Vandalism, red-tagging of bookstores ‘attack on right to free speech,’ group, patrons say

March 23, 2022 - 1:21 PM
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This composite shows Popular Bookstore and Solidaridad Bookshop. (Facebook/Popular Bookstore and Solidaridad Bookshop)

An independent bookstore in Quezon City, group and patrons, condemned the recent vandalism of two other stores with anti-communism graffiti.

The management of Bookay-Ukay Pilipinas, a store that allows buying, selling, trading books, expressed this statement on Facebook on Tuesday evening.

“Ang Bookay-ukay ay kaisa ng Popular Bookstore, Solidaridad Bookshop, at iba pang libruhan na tumitindig para mariing kondenahin ang panre-redtag na ginawa sa unang dalawang nabanggit na kapwa tindahan ng libro,” they said.

The entrance and logos of Popular Bookstore and Solidaridad Bookshop were recently defaced with red vandals.

Popular Bookstore got defaced with writings that read: “NPA Terrorista.”

Photos of the bookstore vandalism were posted on Facebook.

The management decried this “philistine act.”

As of writing, those behind the vandalism incident have not yet been identified.

READ: ‘Books are not bullets, bombs’: QC bookstore decries vandalism

The management of Bookay-Ukay pointed out that bookstores and booksellers are peaceful sources of knowledge for people.

“Ang mga tindahan ng libro, tulad ng mga silid-aklatan, ay mga mapayapang lugar na daluyan ng mga kaalaman at impormasyon na malaki ang pakinabang sa pagpapaunlad ng kaisipan ng mga mamamayan,” the bookshop management said.

“Napakahalaga ang ginagampanan ng mga tulad namin bilang katuwang sa pagtataguyod at pagpapaunlad ng ating bansa,” they added.

Bookay-Ukay also lamented that these acts were done to fellow booksellers despite bookshops still reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Kung kaya nakakalungkot at nakakadismaya talaga na pagkatapos na ngang masalanta ng pandemya ang mga tulad naming ang hangad lamang ay magsilbi sa kapwa sa pamamagitan ng pagtitinda ng libro ay ito pa ang dadanasin ng ilan sa amin,” they said.

They then called on authorities to protect all booksellers like them from individuals committing these types of activities.

Bookay-Ukay ended its statement with a message addressed to the perpetrators of vandalism and red-tagging.

“Sa mga gumawa nito, sana ay matutunan nila na sa likod ng kanilang mga ginawa ay hindi kailanman mababago ang kasaysayan sa pagpapatahimik at pananakot sa mga libruhan at sa mga nagbabasa,” they said.

Bookay-Ukay is a well-loved, quaint shop along Maginhawa Street in Quezon City.

Popular Bookstore and Solidaridad, on the other hand, are also locally-owned bookstores that have been running for decades.

The former first opened along Doroteo Jose Street in Manila in 1946.

Solidaridad, which was owned by the late National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose, was opened along Ermita, Manila in 1964.

Patrons of both bookshops were outraged over the red-tag graffiti.

Joel Pablo Salud, journalist and author, said that he felt “something’s up” with the defiling of these independent bookstores.

“This is an outrage! THIS IS SICK! First Popular Bookstore, now Solidaridad Bookshop! Got word from people managing the bookshop that it has been defaced recently by red paint, one clearly saying ‘NPA’ Something’s up, and I am pissed,” Salud said.

Another journalist, Joseph Morong, also reacted to the red-tagging of Popular Bookstore.

“Kawawang bansa ito. This country is degenerating. Bawal na ang mag-isip,” he said Tuesday. 

The Manila Critics Circle, a non-profit, non-stock organization of professional literary critics and newspaper columnist, likewise issued a statement denouncing “in the strongest possible terms the red-tagging and vandalism of two bookstores, Popular Bookstore and Solidaridad Bookshop.”

“Each bookstore had their storefronts defaced with graffiti in red paint accusing them of being an ‘NPA front.’ Such malicious vandalism is an attack on the right to free speech, the right to think for oneself, and the right to choose what they wish to read,” the statement reads.

“Such graffiti threatens the owners, employees and customers of these bookstores. The MCC urges the authorities concerned to act immediately on these threatening acts of red-tagging,” they added.

The group also said the public should feel safe going to the bookstore, “and they should not have their freedom to avail themselves of the literature of their choosing curtailed in any way.”

“These businesses should not be threatened, nor should the people they employ,” Manila Critics Circle said.