Rep. Lagman seeks House probe on ban of 5 ‘subversive’ books

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 16 Aug) – Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay has filed a resolution asking three committees of the House of Representatives to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the “unauthorized and illegal issuance” of a memorandum by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) banning from libraries and schools five books in Filipino for being “subversive” and “anti-government.”

Rep. Edcel C. Lagman of Albay. Photo from www.congress.gov.ph

Lagman’s resolution came on the heels of a KWF memorandum dated Aug. 9 banning the following books: “Teatro Pulitikal Dos” by Malou Jacob, “Kalatas: Mga Kuwentong Bayan at Kwentong Buhay” by Rommel Rodriguez, “Tawid Diwa sa Pananagisag ni Bienvenido Lumbera: Ang Bayan, Ang Manunulat at ang Magasing Sagisag ng Imahinatibong Yugto ng Batas Militar 1975-1979” by Dexter Cayanes, “May Hadlang ang Umaga” by Don Pagusara, and “Labas: Mga Palabas sa Labas ng Sentro” by Reuel Aguila.
 
The memorandum alleged that the five books violated Section 9 of Republic Act 11479 on “inciting to commit terrorism.”
But Lagman said the KWF’s action was an “unwarranted sanction by an unauthorized agency without trial and due process.”
 
The resolution, addressed to the committees on human rights, basic education and culture, and higher and technical education, invoked the constitutional safeguards on freedom of expression and academic freedom.
 
Lagman called the memorandum “a patently unconstitutional edict, an obtrusive weapon of thought control, an unmitigated censorship, and a wanton assault on academic freedom.”
 
He cited that Republic Act 7104, the law creating the KWF, does not authorize the commission to ban and censor writings in Filipino.
 
He noted that the memorandum, which was signed only by two of 11 KWF commissioners, Carmelita Abdurahman and Benjamin Mendilo, does not have the conformity of the requisite majority of the commissioners, as well as the imprimatur of the Chairman, Dr. Arthur Casanova.
 
Casanova, in a post on Facebook on Aug. 12, denied allegations circulating in news media and online that he allowed the publication of subversive materials and allowed the entry of alleged members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army into the KWF.
 
“These 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 (Abdurahman and Medilo). I did not railroad nor force any publication. Furthermore, 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,” he said.
 
“It is unfortunate that these allegations, which are untrue and unfounded, are being used by people who are pushing their own agendas. This is but the latest in a series of actions being aimed against me to destroy my character and to disrupt efforts to strengthen and cleanse the KWF,” he added.
 
Casanova said he is “willing to divulge any and all information at the proper forum, whether it be through a Congressional hearing, or before the proper office in the Office of the President, of which the KWF is part.”
 
He also called on the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the Anti-Terrorism Council “to look into these allegations and see for themselves that they are baseless and malicious.”

Flosemer Chris Gonzales, NTF-ELCAC spokesperson for legal affairs, posted a statement on the agency’s Facebook on Aug. 12 that the memorandum was an “exercise of prudence and sound judgment,” as the books “were determined to contain subversive content and/or content that are political and ideological in nature and wherein said content incites one to go against the government.”
 
“To the brave men and women at the KWF, our gratitude for doing your mandate,” said Gonzales, whose post was accompanied by an image of the memorandum showing that only Commissioners Abdurahman and Medilo signed it. (MindaNews)