Language, culture, and education orgs unite against redtagging of authors and pulling out of KWF books (press Release)

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Language, culture, and education orgs unite against redtagging of authors and pulling out of KWF books

More than 30 language, culture, and educational departments or organizations signed a unity statement against SMNI hosts’ redtagging of authors and some Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino/Commission on the Filipino Language (KWF) commissioners’ purported order to pull out or stop the publication of at least 17 books erroneously labelled as “subversive” or “anti-government.”

In a YouTube video posted on 09 August 2022, three SMNI hosts – including former National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) spokesperson Lorraine Badoy and a uniformed personnel –  tagged books written by Reuel Aguila, Rommel Rodriguez, Don Pagusara, Malou Jacob, and Dexter Cayanes, and more than a dozen more books published by KWF as “subversive” allegedly because they cited references written by the CPP-NPA, and the said hosts also redtagged prominent art critic Alice Guillermo and National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera (who died last year) in the same broadcast.

The unity statement signed by various organizations defended authors from redtagging, asserting that “many books – be it in Filipino or English – will certainly cite or quote materials from various references, including those from groups considered by the government as subversive or revolutionary. Such citation should not be treated as agreement or sympathy with the cited material, but rather a part of the typical academic and scholarly process of analyzing various sources. Granted for the sake of argument that a book agrees or sympathizes with a political ideology, such socially committed writing tradition is respected in the whole world and considered as an important element of any country that calls itself as democratic.”

The abovementioned unity statement also calls upon Congress to investigate SMNI’s redtagging broadcasts as these violate constitutional provisions on free expression.

The signatories also emphasized that “reading, analyzing, scrutinizing, citing, and using any reading material, regardless of the writer and the publisher, is part of the academic freedom of writers, teachers, researchers, and all citizens.”

One of the redtagged authors, Rommel Rodriguez is a professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman’s Departamento ng Filipino at Panitikan ng Pilipinas (DFPP), reacted on the de-facto book ban through this statement: “Ang libro ko’y naglalaman ng mga akdang hinubog ng aking danas bilang manunulat. Mula ito sa kaibuturan ng aking puso na hinulma ng aking pang-araw-araw na pag-iral. Ang bawat salita’y maingat kong hinabi upang makabuo ng pananaw na maglalatag ng mga katotohanan sa isang lipunang makitid at mapagkunwari. Ang pagsupil ng aking akda, ay pagsupil sa aking malayang paglikha. Hindi ako kailaman padadaig sa anumang pananakot sapagkat batid kong marami akong kasamang mga manunulat, artista ng bayan, manggawang pangkultura, mananaliskik, edukador, at mambabasa na nakasandig pa rin sa katuwiran, hustisya, karapatan at halaga ng pagbabago ng lipunan.”

Another multi-awarded and redtagged author who was a founding member of the Davao Writers Guild, Don Pagusara asserted that his work is literary – fiction based on real-life events: “Ako ang author ng May Hadlangang Umaga. Ang akdang iyon ay isang dula, na ang kuwento ay natuon sa  buhay ng bilanggoan — sa Fort Bonifacio…noong mga unang taon ng Martial Law.  Specifically, 1974 -1976.  Iyong sinipi nilang bahagi ay isang ekenang dula/kung saan nag-uusap ang dalawang tauhan.  Bale, fictional na nababatay sa totoong nangyayari sa  loob ng kulungang YRC. Naisulat iyon ng mga taong 1980s…Hindi namount, ni nalathala kailanman.”

The KWF Chair, Dr. Arthur Casanova – who did not sign the purported KWF memorandum that stops the publication of the said books – defended the authors saying in a public statement that “(t)hese books which are alleged to be subversive passed through the review process of the KWF. 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…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.”

UP Professor Ramon Guillermo, who’s also a leader of the Network in Defense of Historical Truth and Academic Freedom (a signatory in the abovementioned statement) pointed out that “the KWF is right in publishing books in various disciplines. It is not true that KWF can publish only books on languages or orthography. In the context of Filipino as our national language, the KWF is within its mandate when it publishes materials in any discipline because intellectualization of the national language is among its main functions. Publishing cutting-edge works in every discipline is thus part of the KWF’s role in ensuring the further intellectualization of Filipino which all the more becomes important as we fight disinformation in these times.”

De La Salle University professor and Tanggol Wika convener David San Juan also asserted that labeling books as “subversive” is tantamount to censorship and an attack on academic freedom, both of which have no place “in a civilized and democratic society. Hence, if the purported KWF memo is genuine, we call upon the commissioners who signed it to immediately withdraw their signatures in that clearly repressive and authoritarian order.”

ACT for Peace Convener and Ateneo de Manila History Prof. Mike Pante notes that “this is not the first time that government bureaucrats redtagged books and authors. In 2021, under threat from the government’s NTF-ELCAC, some libraries removed books deemed ‘subversive’ from library shelves. Hence, in a way, NTF-ELCAC paved the way for the purported KWF memo that stops the publication of some books. Hence, we join calls for the immediate abolition of NTF-ELCAC and other similar redtagging entities that curtail the people’s right to information, right to free expression, and academic freedom.”

“As the country commemorates the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law this year, we are once again reminded that the fight against tyranny is far from over. The struggle for democracy and human rights carries on,” Tanggol Kasaysayan Convener Dr. Francis Gealogo commented. 

The updated list of signatories in the unity statement is posted at:

12 August 2022


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