KWF chair slams ‘dangerous’ allegations of ‘subversive’ books, says review process followed

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 12) — The chairman of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) denied accusations that he allowed the publication of allegedly subversive books, maintaining those works passed through the proper review process.

Chairman Arthur Casanova issued the statement on Friday after the KWF – in an August 9 memorandum signed by Commissioners Carmelita Abdurahman and Benjamin Mendillo – ordered a stop to the distribution of some literary works allegedly containing subversive or anti-government texts.

“All the books underwent the usual scrutiny that all publications of the KWF must pass, including receiving the imprimatur of the other two full-time commissioners. I did not railroad nor force any publication,” he said.

Aside from the chairman, the KWF website lists Abdurahman and Mendillo as the agency's only full-time commissioners.

Casanova told CNN Philippines he only learned of the memorandum on Friday. He said he wasn’t informed about any meeting among commissioners regarding the issuance of the order.

"Ako po na tagapangulo ay dapat ay napagsabihan na meron palang pulong na pag-uusapan ay 'yaan [As chairman, I should've been informed that there was a discussion on the matter]," he said.

Casanova also warned that calling the books subversive is "dangerous" as it "may already be stepping on the boundaries of freedom of expression and academic freedom."

In an August 10 resolution, some KWF commissioners claimed Casanova – who was appointed by former President Rodrigo Duterte in 2020 – entered into contracts for the publication of the materials “without authority from the Board.” Abdurahman and Mendillo were among the signatories.

“The proliferation of these books should be stopped and that the Chairman be held responsible for his actions for wasting taxpayers' money and inciting rebellion by way of allowing these books to be published,” read the document first shared by SMNI News.

During an SMNI interview the day before, Lorraine Badoy – the previous administration's anti-communist task force spokesperson who faces a string of red-tagging complaints – also accused the chairman of using KWF “to lend legitimacy to subversive documents.”

But Casanova said these “unfounded” claims are only the latest in a series of attacks to malign him and to disrupt efforts to strengthen and cleanse the KWF.

“For transparency and good governance, I am ready and willing to divulge any and all information at the proper forum, whether it be through a Congressional hearing, or before the proper office in the Office of the President of which the KWF is part,” he said.

A number of groups and academics have also condemned the KWF memorandum, saying it promotes censorship. Among these is academic organization Tanggol Wika which pointed out several books are bound to have citations or passages from various sources, including those written by groups deemed as subversive, but that this shouldn't be considered a show of approval of what was quoted.