Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa has resurrected an unsubstantiated claim that several books approved by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) for publication are “subversive” and that the agency has contributed to radicalizing and encouraging the youth to fight the government.
Dela Rosa repeated the claim even after KWF Chairman Arthur P. Casanova previously denounced similar accusations and elaborated how the commission reviews books in keeping with its mandate to develop the Filipino language.
The former police chief-turned-senator, during the deliberations on the KWF’s 2023 budget at the Senate plenary on Nov. 10, said at the 10:36:55 mark:
Tayo’y hirap na hirap na para kalabanin itong problema natin sa insurgency, and yet, mayroon tayong ahensya ng gobyerno na sumusuporta sa pag-radicalize ng utak ng ating mga kabataan para lumaban sa ating gobyerno. That’s very counterproductive (We’re working so hard to fight our problem on insurgency, and yet, we have a government agency that supports the radicalization of our youth’s minds to rebel against our government. That’s very counterproductive).
Tayo’y gumagastos ng pera ng gobyerno para i-print ‘yan, tapos makikita natin na subversive ang laman. Bakit natin pabayaan pa (We’re spending government funds to print those, then we’ll see subversive content. Why should we let that happen)?
Dela Rosa offered no proof of how the language commission and the books it approves foster antigovernment sentiments.
He also failed to provide a legal basis for declaring books approved by the KWF as “subversive.” Republic Act No. 1700 or the Anti-Subversion Act, which outlawed the Communist Party of the Philippines and made subversion a crime, was repealed through R.A. No. 7636 in 1992 when then President Fidel Ramos opened peace talks with communist insurgents.
Casanova on Aug. 12 denied allegations that the commission authorized the publication and distribution of subversive books to incite rebellion. The KWF chairman said in a statement:
(T)he allegations that these books are subversive (are) a dangerous accusation which may already be stepping on the boundaries of freedom of expression and academic freedom.
He even urged authorities to look into these accusations and “see for themselves that they are baseless and malicious.”
During the Senate hearing, Dela Rosa singled out five books the KWF initially banned for publication and distribution through Memorandum No. 2022-0663 dated Aug. 9 for purportedly being subversive and containing “antigovernment” themes.
The books are Labas: Mga Palabas sa Labas ng Sentro by Reuel Aguila, 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, Teatro Politikal Dos by Malou Jacob, May Hadlang ang Umaga by Don Pagusara and Kalatas: Mga Kuwentong Bayan at Kuwentong Buhay by Rommel B. Rodriguez.
However, the memorandum was voided on Sept. 21 after three commissioners withdrew their signatures from the controversial memorandum through KWF Resolution No. 27 stating that the commission must uphold freedom of expression and not function as a censorship body.
Casanova also emphasized KWF’s mandate:
Contrary to the misguided allegations, the KWF is not limited to publishing dictionaries and technical linguistic materials. Rather, we are tasked to develop and enrich the Filipino language.
Rodriguez, one of the authors, said in a previous interview with One News that his work was taken out of context and it underwent a review process to disprove allegations of its subversive nature.
Casanova has said the five books “underwent the usual scrutiny that all publications of the KWF must pass, including receiving the imprimatur of the other two full-time commissioners.”
Section 4 of Republic Act 7104, the law that created the KWF, states that the commission shall “undertake, coordinate and promote researches for the development, propagation and preservation of Filipino and other Philippine languages and [shall] be directly under the Office of the President.” The commission has no power under the law to censor publication of books. (GJAB)