Red-tagging vandals target Popular Bookstore
MANILA, Philippines — Popular Bookstore, long known as the bookstore of intellectuals, is the latest to be tagged as an ally of the communist movement, with its entrance and signage defaced on Tuesday by unknown persons.
Before 9 a.m., when the bookstore in Barangay South Triangle in Quezon City was opened to the public on Tuesday, its staff noticed that the message “NPA Terorista” had been spray-painted in red on the roll-up metal gate, according to the bookstore’s manager, Geraldine Po.
NPA stands for New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
The staff also later noticed that the “Popular Bookstore” signage on the right side of the entrance had been sprayed with the same message, and reported this to Po at noon.
From Sison to Arillo
“I was more dismayed and exasperated since I could not believe this happened,” Po told the Inquirer in a phone interview. “But after that, we have to be careful. But I am still in disbelief.”
She said she had yet to report the matter to officials of Barangay South Triangle and the Quezon City Police District but planned to do so on Wednesday.
Popular Bookstore carries the works of prominent authors, both Filipino and foreign, including those hard to find in other bookstores. Among its titles are those authored by CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison, newspaper columnist Rigoberto Tiglao, retired military general Phil Fortuno and former journalist Cecilio Arillo, whom Po described as a loyalist of the Marcos family.
“We read all of those, to have some sort of balance in what we sell,” Po said. “We sell books even about Marxism, but reading such books does not automatically make one a Marxist. We read all books, either from the Left or the Right, to know what is behind their stands.”
Books published by the University of the Philippines Press and the Ateneo de Manila University Press, as well as Primitivo Mijares’ “The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos,” are also carried by the bookstore.
But Po said Mijares’ book had been sold out.
Po said she believed that Sison’s books were the reason behind the vandalism that was committed by “the usual” suspects.
Pressed to say who she was referring to, she said the vandalism may have been committed by people from the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) and its allied groups.
‘Not bullets and bombs’
In a statement posted on its Facebook page, Popular Bookstore said: “Books are not bullets and bombs. Books are for education and enlightenment. It is a repository of history and culture. It is what differentiates humankind from animals.”
Po told the Inquirer that “reading books about communism will not make you a communist.” Their guests and customers where “usually intellectuals,” she said.
In September last year, reading materials about the government’s peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and books authored by Sison were removed from the libraries of Kalinga State University, Isabela State University, and Aklan State University and turned over to the National Intelligence Coordination Agency for “safekeeping.”
The banning of the books and peace talks documents drew strong criticisms from academics and human rights groups who said it violated academic freedom, but the move was defended by the anti-communist task force.
Popular Bookstore was founded by Po’s father, Joaquin Po, in 1945, offering books and periodicals on literature, politics, communism, and revolution in the Philippines. Its first store was on Doroteo Jose Street in Manila.
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