By DOMINIQUE FLORES
MANILA – Progressive educators decried the red-tagging of two bookstores, saying that this is another unmistakable attack on academic freedom and critical thinking.
“It is not surprising that Popular Bookstore and Solidaridad Bookshop were targeted by the latest mindless red-tagging attacks. Many generations of readers, students, and intellectuals have walked through their doors to discover rare books on the Philippines or challenging treatises that they would not find elsewhere. A malicious idiot could easily dig up one or two ‘leftist’ works buried in their shelves and triumphantly label the bookstores themselves as subversive,” said the Academics Unite for Democracy and Human Rights in a statement.
On March 22, two bookstores – Popular Bookstore in Quezon City and Solidaridad Bookshop in Manila – were vandalized, accusing them as “terrorists” and affiliated with the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
This comes months after the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) ordered the “purging” of books and documents that the government considers as subversive. Among the documents that state forces had removed are pamphlets on peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
The NTF-ELCAC has also been on a red-tagging spree of late, including the camp of Vice President Leni Robredo over the support it is receiving from activists and progressive groups and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong for ordering the takedown of tarpaulins that red-tag activists in the city.
The Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy said in a statement that the attack on academic freedom and critical thinking is likely the handiwork of the NTF-ELCAC.
“As book buyers and authors, we stand behind independent bookstores who served generations of students and writers in the Philippines. The upcoming elections are a decisive time to end the current administration’s fascism that wastes the people’s money on bogus agencies such as the NTF-ELCAC,” Contend said.
In a statement, the Academics Unite for Democracy and Human Rights said in light of commercialism and accessible digital information, “it has become extremely hard for bookstores to live up to the vocation of selling books with heft and substance.”
“This task becomes even harder still when the few remaining bookstores are threatened with violence for trying to live up to what a bookstore is supposed to be,” the group of professors, researchers, university administrators, and education professionals added.
Meanwhile, Rebo Press Book Publishing, an independent publishing house, said they are standing with Popular Bookstore and Solidaridad Bookshop, describing the recent attack as an attempt to “silence the intellectual freedom and freedom of expression of both authors and book consumers.”
The independent publishing house added, “As we are entering an even darker age in Philippine politics, we must all band together against the very real dangers of speaking and writing. We stand in solidarity with genuine indie publishers, artists, creatives, and cultural workers as we continue with committed writing and the necessary work for upliftment and organizing.” (JJE, RVO)