KWF memo banning ‘subversive’ books voided
MANILA, Philippines — Some commissioners of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) have withdrawn their signatures on its order last month stopping the publication of five books that it had deemed “subversive.”
That move effectively voided the Aug. 9 memorandum on the banning of those titles. It also drew praise from a progressive lawmaker as she urged the commission—whose budget is under plenary deliberations in the House of Representatives—to “immediately” publish those books.
On Sept. 21, Commissioners Alain Russ Dimzon, Angela Lorenzana and Hope Yu issued Resolution No. 27, through which they withdrew their signatures from Memorandum No. 2022-0663 stopping the publication of the following books: “Teatro Pulitikal Dos” by Malou Jacob; “Kalatas: Mga Kuwentong Bayan at Kuwentong Buhay” by Rommel B. Rodriguez; “Tawid-Diwa sa Pananagisag 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; and “Labas: Mga Palabas sa Labas ng Sentro” by Reuel M. Aguila.
The titles by Jacob, Pagusara and Rodriguez, however, were already published in April by the time of that memorandum—which said those books violated the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (Republic Act No. 11479) for their “antigoverment ideologies.”
The resolution last week now stated that, “in respect to the right and freedom of speech and expression, it is only rightful that the KWF does not function as a censorship body.”
“It is not the mandate of KWF to determine whether or not a publication is subversive[,] the declaration of which is under the jurisdiction of the courts,” it added.
With Dimzon, Lorenzana and Yu withdrawing their signatures, the memorandum is left with only Commissioners Carmelita Abdurahman and Benjamin Mendillo as signatories.
Thus the memorandum is now void, as Pangasinan Rep. Christopher de Venecia noted to the House deliberations on the KWF’s budget.
Dimzon, Lorenzana and Yu also withdrew their signatures from a previous statement by the eight-member commission criticizing its chair, Arthur Casanova, for “endorsing, publishing and proliferating [the] subversive books.”
Last year, another body, the Commission on Higher Education, was caught in a similar controversy after its Cordillera office issued a memorandum ordering the “regionwide removal of subversive materials both in libraries and online platforms.”
This followed weeks after the Kalinga State University and Isabela State University in northern Luzon and Aklan State University in the Visayas took out books and other documents from their libraries in connection with the government’s peace talks with communist rebels.
In response to the resolution, ACT Teachers Party List Rep. France Castro said the commission “should immediately print the books since the publication was already delayed. The books should be immediately distributed to schools, libraries and the public.”
The lawmaker, a member of the progressive Makabayan bloc, also said the Red-tagging of those books was stopped on its tracks by the “strong condemnation of the people against attacks on academic freedom, freedom of the press and free speech.”
Castro and other legislators earlier denounced the Aug. 9 memorandum as being unconstitutional.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman filed a resolution that month asking the House committees on human rights, basic education and culture, and higher and technical education to conduct a joint inquiry into the commission’s actions.
Castro urged the public to “stay vigilant” in the attempts to undermine those freedoms.