Publishing group slams KWF ban on distribution of 'anti-govt' books

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 13 2022 04:53 PM

MANILA — A group of publishers on Saturday hit the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) for banning the distribution of what it deemed as "anti-government" books.

The Book Development Association of the Philippines described the move of the KWF, a body tasked to promote and develop the Filipino language, as "highly disturbing." 

"Branding books as subversive violates our freedoms to think and express, first as human beings, and second as citizens of this democratic country protected by its Constitution," said the group in a statement. 

"It is highly disturbing that this action stems from a government body tasked to develop our national language and other Philippine languages, counting as members of their commission a few of the country’s prominent writers," it added. 

The KWF, the publishers noted, should instead be "stalwart of the very freedoms that allow language and critical thinking to flourish" and not the very organization that discourages critical thinking. 

"Intolerance has no place in government, especially in an agency that should be a prime defender of expression," it said. 

"The Book Development Association of the Philippines stands with legions who defend our freedom to think and express, write and publish as fundamental to a nation that is democratic and progressive."

In an internal memo that sparked controversy, KWF cited "inciting to commit terrorism" found in Article 9 of the Anti-Terrorism Act as grounds to cease the distribution of several books.

It also banned books that contains "subversive" and "anti-government" messaging.

Among the books considered as such by the commission were titles from the late National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera during martial law, and Reuel Aguila, a Palanca award-winning author.

"Right now, we are stopping the books with subversive texts. We will see, moving forward, the instructions of director general of the commission," KWF commissioner Benjamin Mendillo said.

Scholars and members of the literary community criticized the move, with former Leyte-Samar KWF commissioner Jerry Gracio describing it as something that "signals the death of scholarship."

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