Lawmaker seeks joint House panel inquiry on controversial book ban

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Amid the controversial decision of the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino (KWF; Filipino Language Commission) to ban books it deemed as “subversive,” a lawmaker is seeking a joint inquiry by panels of the House of Representatives to investigate KWF’s memorandum, citing the move as an illegal curtailment of the authors’ freedom of expression enshrined in the Philippine Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Albay first district representative Edcel Lagman filed House Resolution 239, which, once passed, will direct the House committees on basic education and culture, human rights, and higher and technical education to launch an investigation into the KWF’s memorandum.

Earlier this month, the KWF issued a memo denouncing several titles it branded as “anti-Marcos” or “anti-Duterte” and ordering the books be pulled from schools and libraries. They include works by Malou Jacob, Rommel Rodriguez, and Don Pagusara — books the agency itself published last April.

Lagman argued that the KWF memo was unconstitutional and that the commission had no authority to censor publications as its primary mandate is to ensure the enrichment of the Filipino language.

“The said Memorandum is a patently unconstitutional edict, an obtrusive weapon of thought control, an unmitigated censorship and a wanton assault on academic freedom […] the KWF has no power and is not authorized under R.A. No. 7104, its enabling statute, to ban and censor writings in Filipino,” Lagman wrote in the resolution.

Lagman also stressed in a privilege speech that the Bill of Rights explicitly states, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press.”

The Commission on Human Rights also urged the KWF to rethink its stance and study its policy with relevant stakeholders, warning it against government overreach.