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Red tagging and book burning?

Who would’ve thought that an online sale on children’s books on dictatorship and Martial Law would prompt the country’s intelligence chief to express alarm and claim without basis that it is part of a communist plot to “radicalize” Filipino children?

National Intelligence Coordinating Agency Director General Alex Monteagudo made the following sweeping claim on his Facebook account:

“This is how the CPP/NPA/NDF radicalize not just our youths, but our children. The Adarna Publishing House published these books and now they’re on sale to subtly radicalize the Filipino children against our Government, now!”

One of the books, “Ito ang Diktadura,” is a Filipino translation of a book published in Spain in 1977 after the death of their dictator Francisco Franco and illustrates the characteristics of dictatorships.

The book has a gallery of illustrations of dictators, including our very own Ferdinand Marcos, along with communists Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin. The Filipino version is among the books available on sale for pre-order.

Another book, “Si Jhun-Jhun, Noong Bago Ideklara ang Batas Militar,” written by Augie Rivera, illustrated by Brian Vallesteros and originally published in 2001, tells the story of a boy who discovers what happened to his older brother.

Neither of the books are explicitly communist or even anti-government, which government officials have recently acquired a habit of equating with terrorism.

Adarna House is a family-run publishing house founded by National Artist Virgilio Almario.

In a statement in defense of the Adarna sale offer, rights group Karapatan said that its books “are produced by renowned and multi-awarded Filipino children’s book writers and illustrators.” It adds that the books on martial law are but humble contributions to enlighten our youth on the atrocities experienced by thousands during that period of our history.

When high government officials can make sweeping and baseless generalizations, essentially red tagging a book publisher for holding a sale, is it still ok and safe for Filipinos to have views and read books that do not necessarily conform to what those government officials consider as “right”? Or should we brace ourselves for a book burning as well?*

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November 2022
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