Red-tagging publishers and bookstores | The Manila Times

The Manila Critics Circle, which has chosen winners for the annual National Book Awards since 1991, denounced the red labeling of Adarna Books, which has published children’s books for more than 40 years.

“The Manila Circle of Critics condemns the red branding of respected publisher Adarna House by the National Intelligence Coordination Agency (NICA) and the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac). Not only is Adarna House an award-winning publisher known for producing only quality material, they are also a publisher dedicated to the truth. It is a disservice to our young readers to assume that they should be excused from learning about significant events in Philippine history like the imposition of martial law.

“The truth does not ‘sow hatred and lies in the tender hearts of our children’ (as Lorraine Badoy, spokesperson for NTF-Elcac put it). The truth does not ‘subtly radicalize’ (as the said Alex Paul Monteagudo, Executive Director of NICA). Monteagudo claimed that the portrayal of martial law in children’s books sows dissent and hatred in their minds. But martial law is part of our history, so are his victims. Like all true things, this is something readers should learn from the books and make up their own minds.

“Adarna House is an innovative, private, educational publisher that should be encouraged to continue publishing…and commended for its dedication to telling the story of the Philippines to young children.”

The red marking of Adarna Books follows the Popular Bookstore and Solidaridad Bookshop vandalism more than a month ago. Curiously, Adarna Books is owned by National Artist Virgilio Almario and his family, while Solidaridad Bookstore was founded by the late National Artist, Frankie Sionil Jose.

Each of the bookstores had their fronts defaced with graffiti in red paint, accusing them of being an “NPA front” (New People’s Army). The red marking of Adarna Books as well as Popular and Solidaridad bookstores goes against the right to freedom of speech and expression enshrined in our Constitution. Publishers and booksellers here don’t make any money, yet they persist in doing business because they are cultural industries. Their books help people think for themselves. This graffiti vandalism and red marking also threatens store owners, employees and customers, and must be stopped. Plus, we should all be working to improve our children’s dismal reading rates instead of pestering publishers and bookstores.

The late Fr. Joseph A. Galdon of the Society of Jesus was a professor and chairman of the much-vaunted English department at Ateneo de Manila University.

At a teaching seminar, he said that after martial law was imposed in 1972, military personnel descended on the English department. They said they were “looking for books that would destroy the country!” They weren’t armed with a search warrant, but since it was martial law, Father Galdon said they could look around if they wanted.

The soldiers checked the departmental library. One of the officers then held up a book and said, “Now this is a communist book. It is against the government. He was holding a copy of Father John Schumacher’s book, The Propaganda Movement. Father Galdon simply told them that the book was about the propaganda movement that began in 1872 against Spanish rule in the Philippines.

Another officer found a small book with an orange cover. It was Neil Postman’s teaching as a subversive activity. The officer said it was a subversive book just by the title. Father Galdon told the officer that the book “dealt with pedagogy or the art of teaching”.

When the officer looked lost, the good Jesuit said Postman’s book, published in 1969, was against “outdated teaching methods – with dramatic and practical proposals for how education can be made relevant in the world of today”. In sum, the book says that the student must be at the heart of the teaching and learning experience.

There are many sensible officers and soldiers in our armed forces. We are sure they would be upset if these incidents were to repeat themselves now that the mantra for the day is ‘unity’.

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