By Sonny Melencio
MANILA — On February 19, I went to the Las Pinas Post Office to claim a package sent by the Australian publishers of Links, an international theoretical journal for socialist renewal. When the person in charge opened the package, he saw 40 copies of the magazine with the cover of Che Guevara and a Nicaraguan woman guerilla fighter. I told him they were for distribution to various NGOs that subscribe to the magazine.
The employee who opened the package, a Mr Dizon, browsed through a copy and started commenting about the communist movement in the Philippines. He then referred the magazine to his superior, a Mrs Purita Parajinog, who told him to put the magazine on hold. I protested, saying that I saw no problem with the magazine's contents, and that I had no trouble getting previous copies from the San Juan and Quezon City post offices.
I followed up this matter with the Philippine Postal Corporation and the Customs Office, who said they would also "follow up the matter". Some employees there started telling me that perhaps I needed a "security clearance" (shades of a martial law state!). They didn't even know that the Anti-Subversion Law was legally scrapped a long time ago.
Las Pinas postmaster Bonifacio Henera told us it's going to be "cleared up" amongst the higher-ups.
During martial law, it was forbidden to carry "subversive materials", which included books and documents dealing with communism and socialism. Only the martial law regime's views on these subjects were allowed to circulate. Does this now mean that there is another martial law instrument put in place without us knowing?
I think we should act on this matter. Cases of opening up of mail and mail pilferage are a common occurrence at the post office (there was even a complaint from a Philippine ambassador recently). Almost everyone knows that the customs can make things miserable for us, unless we are ready to hand out "donations" or we have connections in high places — the old padrino system. We don't have to put up with this and allow them to trample on the few democratic rights that we have left.
I urge everyone to fax a protest letter against the seizure of the socialist journal Links.
Address your protest to the Commissioner of Customs, 63 2 527 1953; and the Post Master General's Office at 63 2 527 0034.
[Sonny Melencio is a member of the Links editorial board.]