Banned books include stage play of Davao-based Palanca winner

Aug. 17, 2022

Award-winning writer Don Pagusara during a candle lighting ceremony in Davao City to condemn the hero’s burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos in 2016. The Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino recently issued a memorandum stopping the production and circulation of five literary books which they claimed contained “subversive” and “anti-government” ideologies including Pagusara’s book, May Hadlang ang Umaga.(Paulo C. Rizal/

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — As the nation celebrates Buwan ng Wika (Filipino Language Month), the government’s Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) issued a memorandum on August 9 stopping the production and circulation of five literary books which they claimed contained political, subversive, and anti-government ideologies.

The move has stirred criticisms from literary groups, most especially by the five authors, one of them includes Don Pagusara, a Palanca awardee who is based in Davao City for decades.

Pagusara’s book, May Hadlang ang Umaga, is banned along with Reuel M. Aguila’s Labas: Mga Palabas sa Labas ng Sentro, the published research by Dexter Cayanes on the literary works of the late National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera during martial law, Teatro Politikal Dos by MaLou Jacob, Kalatas: Mga Kuwentong Bayan at Kuwentong Buhay by Rommel Rodriguez.

The books were ordered stopped from production and distribution through a memorandum signed by KWF Commissioner for Programs and Projects Carmelita Abdurahman and Commissioner for Operations and Finance Benjamin Mendillo.

The memo ordered Sentro ng Wika at Kultura (SWK), one of KWF’s units, to refrain from distributing the books so that “we would not be accountable to Republic Act No. 11479, The Anti-Terror Law, particularly Section 9 on inciting to commit terrorism.”

It also ordered the OIC-Director General to release a letter explaining to the media, libraries, and schools that the production of these books runs contrary to RA 7104 which describes their tasks and responsibilities as a commission.


The authors issued a joint statement defending their works as translation of human experiences.

They said it was ironic that it was the KWF itself that invited them earlier for the production of their works, but they are now surprised by the accusations of KWF commissioners that their books are called “subversive, anti-Marcos and anti-Duterte”.

The KWF published three of the books, including Pagusara’s May Hadlang ang Umaga, Jacob’s Teatro Politikal Dos and Rodriguez’ Kalatas. The works were even featured in KWF’s Publikasyon Paglulunsad on April 29.

The authors are also surprised that during a television program on Pastor Apollo Quiboloy’s Sonshine Network called “Laban Kasama ang Bayan”, former NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Lorraine Badoy labeled Filipino authors as part of the CPP-NPA’s terrorism.

Anong kalapastanganan ito? Libelo iyan at naglalagay sa amin sa kapahamakan…Naniniwala kaming isang uri ng terrorismo ang magtakda kung ano lamang ang maaring isulat at paano isulat ang mga ito,” their statement said.

(What disrespect this is? What they did is libel and puts us in danger…We believe that dictating what should be written and how it should be written is a form of terrorism.)

They said the commissioners and the program hosts failed to provide solid evidence as they only cited particular words, dialogues, and bibliography that would link to subversion and terrorism.

Pagusara said that such action has a strong repercussion not only to them but to the whole community of writers, artists, and cultural workers.

The award-winning author known for his Bisaya poems said it was the KWF Chairman who even approach him to have his works published.

May Hadlang ang Umaga is a fictional play written in the 1980s based on the life of political prisoners held in custody at the Youth Rehabilitation Center, a former maximum security prison at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City. It was actually archived in my mini library when KWF Chairman Arthur Casanova offered that the book be published,” he said.

Pagusara, a Martial Law detainee, knows such censorship is politically motivated. He added that with or without an anti-terror law, such actions violated the social norm of democracy and humanist ideal of human rights, liberty, and social justice.

“Their acts are wielded with arbitrariness and impunity smack of violent violation of human rights and civil liberty. They are the true subversives and terrorists,” he added.

Writers react

Meanwhile, various groups have denounced the red-tagging of KWF and the SMNI program to Filipino authors.

Tanggol Wika, composed of 30 language, culture, and educational departments, signed a unity statement against SMNI hosts’ red-tagging of authors and some Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino commissioners’ purported order to pull out or stop the publication of at least 17 books labeled as subversive.

“Many books — be it in Filipino or English — will certainly cite or quote materials from various references, including those from groups considered by the government as subversive or revolutionary. Such citation should not be treated as agreement or sympathy with the cited material, but rather a part of the typical academic and scholarly process of analyzing various sources,” the group said.

“For the sake of argument if in case a book agrees or sympathizes with a political ideology, such socially committed writing tradition is respected in the whole world and considered an important element of any country that calls itself democratic,” they added.

KWF Chairman Arthur Casanova defended the publication of the books, saying it passed through the review process and scrutiny of KWF, including the two full-time commissioners who are now calling for the stopping of its publications.

“The 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,” Casanova said. (

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