On May 5, 2020, the National Telecommunications Commission issued a Cease and Desist Order against news and entertainment network ABS-CBN, putting an immediate halt to the broadcast of all its television and radio stations across the nation. The Order cited the expiry of the network’s broadcast franchise, despite efforts continuous efforts exerted toward the renewal of the network’s franchise before Congress over the past several years.

The silencing of ABS-CBN constitutes an unjust and deafening blow to freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and sends a chilling effect across all other news and media platforms, broadcast services, and platforms in the Philippines.

This action is particularly grave and insensitive in light of the current global pandemic that is threatening the lives of millions of Filipinos, a crucial time when all media channels play a crucial role in delivering critical news and guidance to the public. The closure also immediately ends the livelihood of more than 11,000 Filipino workers and their families, at this time of great economic uncertainty.

The Philippine Center of PEN International denounces this action against free expression and democracy. We call on the Philippine government to withdraw this Order and exercise its duty to serve Filipinos who are in dire need of information, assistance, and hope in these dark times.

NUESTRO PERDIDO EDEN, a novella on Manila

For inquiries, please call Solidaridad (632)82541086, or email

This event is hosted by the Philippine Center of International PEN (Poets, Playwrights, Essayists, Novelists) in partnership with Ateneo de Naga University Press.

About the Author
Ambassador (Ret.) Virgilio A. Reyes, Jr. served as diplomat for 35 years with the Philippine Foreign Service and as Philippine envoy to Italy (2011-2014) and South Africa (2003-2009). He also served in the Philippine Mission to the United Nations in New York and the Philippine embassies in Myanmar, Mexico and Chile. His publications include: In the National Interest (Issues of Disarmament, Peace and Security) (New York, 1991); La Revolucion Filipina, 1896-1898: El Nacimiento de Una Idea (Santiago de Chile, 2000); and Gloria: Roman Leoncio’s Kapampangan Translation of Huseng Batute’s Verse Novel Lost and Found (editor; Angeles City, 2003), which won the National Book Award for Translation in 2004.

Writers’ assembly flags threats to freedom of expression

By Lito B. Zulueta – Arts and Books Editor / Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines — The 85th congress of the PEN International writers group expressed concern over continuing threats to free speech and creative expression in the Philippines and around the world.

“Around the world, spaces for free expression are shrinking,” said Carles Torner, the group’s executive director. “Dissenting voices — be they journalists, academics, writers or students — face intimidation, harassment, online abuse, violence.”

“It is also the case in the Philippines — and it is the mission of PEN International to join hands with Filipino writers to expand literary expression and its freedom,” he said.

‘Systematic violations’

PEN, which counts top poets, playwrights, fiction writers and journalists, including Nobel laureates, among its members, condemned the “suppression of free speech” by China in Hong Kong and Tibet, and “human rights violations” in North Korea and Vietnam.

Right after the shooting of an 18-year-old protester in Hong Kong on Tuesday, the conference issued a statement denouncing the violence and warning against its escalation.

In a resolution on the “threats to freedom of expression and peace in South and East Asia,” PEN condemned the “systematic human rights violations” in North Korea and Vietnam.

It said it was “deeply concerned” by the “violent persecution of minority groups,” such as the Rohingya of Myanmar and the Uyghur of China by “both state and nonstate actors,” and was alarmed by “blasphemy laws” in some countries.

The “empty chair,” a tradition of PEN to symbolically protest writers who have been persecuted, imprisoned or even killed, was reserved for Jamal Khashoggi of Saudi Arabia, Stella Nyanzi of Uganda, and Uygur writer Ilham Tohti of China.

The PEN meeting, held from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4, commemorated the first death anniversary of Khashoggi, who was murdered on Oct. 2 last year inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey.

American-Mexican novelist Jennifer Clement, president of PEN International, and other members of the organization visited the Saudi Arabia Embassy in Manila to hand over a letter expressing PEN’s concern over the killing, signed by all the delegates.

It was the first time that the world congress of writers was held in Southeast Asia. Some 200 delegates from 67 PEN centers around the world took part in the 85th congress held in various sites in Manila, such as De la Salle University, Cultural Center of the Philippines, National Museum of Fine Arts, and the University of Santo Tomas.

Country report

PEN International issued a report on the continuing threats to press freedom and literary expression in the Philippines.

The report was titled “A Carnival of Mirrors: The State of Freedom of Expression in the Philippines,” and among its contributors were Sheila S. Coronel, Inday Espina-Varona, Manuel Mogato, Criselda Yabes, H. Francisco Peñones and Joel Pablo Salud, its editor.

“Philippine writers and journalists have continued to wage the long battle, pointing out injustice, inequality and abuses that the Filipino people have suffered,” wrote Salil Tripathi, head of PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee.

“As we from the PEN community meet in Manila, we salute these heroes for their commitment and courage [to] stand in solidarity with them.”

Torner wrote: “We gather here in solidarity with defenders of free expression in the Philippines, those who are pursuing truth in the face of intolerance.”

Minority rights, languages

Minority rights took center stage in the 85th congress, whose theme was “Speaking in Tongues: Literary Freedom and Indigenous Languages.”

The focus on indigenous languages, some of which PEN said were in danger of extinction due to globalization, was also in line with the United Nations’ declaration of 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
The assembly passed the PEN Philippines-proposed “Resolution on the promotion of language justice and the protection of the cultural integrity of the indigenous peoples of the Philippines.”

The document expressed concern over the government’s closure of 85 schools for the “lumad,” as the indigenous cultural communities in Mindanao are called. The administration of President Duterte has accused these schools of teaching communism and subversion.

PEN writers also took note of the planned establishment of the “New Clark City” in Central Luzon, which may displace the indigenous Aeta people.

They urged the Philippine government “to respect and protect the rights of the Aeta, lumad, and all other cultural communities, and ensure that public and private development efforts, however well-meaning, do not deprive marginalized communities of their rights to their ancestral domain, social justice and cultural integrity.

The conference said the government must continue cultural programs to promote and conserve indigenous languages and cultural practices, such as the Bahay Wika (Language House) of the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino and the School of Living Traditions of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

‘Hatred and division’

Upholding creativity and freedom of expression amid political and international upheaval, the PEN congress approved the “Democracy of the Imagination Manifesto.”

“We know attempts to control the imagination lead to xenophobia, hatred and division,” said Clement, who read the document.

Philippine national artist for literature F. Sionil Jose, who founded PEN Philippines, was elected vice president of PEN International, along with Elena Poniatowska of Mexico and Luisa Valenzuela of Argentina, and Nobel laureates Svetlana Alexievich of Belarus and Orhan Pamuk of Turkey.

Previous vice presidents included the late Nobel laureates Toni Morrison and Nadine Gordimer.


Free the Word! Manila: Poetry, Prose and Performances

Featuring: Lourd de Veyra (Philippines), Marjorie Evasco (Philippines), Kurt Alalag (Philippines), Tammy Lai-Ming Ho (Hong Kong), Seno Gumira Ajidarma (Indonesia), Fariq Alfaruqi (Indonesia), Judyth Hill (Mexico), Danson Kahyana (Uganda), Veera Tyhtilä (Finland), Félix Villeneuve (Canada), Yorn Young (Cambodia), Ayi Renaud Dossavi-Alipoeh (Togo), Foluso Adedoyin Agoi (Nigeria), Tomica Bajsić (Croatia), Santiago Villafania (Philippines), Marne Kilates (Philippines), Dessale Berekhet Abraham (Eritrea), Ruperta Bautista (Chiapas, Mexico), Yirgalem Fisseha Mebrahtu (Eritrea), Michelle Yeo (Korea)

Master of Ceremonies: Glenn Sevilla Mas

Brought to you by PEN International, National Book Development Board, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

PEN Public Lectures and Panels

3 October 2019, Thursday, 9:00AM-4:00PM
National Museum of the Philippines (Fine Arts), Padre Burgos Ave., Ermita, Manila
Open to the public, Free Admission, Entrance @ Finance Road Gate
(no pre-registration)

Opening Keynote Address 9:00-9:30 AM, Venue: NM Auditorium
Virgilio Almario, National Artist for Literature, Philippines
Introduction of the Speaker: Marne Kilates

Panels 1 and 2 9:30-11:00 AM

Panel 1 Reconfiguring Resistance in Traditional and Digitized Media
Venue: Osmeña Hall
Chair: Alfred Yuson (PEN Philippines)
Manuel Quezon III (Philippine Daily Inquirer), Glenda Gloria (Rappler Philippines), Pierre Pierson (PEN Nicaragua), Tomica Bajsić (PEN Croatia)

Panel 2 Migrating Languages: From Indigenous to Mainstream
Venue: NM Auditorium
Chair: Hope Yu, Chair (NCCA National Committee on the Literary Arts, Philippines)
Howie Severino (GMA7, Philippines), Noel G. de Leon (Kasingkasing Press, Philippines), Han Zaw (PEN Myanmar), Seno Gumira Ajidarma (Indonesia), Jean Fréderic Brun (PEN Occitan)

Panels 3 and 4 11:00-12:30

Panel 3 Shut Up: The Many Ways of Repression
Venue: Osmeña Hall
Chair: Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo (PEN Philippines)
John Nery (Philippine Daily Inquirer), Pia Ranada (Rappler Philippines), Lucina Kathmann (PEN San Miguel, Mexico/PEN International Vice President), Danson Kahyana (PEN Uganda), Tetyana Teren (PEN Ukraine)

Panel 4 Words Crossing Worlds: Translation/Transliteration
Venue: NM Auditorium
Chair: Dinah Roma (PEN Philippines)
John McGlynn (Lontar Indonesia), Ginny Takemori (Japan), Félix Villeneuve (PEN Québec), Kätlin Kaldmaa (PEN Estonia / PEN International Secretary)

Lunch Break 12:30-1:30PM

Panels 5 and 6 1:30-3:00 PM

Panel 5 Creative Tensions and Art Forces
Venue: Osmeña Hall
Chair: Ricardo De Ungria (PEN Philippines)
Inga Gaile (PEN Latvia), Kiri Dalena (Philippines), Tammy Lai-Ming Ho (PEN HongKong), Bina Sarkar Ellias (International Gallerie, India)

Panel 6 Body Language: Expressions of the Indigenous
Venue: NM Auditorium
Chair: Malou Jacob (PEN Philippines)
Padmapani Perez (Philippines), Ea Torrado (Daloy Dance Company, Philippines), Kristian Cordero (PEN Philippines), Veera Tyhtilä (PEN Finland), Ruperta Bautista (Chiapas, Mexico)

Keynote Addresses 3:00-4:00 PM, NM Auditorium

Eka Kurniawan, Prince Claus Award 2018, Indonesia
Resil Mojares, National Artist for Literature, Philippines
Introduction of the Speakers: Marne Kilates

With gratitude to our Patrons and Partners

National Book Development Board (NBDB) • Hon. Loren Legarda • De La Salle University • National Museum of the Philippines • Cultural Center of the Philippines • University of Santo Tomas and UST Varsitarian • Senator Sonny Angara • Felipe L. Gozon Management & Development Corporation • GMA Network • Atty. Saul Hofileña • Japan Foundation Manila • Logika Concepts Inc. • National Book Committee of Indonesia • PAGCOR • Philippine Soong Ching Ling Foundation • Solidaridad Bookshop • SIDA (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency) • The Asia Foundation


For the first time since its inception in 1921, PEN International, a worldwide organization of writers that seeks to promote literature and defend freedom of expression will hold its annual Congress in South East Asia. The Philippine Center of International PEN (Philippine PEN) will host this landmark event in Manila from September 30 to October 4, 2019.

Founding Chairman and National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose said, “It is an occasion for us to show writers from different parts of the world our treasures.”

The annual Congress is PEN International’s main meeting where delegates from all over the world gather to decide on key organizational and policy standpoints. The theme for this year’s Congress is “Speaking in Tongues: Literary Freedoms and Indigenous Languages.” It dovetails with the United Nation’s declaration of 2019 as the Year of Indigenous Languages.

Around 200 writers from over 100 countries are expected to arrive in the country to discuss indigenous writing, linguistic diversity and multiculturalism. They will also tackle the threats to freedom of expression posed by hate speech, financial crisis in media, fake news, and repressive regimes.

Keynote speakers are Fernand De Varennes, Special Rapporteur for Minority Issues of the UN, National Artist for Literature Resil Mojares, and famed Indonesian writer Eka Kurniawan. National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario will deliver the Welcome Address for the Public Panels of the Congress. Aside from Jose, Mojares, and Almario, National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera will grace the event. Prominent foreign and local delegates will participate as speakers.

Apart from the main assemblies and meetings to be held at the De La Salle University, there will be several events open to the public. They are: the “Free the Word! Manila: Poetry, Peace, and Performances” to be held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines; Speeches and Panel Fora at the National Museum; Artists Congress at DLSU; and Outreach activities at various universities in Manila.

Philippine PEN’s principal government partner in organizing the 85th Congress is the National Book Development Board.

The 98-year-old PEN International is the oldest international literary organization in the world. Aside from promoting literature and defending freedom of expression, it also champions human rights. It is headquartered in London and is currently headed by Mexican-American author Jennifer Clement, the first female President of the organization.

<p class="has-text-align-justify" style="line-height:1.4" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Among PEN International's past presidents are Nobel Prize winners John Galsworthy, Francois Mauriac, Maurice Maeterlinck, Heinrich Boll, and Mario Vargas Llosa. With a membership of 20,000 writers, PEN International has developed a community of writers worldwide through its 150 centers around the globe, among which is the Philippine PEN, founded in 1957.Among PEN International’s past presidents are Nobel Prize winners John Galsworthy, Francois Mauriac, Maurice Maeterlinck, Heinrich Boll, and Mario Vargas Llosa. With a membership of 20,000 writers, PEN International has developed a community of writers worldwide through its 150 centers around the globe, among which is the Philippine PEN, founded in 1957.