Speaking in Tongues

Literary Freedom and Indigenous Languages
Manila 30 September – 4 October

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About Philippine PEN

Philippine PEN in Defense of Freedom of Expression

During the Marcos dictatorship era, Philippine PEN stood in defense of free speech and expression. This is an avowed purpose as embodied in the PEN International Charter.

Philippine PEN has continuously and staunchly filed resolutions and issued statements to uphold freedom of expression. For instance, in the 2009 Philippine PEN Congress, a resolution was declared condemning the Maguindanao massacre, which encompassed the brutal killing of journalists, and the harassment of PEN writers Jun Cruz Reyes and National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera by military and police forces. This statement was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on December 7, 2009, and reiterated in the 2010 and 2011 national congresses.

In the 2010 Congress, Philippine PEN passed four resolutions: its support of International PEN’s call for the release of writer and academic Liu Xiaobo, 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner; reiteration of the 2009 resolution condemning the Maguindanao massacre which included the killing of several journalists; denunciation of plagiarism in the High Court; and the resolution to provide intellectual guidance to literature teaching and textbook publishing by conducting a  workshop series around the country. These resolutions were published in Philippine Daily Inquirer on December 13, 2010.

The 2011 Congress focused on nature/disaster and writing—the literature of survival. During the closing session, PEN passed a resolution calling for specific measures to address climate change and statements that seek to support the recommendations raised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change held during the summit in South Africa on December 9, 2011. The resolution declares that … we vow to use the powers of the pen and the energy of the imagination to exalt nature and humanity, painting their interconnectedness and evoking their mutual integrity. Through our verses, stories, reports and reflections, we will portray the disastrous consequences of severing the symbiosis that should exist between ecology and [human]kind. Writers often pit [hu]man against nature: Nature is depicted as impersonal and ruthless, [hu]man is represented as puny and defenseless. But it is more obvious from the destruction of the environment and the worsening effects of climate change that nature is the victim and [hu]man [who is] the victimizer.  Through our writings, therefore, we will serve stern warning to humanity to change their way or else face annihilation. Through our discursive and creative writings, we will invoke the need for the restoration of the proper equation that should obtain between [hu]man and nature and of the need for them to complement one another. In this case, we will not only produce a literature of survival… but also a literature of communion.

In the 2013 Congress, Philippine PEN tackled Peace Issues and Literature.

In the 2014 Congress, the resolutions expressed Philippine PEN’s cautious support for the Bangsa Moro Framework Agreement and Bangsa Moro Basic Law.

In the 2015 Congress, the resolutions passed asked for the release of Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh and Uyghur PEN member Ilham Tohti, and expressed concerns over the grave situations of writers in Bangladesh.

In 2016, Philippine PEN condemned the Marcos burial, and expressed concerns over the mounting number of extra-judicial drug killings, under the anti-drug campaign of the Duterte government.

In 2017 Congress, the resolution expressed solidarity with the people of Marawi City and support for Meranao writers, resolving to create spaces for the writers, artists, and the people who have been affected by the conflicts so that they can express their grief and anguish through the healing properties of writing.

In 2018, Philippine PEN condemned the order of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to revoke the license of the digital news media outfit Rappler. It condemned the shutdown of Rappler as a violation of the Filipino’s right to seek and receive information and opinion through digital journalism. The Philippine Center also issued a statement to the Senate, asking them to spare the tax exemption of books from repeal by the ‘Trabaho’ bill (Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-quality Opportunities).

Philippine PEN

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