A government agency joined bookshop patrons and groups in condemning the recent acts of vandalism and red-tagging of two independent bookstores with anti-communism writings.
In a statement on Facebook on March 23, the National Book Development Board expressed concern over these incidents that they described as “an attack on institutions of knowledge.”
“The National Book Development Board is extremely concerned over the acts of vandalism on the two Philippine bookstores that recently made the news. We along with our friends and partners in book publishing condemn in the strongest terms these vicious acts,” the NBDB said.
“We believe this is an attack on institutions of knowledge and harmful to the democratic values that we, along with the rest of the government, are bound by duty to protect,” it added.
The façade and logos of Popular Bookstore and Solidaridad Bookshop were recently painted with red graffiti that associated them with the communist rebellion.
Popular Bookstore posted photos of the damage on Facebook last Tuesday. The vandals on their store read: “NPA Terrorista.”
On Tuesday, Joel Pablo Salud, author and journalist, also posted photos of the Solidaridad sign with a vandal that reads: “NPA.”
Salud stated that he got these photos from those who manage the bookshop.
Both bookstores happened to be locally-owned businesses that have been in operations for decades.
They also carry rare and progressive titles for book lovers.
Patrons of both shops, including another store called Bookay-Ukay Pilipinas, were outraged over the acts of vandalism and red-tagging done to them.
In its statement, the NBDB perceived that these “vile” activities are detrimental to the whole Philippine book publishing industry as it still reels from the impact of the pandemic.
“These vile acts are detrimental not just to the two independent bookstores that are fighting hard to stay afloat in this pandemic, but to the whole Philippine book publishing industry. This does not fare well at all since our country has a very low bookshop per population size ratio,” the agency said.
The book board also mentioned that the incident that happened to Solidaridad, in particular, disrespected the memory of the late National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose.
Jose owned Solidaridad. It was opened along Ermita, Manila in 1964.
Moreover, NBDB pointed out that reading books foster critical thinking for the betterment of society.
“Books open minds and change worlds. Reading encourages people to think critically, exchange views properly, and make better choices. Threatening and maliciously labeling bookstores would only be of great disservice to the national good,” the board said.
They further expressed their support to all the sectors of the publishing community in condemning these acts.
“We stand in solidarity with bookstores, content creators, publishers, industry workers, readers, and all sectors of the publishing community in condemning these acts and call for vigilance in protecting our shared advocacies—literacy, critical thinking, and democracy,” NBDB said.
The NBDB was formed by virtue of Republic Act 8047 or the Book Publishing Industry Development Act.
The agency’s primary task is to “formulate and implement a National Book Policy with a corresponding National Book Development Plan geared towards the development of the book publishing industry.”
Prior to this, the Manila Critics Circle, a non-profit, non-stock organization of professional literary critics and newspaper columnist, also issued a statement that denounced the defacement of the storefronts of Popular Bookstore and Solidaridad Bookshop.
Mt. Cloud Bookshop also condemned the defacement of their fellow booksellers.
“This attack on bookshops reveals one thing about the perpetrators: damaging narrow-mindedness. The vandals should widen their horizons and READ,” it said.