The Philippine PEN expressed support for Popular Bookstore and Solidaridad, saying they are “channels of free expression and free opinion”.
ANCX staff | March 23, 2022
The signs of two iconic bookstores in Manila were reportedly defaced yesterday with spray paint that spelled “NPA” – which, of course, stands for the New People’s Army, known as the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
It was the popular bookstore, located in Tomas Morato, Quezon City, that let the public know that its facade had been bombarded with graffiti. Through a status update on its Facebook page, the bookstore shared photos of its storefront with “NPA Terorista” written all over it. Later, the 57-year-old Solidaridad Bookstore in Ermita, Manila told Rappler that it suffered the same fate.
Popular Bookstore has a long reputation for offering hard-to-find progressive books on politics and world affairs, while Solidaridad is known for its wide selection of Filipino titles.
“It’s an outrage! IT’S SICK!” wrote writer Joel Pablo Salud on Facebook after finding out what had happened to Solidaridad.
“Our reaction was not fear. It was more dismay and exasperation,” the Popular Bookstore statement said. “Books are not bullets and bombs. Books are for education and enlightenment. The store thanked its customers for their support, but to the people behind the red labeling it had this to say: “We would like to reiterate that POPULAR BOOKSTORE is a bookseller for bibliophiles (obviously you don’t belong ).”
Meanwhile, Philippine PEN, the group of writers founded by Solidaridad founder F. Sionil Jose, issued a statement of support for the two educational institutions, condemning the vandalism while calling on police and local authorities. “to investigate the incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice”. Justice.” The statement further said:
“It is sad that in the face of the alarming decline of bookstores in a metropolis that claims to be the educational and cultural center of the nation, two bookstores that have boldly stood, however desperate, as fortresses of culture and enlightenment, have become targets of red flagging and thuggery.In the more recent past, some state officials have raised the red bogey against people or sectors expressing their opinion, often to the displeasure of the powers in place; and that is why we call on the local authorities and the police to urgently investigate the violence against Solidaridad and Popular.
The group of prominent Filipino writers and intellectuals have always prided themselves on defending freedom of expression and speech, as they did during the Marcos dictatorship. “Bookstores are conduits of free speech and free opinion that are fundamental to the health and well-being of a democracy,” the group’s red-tagging statement further noted. “This may literally be true in the case of Solidaridad, which is also a publishing house and the headquarters of the Philippine Center of International PEN. The PEN Club includes writers and journalists who are at either end – or on all registers – of the ideological divide. The Solidaridad bookstore offers the titles of all PEN members, whether comrades or dissidents. He also carries titles of non-PEN members. This universal community of thinkers, writers and dissidents is also evident on the shelves of popular bookstores.
Key members of Philippine PEN include novelists Charlson Ong, Sarge Lacuesta, Eros Atalia and Jun Cruz Reyes, national artist Resil Mojares, poets Ricky de Ungria and Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta, journalist and educator Lito Zulueta, essayist Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo and editors Karina Bolasco and Andrea Pasion Flores.
“With their liberal selection of titles, bookstores quietly but wisely conduct debates and dialogues that keep democracy active and functioning,” the Philippine PEN statement concluded. “Ideological branding and the violence of political partisanship do nothing but silence bookstores, and even drive them out of business. If we care deeply about keeping our democracy healthy and vibrant, then together we must condemn this criminal act of vandalism and red flagging.