Kids' books about dictatorship, Martial Law spook Philippine intel chief

Jonathan de Santos - Philstar.com
Kids' books about dictatorship, Martial Law spook Philippine intel chief
This detail from a Facebook ad by Adarna House shows "Ito ang Diktadura", a Filipino translation about a book published in Spain in 1977 after the death of dictator Francisco Franco.
Adarna House Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines' intelligence chief on Thursday expressed alarm at children's books about dictatorship and about Martial Law and claimed without basis that these were part of a communist plot to "radicalize" Filipino children.

National Intelligence Coordinating Agency Director-General Alex Monteagudo made the sweeping claim on his Facebook account, hours after plans to appoint Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio — the presumptive vice president-elect — to head the education department were announced and sparked concerns over historical revisionism.

One of the books, "Ito ang Diktadura", is a Filipino translation of a book published in Spain 1977 after the death of dictator Francisco Franco and illustrates the characteristics of dictatorships.

Spanish publisher Media Vaca published a new edition in 2016 and noted that:

"today the dictatorship is still a form of government present in many countries, while others, which call themselves democratic, shamelessly reproduce many characteristics of totalitarian governments: there is a high level of corruption, there is no they respect human rights, the laws are made behind the backs of the citizens and those in charge never give enough explanations."

The book has a gallery of illustrations of dictators, which includes ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos but also includes communists Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin. The Filipino version is available for pre-order.

"This is how the CPP/NPA/NDF radicalize not just our youths, but our children. The Adarna Publishing House published these books and they are now on sale to subtly radicalize the Filipino children against our Governement, now!" the head of the country's intelligence coordinating agency claimed.

Monteagudo also cited another book, "Si Jhun-Jhun, Noong Bago Ideklara ang Batas Militar", a book written by Augie Rivera, illustrated by Brian Vallesteros and originally published in 2001. According to a 2018 BusinessWorld roundup on books about Martial Law, the "main character, Jhun-jhun, wonders what is happening to his older brother and gets a frightening answer."

The book is being sold on a pre-order basis.

Neither of the books are explicitly communist or even anti-government but officials often equate the two with terrorism.

In a statement in defense of Adarna, rights group Karapatan said that its books "are produced by renowned and multi-awarded Filipino children's book writers and illustrators." 

Adarna House is a family-run publishing house founded by National Artist Virgilo Almario.

"Their books on martial law are humble contributions to enlighten our youth about the atrocities experienced by thousands during that period," Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay also said.

Palabay added that Mayor Duterte's potential appointment as education secretary "is expected to bring a tsunami of further fake news and disinformation — if not censorship — on the realities in contemporary Philippine history, especially during the Marcos Sr. and Duterte Sr. regimes." 

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