By Andreah Dianne Cartagena

Amid the country’s celebration of Buwan ng Wika, or National Language Month, several writers’ groups and the commission’s chair himself have criticized the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino (KWF) over its directive to ban political and "subversive" books for further printing.

Photo Courtesy of KWF/Flickr

On August 9, Tuesday, KWF released a memorandum naming five books to cease printing for being "political, subversive and creative literary works with subliminal ideologies that encourage to fight the government."

Writers' groups slammed the ban as it is seen as a form of red-tagging writers.

"It is alarming, and we must be vigilant against the constant Red-tagging of writers and their books on a recent TV program," Unyon ng mga Manunulat ng Pilipinas (Umpil) stated. The television program they referred to was the Quiboloy-owned SMNI which described the five books to be anti-government.

Manila Critics Circle (MCC) said that the "vicious branding" of books written by late National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera and esteemed scholar Alice Guillermo is a "disgrace" to their work. They call on the commission not to continue ceasing the publication of the five books and 17 other works.

"Let truth prevail upon this land. And the truth shall set the writers and intellectuals free," MCC stated.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Center of the International PEN (Poet and Playwrights, Essayists, Novelists) stood with the other groups in condemning the red-tagging of books citing that there is an internal conflict within KWF.

On August 10, KWF Commissioners Carmelita Abdurahman and Benjamin Mendillo Jr. claimed that KWF Chairman Arthur Cassanova entered contracts to publish the barred books without the board's approval.

Cassanova had no idea of the said memorandum until Friday and stated that he did not allow the publication of anti-government books, explaining that all of the supposedly banned books went through the proper review process.

The chairman added that labeling the books as subversive is dangerous, for it "may already be stepping on the boundaries of freedom of expression and academic freedom."

Abdurahman and Mendillo ordered to stop printing the following books to avoid being "accountable" according to Republic Act No. 11479, or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020:

  • Teatro Politikal 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 Cayanes
  • May Hadlang ang Umaga by Don Pagusara
  • Labas: Mga Palabas sa Labas ng Sentro by Ruel M. Aguila

Following its order to ban “anti-government” and “subversive” books, KWF's website was inaccessible on Friday afternoon, August 12, displaying a prompt "This Account has been suspended." The website was accessible again by 5:30 pm on the same day.  

Edited by Audrei Jeremy Mendador