts that could be “inciting to commit terrorism,” a violation of the Anti-Terrorism Law’s Article 9, thus the commission has decided to cease the distribution of the books.
“Kagyat na iniaatas ang tuluyang PAGPAPATIGIL sa lahat ng aklat na may nilalamang politikal, subersibo, at mga malikhaing akdang may subliminal na ideolohiyang nanghihimok at/o nakapag-uudyok na labanan ang pamahalaan at sa lahat na kauring tekstong inilimbag at/o ililimbag kasama ang nasa imprenta o pangangalaga ng yunit ng publikasyon ng Komisyon,” the memo read.
(We are immediately halting the production and distribution of all books that are in nature political, subversive, and creative works with subliminal ideology that enjoin its readers to revolt against the government and other similar texts and/or books that have already been printed or under the supervision of the commission’s publication unit.)
The said memo was signed by Carmelita C. Abdurahman, KWF’s Commissioner for Programs and Projects, and Benjamin M. Mendillo, Commissioner for Finance and Administration.
Among the books that were cited as violating the ATL were:
Teatro Politikal Dos by Malou Jacob
Kalatas: Mga Kuwentong Bayan at Kuwentong Buhay by Rommel B. Rodriguez
Tawid-diwa sa Panangisag ni Bienvenido Lumbera: Ang Bayan, ang Manunulat, at ang Magasing Sagisag sa Imahinatibong Yugto ng Batas Militar 1975-1979 by Dexter B. Cayanes
May Hadlang ang Umaga by Don Pagusara
Labas: Mga Palabas sa Labas ng Sentro by Reuel M. Aguila
In a report by ABS-CBN News, Mendillo, who is also the officer-in-charge Director-General of the KWF, said that even before National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s (NTF-ELCAC) Lorraine Badoy-Partosa went on a red-tag spree in Sonshine Media Network International’s (SMNI) “Laban Kasama ng Bayan,” they have already taken action to block these books.
“NTF-ELCAC is not yet in the picture but on our own we have reviewed the text(s) and we have found evidence, explicit idealism, ideology, CPP-NPA taglines,” he said.
In a separate statement, some commissioners of the KWF also criticized the “illegal acts” of its former chairperson, Arthur P. Casanova, for his “endorsement, publication, and proliferation of subversive books.
“All contracts entered into by Arthur P. Casanova are without authority from the Board and he singularly contracted all the authors without the Board’s knowledge and disclosure of the contents to the board,” the statement read, signed by Abdurahman, Mendillo, Hope Yu, Alain Russ Dimzon, and Angela Lorenzana.
“The proliferation of these books should be stopped and that the Chairman be held responsible for his actions for wasting taxpayers’ money and inciting rebellion by way of allowing these books to be published,” they added.
Meanwhile, Casanova in a statement posted on his Facebook, countered the commissioners’ claim and that all the books underwent “the usual scrutiny that all publications of the KWF must pass, including receiving the imprimatur of the other two full-time commissioners.”
“I did not railroad nor force any publication. Furthermore, the allegations that these books are subversive is a dangerous accusation which may already be stepping on the boundaries of freedom of expression and academic freedom,” Casanova said.
He also refuted the claim that KWF is only mandated to publish dictionaries and other technical linguistic materials, but also to lead the efforts to enrich the Filipino Language.
“It is unfortunate that these allegations, which are untrue and unfounded, are being used by people who are pushing their own agendas,” Casanova said.
“This is but the latest in a series of actions being aimed against me to destroy my character and to disrupt efforts to strengthen and cleanse the KWF,” he added.
On top of this, Casanova said that he’s willing to face any form of investigation at the proper forum, be it a Congressional probe or one led by the Office of the President of which KWF is under, and called on the NTF-ELCAC and Anti-Terrorism Council “to look into these allegations and see for themselves that they are baseless and malicious.”
‘Fight for the right to free expression’
Rommel Rodriguez, who is also an associate professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman’s Department of Filipino and Philippine Literatures (UP-DFPP), aired his outrage on a Facebook post, saying that nobody, not even the KWF or NTF-ELCAC, has the right to ban the freedom of creative expression.
"Nais kong sabihin at manawagan sa mga kapwa manunulat at artista ng bayan na huwag natin palampasin ang mga kampon na ito ang magdikta sa paglikha natin ng sining! Wala dapat silang lugar sa malayang pagpapahayag! Wala silang karapatan na alisan tayo ng karapatan sa paglikha ng malayang sining!" he said.
(I want to tell my fellow writers and artists that we shouldn’t let them [KWF, NTF-ELCAC] dictate how we make our art! They don’t have the right to stifle freedom of expression! They don’t have the right to deprive us of our right to make art!)
“Lubos na nakagagalit ang patuloy na paninikil ng mga nasa poder ng kapangyarihan sa mga akademiko at manunulat ng bayan. Sa kabila ng kaliwa’t kanang krisis sa ekonomiya at kalusugan sa bansa, ito pa ang binibigyang-panahon ng mga nasa puwesto. Sabihin pa, ginawa ang atakeng ito ngayong Buwan ng Wika,” UP-DFPP said in a statement.
(It is outrageous that those in power keep oppressing academics and writers. Amid the many crises hounding the country especially in the economy and health, this is what they’re spending their time and effort on. What’s more ludicrous is the timing of their attack on our celebration of our national language this month.)
Meanwhile, Tanggol Wika, in a unity statement signed by many organizations and academic departments from different universities, said that the “subversive” contents of these books are exactly what we need to develop critical thinking and awaken our sense of nationalism, and that reading these books must be encouraged, not banned.
“Ang kanilang ‘subersibong’ panulat ay subersibo sa positibong aspekto sapagkat ginigising ang kamalayan ng madla at tinutulungan pukawin ang sambayanan para kumilos tungo sa pagbabago ng lipunan,” they said.
(Their “subversive” writings are subversive in a positive way because it awakens the consciousness of the people and encourages them to take action to make a change in society.)
“Nananawagan kami sa buong sambayanan na itakwil at hadlangan ang mga mapanganib na elementong nang-reredtag – ang mga anay at bukbok sa ating demokrasya,” they added.
(We are calling on everyone to oppose this dangerous red-tagging – a serious threat to our democracy.)
Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments on politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. Follow him on Twitter at @marvs30ang for latest news and updates.
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