UPLB Department of Humanities (DHum) condemns former National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) Spokesperson Lorraine Badoy’s red-tagging in a Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) program, where she branded some books of Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) as containing “subversive” materials.
“Mapanganib ang ganitong klase ng akusasyon lalo na sa panahon ng malawakang pang-aabuso sa karapatang pantao at paglabag sa malayang pamamahayag,” DHum wrote.
[“This kind of accusation is dangerous especially amid a wide range of human rights abuses and violations on press freedom.”]
Last August 9, KWF released Memorandum 2022-0663, prohibiting the release of books containing “political, subversive, and subliminal ideologies”. The memorandum was released at a month that the country is celebrating its “Buwan ng Wika”.
The titles, which KWF said contain “subversive and anti-government” ideologies, are Malou Jacob’s “Teatro Politikal Dos”; Rommel Rodriguez’ “Kalatas: Mga Kuwentong Bayan at Kuwentong Buhay”; Dexter Cayanes’ “Tawid-diwa sa Pananagisag ni Bienvenido Lumbera: Ang Bayan, ang Manunulat, at ang Magasing Sagisag sa Imahinatibong Yugto ng Batas Militar 1975-1979”; Don Pagusara’s “May Hadlang ang Umaga”; and Reuel Aguila’s “Labas: Mga Palabas sa Labas ng Sentro”.
Cayanes is a faculty member at DHum.
The memorandum added, “Pinapayuhan din ang lahat ng SWK [Sentro ng Wika at Kultura] Direktor sa pamamagitan ng tagapag-ugnay nito na huwag ipamigay ang mga tukoy na aklat [sa itaas] upang hindi tayo managot sa RA [Republic Act] 11479 partikular sa seksiyon 9, Inciting to commit terrorism.”
[“All SWK Directors are advised, through their coordinators, to not distribute the listed books so that we will not answer to RA 11479 particularly in section 9, inciting to commit terrorism.”]
RA 11479 is the “The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020”, colloquially known as the “Terror Law”. Even before its passage, progressives argued that the law’s vague definition of terrorism may be exploited to link activism and criticism with terrorism, which was weaponized and led to more human rights violations in the country.
In Laguna alone, 4,509 human rights violations were recorded through the first year of the law’s passage, according to Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) – Laguna.
In truth, the first to be charged under the Anti-Terror Law were four Aetas, who were branded as members of the New People’s Army (NPA) carrying expolosives. The arrestors reportedly resorted to “degrading methods of torture and detainment, such as forcing victims to eat human feces and verbal abuse”.
The same law was used to block the website of alternative media organization Bulatlat, for its alleged links to groups that were branded as terrorists under the Anti-Terror Law.
A surrender of academic freedom
DHum maintains that KWF’s prohibition of the said books is a form of censorship. The department said that this surrenders academic freedom to anti-intellectual forces of deceit.
“Nililikha nito ang isang mapanikil na kalagayan para sa gawaing intelektuwal na nagsasara sa bukas at malayang daluyan at palitan ng mga ideya at diskurso sa isperong pampubliko, partikular na sa mga pamantasan,” the department added.
[“This creates an oppressive situation for intellectual works that closes the open and free medium and exchange of ideas and discourses in public spheres, particularly in universities.”]
Similarly, UP Departamento ng Filipino at Panitikan ng Pilipinas condemned the red-tagging incident, emphasizing that it is the KWF’s mandate to release new books as a part of the intellectualization and spread of the national language without being censored.
In a Twitter post, former Commissioner for Samar-Leyte Languages at KWF Jerry Gracio said that allowing the red-tagging and prohibition “signals the death of scholarship”. It can be recalled that Gracio resigned from his post in 2020, saying that he “cannot anymore serve a fascist government”, at the time under former President Rodrigo Duterte.
Meanwhile, the KWF memorandum also ordered the OIC-Director General to send a letter to all media, libraries, and schools to explain the prohibition of the release of the said books, which, as the memorandum implied, violates the mandate of RA 7104. RA 7104 created KWF, prescribing its powers, duties, and functions.
It can be recalled that in 2021, military and police forces have attempted to infiltrate academic libraries in provinces, such as Kalinga State University and Isabela State University, to remove books and other information resources mostly related to the peace talks between the government and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
Last May, Adarna Publishing was red-tagged by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) over its sale of Martial Law books. Independent bookstores Popular Bookstore and Solidaridad Bookshop were also at the receiving end of red-tagging early this year.
Only last August 8, academic and former vice-presidential candidate Walden Bello was arrested over charges of cyberlibel. He was released from detention Tuesday, August 9, after posting bail of P96,000.
In the midst of attacks on academic freedom, fact-checking initiatives have pointed out how fake news, disinformation, and historical distortion sprouted during the 2022 national elections period, much of which favored President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
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In light of the incidents, DHum condemned the red-tagging and attacks on academic freedom.
“Naninindigan ang Departamento na walang lugar ang red-tagging at anumang porma ng paninikil sa isang lipunan at panahong matindi ang pangangailangang palalimin ang pag-unawa sa kalinangang-bayan – isang pangangailangang pinagsusumikapang tugunan ng mga mananaliksik at manunulat sa pamamagitan ng kanilang mga malikhain at kritikal na proyekto,” DHum wrote.
[“The Department maintains that red-tagging and any form of oppression have no place in a society and time where there is an intense need to deepen the understanding of national consciousness – a need that writers and researchers aim to answer through their creative and critical pieces.”]
DHum calls UPLB to affirm its Safe Haven Resolution, which supports academic freedom, human rights, and civil liberties.