Makabayan bloc condemns KWF’s banning of books

Progressive lawmakers of Makabayan bloc condemn the red-tagging and book purging of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino. (Photo: Koalisyong Makabayan/Facebook)
Progressive lawmakers of Makabayan bloc condemn the red-tagging and book purging of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino. (Photo: Koalisyong Makabayan/Facebook)

Progressive lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc, in a resolution passed in Congress, condemns the banning of books by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF), and calls on the country’s language commission to revoke the memorandum against the five books it deemed as “subversive.”

They also condemn the red-baiting of the late National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera and scholar-critic Alice Guillermo, saying that it is beyond the mandate of the KWF to determine which books are subversive or not, and that the move to ban these books in accordance with a provision in the Anti-Terorism Act (ATA) may cause “irreparable damage not just to cultural history but also to the proper workings of democracy.”

‘If Rizal were alive today, he would be branded as an enemy of the state’

In a privilege speech on Monday (August 15), Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel stated that the banning of books is reminiscent of a dark era in the history of the country when our national heroes whose values and patriotism we strive to emulate today were seen as a subversive that needs to be stopped.

He also quoted phrases from Jose Rizal’s books—’the idols will be shattered, tyranny will crumble like a house of cards, and liberty will shine out like the first dawn’—to prove how ludicrous the rampant red-tagging of some officials in the government are that one’s own words are used against them to prove their supposed subversion.

“If [Jose Rizal] were alive today, for sure he would be branded as an enemy of the state and his writings would be banned. In connection to this, we slam the renewed state-sanctioned book purging drive, this time initiated by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino,” Manuel said.

Bilang isang kabataan, hindi ko lubos maisip na ang ilan sa mga pinagdaanan ng mga Pilipino dati, na nababasa ko lang o napapanood sa mga documentary – gaya ng censorship ng mga libro, pag-demonize sa mga manunulat at akademiko, at pagbansag sa kanila bilang supporter ng mga subersibo o terorista – ay masasaksihan naming mga kabataan in our lifetime,” he added.

(In my youth, I couldn’t believe that some of the things our forefathers went through in history normally seen in documentaries, such as censorship of books, demonization of writers and academics, branding them as supporters of subversives or terrorists, we’ll also see in our lifetime.)

Manuel said that this book purging is censorship at best and mind-conditioning at worst, using to hinder the youth’s access to these book as part of the historical denialism and revisionism project, and a chilling effect of the draconian ATA.

“Moving forward, we can take control of our future by taking back our past: we ensure accountability by combating historical distortion in schools, libraries, communities, and the streets,” Manuel added.

Banning of books ‘result of internal struggle within KWF’

One of the authors whose book was banned by the KWF, Prof. Reuel Molina Aguila, believes that beneath the red-tagging and banning of their books is a much larger problem within the institution – a “power struggle” among commissioners within the KWF, and that they’re only caught between these competing forces.

Akala nila, ang maaapektuhan lang nila ay si [KWF Chairperson Arthur] Casanova. Namali ang kalkulasyon nila na biglang magkakaisa ang iba't ibang sektor,” Aguila said to Yahoo Philippines.

(They thought that only KWF Chairperson Arthur Casanova would be under hot waters. They miscalculated that groups within the arts and literature sector will also unite.)

He also dismissed Mendillo’s insistence that their books contain anti-government passages. And even so, Aguila said that neither the KWF, nor the hosts of the program that started this uproar, had the right to brand them as subversives and terrorists.

May lisensya ba o pribilehiyo ang ganitong programa at mga host, pati na ang KWF na basta na lamang mag-akusa? Hindi ba libel din ito? Hindi ba terorismo rin ito dahil inilalagay nila sa balag ng kapahamakan ang mga manunulat? Hindi ba sensura ito?” he added.

(Do they have a license or a privilege, including KWF, to just accuse us? Isn’t this libelous? Can this be considered as terrorism as well because they’re putting the lives of the writers in danger? Isn’t this censorship?)

Ang ginawa nina Badoy, at ganoon din ang kanilang source na mga komisyoner ng KWF ay pumili ng labis na partikular na bahagi ng mga akda at pilit ipinagkasya ang mga siping ito sa kanilang paniniwalang terorismo. Hindi ganyan ang pagbasa ng panitikan, o pag-unawa sa sining at pananaliksik,” Aguila said.

(What Badoy did, as well as the source of the KWF commissioners, is to nitpick particular passages within the text and use it to justify their belief that these books indeed contain ‘terroristic’ passages. That’s not how one should read literature, or how one conducts their art and research.)

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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