KWF reviewing order vs alleged subversive books, says chair

Bianca Dava, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 16 2022 10:14 PM | Updated as of Aug 16 2022 10:15 PM

MANILA - The Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) is now reviewing a memorandum signed by two of its commissioners for the pull-out and termination of publication of five allegedly subversive books, the agency’s chair said Tuesday.

KWF chairperson Arthur Casanova told ABS-CBN News that he was not informed about any meeting among commissioners regarding the issuance of the order.

“Itong ipinalabas nilang kapasyahan, sila lamang ang gumawa. Ito ay nilikha nila sa isang pulong na hindi ako kasali,” Casanova said, referring to KWF Commissioners Carmelita Abdurahman and Benjamin Mendillo Jr who signed the Aug. 9 memorandum.

Casanova, Abdurahman ang Mendillo are the KWF’s only full-time commissioners.

The five books are the following:

  • Teatro Pulitikal Dos” by Malou Jacob
  • Kalatas: Mga Kuwentong Bayan at Kuwentong Buhay” by Rommel 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 Cayanes
  • May Hadlang ang Umaga” by Don Pagasura
  • Labas: Mga Palabas sa Labas ng Sentro” by Reuel Aguila

In an interview on ANC’s Dateline Philippines last Thursday, Mendillo cited a possible violation by the five publications of Section 9 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, regarding inciting to commit terrorism.

Casanova said the KWF has no authority to ban and censor written works in Filipino.

“Wala po sa mandato ng Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino ang pagba-ban ng mga aklat na isinulat sa wikang Filipino o kung ano pa mang aklat… Dito sa mandato, hindi sinasabi na trabaho ng KWF ang mag-ban,” he said.

“Ang akusasyong subersibo ang mga naturang libro ay mapanganib na yumuyurak sa kalayaan ng malayang pamamahayag at akademikong kalayaan,” he added.

Casanova denied accusations that he allowed the publication of allegedly subversive books, saying these works went through the standard review process and were even approved by committees headed by Abdurahman and Mendillo.

Mendillo earlier said Casanova entered into contracts for the publication of the materials without authority from the board.

“The contracts of these books were the sole and unilateral act of the chairman. The chairman himself did not present this to the board. Even the contracts made were not presented to the board,” Mendillo said.

Responding to the allegation, Casanova said: “Tungkulin ng KWF Publikasyon at kabuuang unit ng Sangay ng Edukasyon at Networking… sa unang yugto ng proseso, ini-evaluate o sinusuri ang bawat manuscript. Binabatid nila kung pwede bang ilathala ang manuscript na naaayon sa mandato at uri ng mga aklat na dapat ay ilimbag namin… Kapag nabuo na ang project proposal, ito ay ipapadala sa review committee, binubuo ng iba’t ibang puno ng sangay ng KWF at pinamumunuan ito ni Comm. Carmelita Abdurahman.”

“Ito ay idadaan din kay Comm. Benjamin Mendillo Jr. upang kaniyang masuri at maaprubahan ang budget na maaaring gamitin sa paglilimbag… Maliwanag na ang mga trabaho ng pagsusuri at evaluation ay trabaho po nila. Dumaraan ito sa imprimatur o pahintulot ng dalawang full-time commissioner (Abdurahman and Mendillo), kaya hindi pwedeng sabihin na ako po ang unilateral na nagdedesisyon para malimbag ang isang libro.”

Casanova said the accusations are only the latest in the series of attacks to malign him and disrupt his efforts to strengthen the KWF.

He said there appears to be a power struggle within the agency.

“Definitely, that is a hearsay. Records will show that the chairman himself unilaterally signed the contracts without the approval of the board. There is no power struggle,” Mendillo earlier told ANC.

“Mayroong internal struggle, ‘yun ang nangyayari… Ang mga akusasyon ay bunga ng ilang bagay na ang pinupuntirya ay ang aking pagkatao at nais nilang wasakin ang aking kredibilidad bilang tagapangulo ng KWF,” Casanova countered.

Over the weekend, the Commission on Human Rights called on the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino to review its ban on supposed subversive and anti-government publications.

In a statement, CHR Executive Director Atty. Jacqueline de Guia said the KWF should look into its recent memorandum as she emphasized the value of the freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

“We encourage the KWF to study this policy through consultations with relevant stakeholders, as well as to go into a further inquiry on the contents of the said publications. CHR continues to stress that upholding one right should not come at the expense of other rights,” De Guia said.

“A safe and secure country is possible without possible infringements to rights to freedom of expression and speech."

"Caution must also be exercised in interpreting the provisions of the Anti-Terror Act, especially if it may already be overreaching, and results in possible violation of rights rather than protecting them,” it added.

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