Robin Hemley Dotcom

A Grassroots movement in the Philippines

Posted by Robin Hemley on May 6, 2009 11:16 PM

I've been observing the reactions to my McSweeney's piece on the great Book Blockade of 2009 from afar, and have been quite astounded by how much attention the piece has received. However, what worries me is that some bloggers in the Philippines are parsing the issues too finely, in such a legalistic manner that they run the risk of diluting the issue entirely. The bottom line is that the Philippines is in direct violation of an international U.N. treaty it ratified in 1979 that prohibits any and all duties imposed on books. It's that simple. No wiggle room. If the Philippines wants to withdraw from the treaty, that's its right, but it hasn't done so. Happily, bloggers everywhere are disseminating my article and continue to be outraged over their government's attempt to tax and regulate the free flow of ideas from one country to another. Now, a Facebook group has cropped up, Filipinos Against the Taxation of Books by Customs, and its signed up about two hundred members in no time. Hopefully, Filipinos will keep the pressure on their government to abide by their international treaty obligations. I, for one, am going to make the various writers organizations in the U.S. aware of the situation so that we can put some added pressure on the Philippines. For many Filipinos, books are a luxury item, and to impose a tax on books might soon make them beyond the reach of many ordinary Filipinos.

I'll keep you posted.

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1 Comment

Hi! Sarge's baby sister again here. No, please don't look at my LJ, haha ;)

Just wanted to say, as someone lamentably immersed in legalism for the past four years, that unfortunately it doesn't mean very much here if we're infringing some international agreement or violating yet another treaty, because actually we do that all the time: torture, extrajudicial killings, human rights violations left and right, etc. It's just that there haven't been any cases or decisions big and splashy enough to advertise that particular fact in the mainstream, and the government is quick to cover up the latest UN mission's critique every time it comes in.

So the legalism is, while unfortunately potentially alienating to most (i.e. normal, sane, reasonably happy) people, quite probably the most viable way to go about this. We're used to violating or ignoring UN treaties. There are even one or two spurious legal arguments we could use to defend that. But it's a lot harder to defend or justify a blatantly illegal (according to our domestic laws) measure if it's challenged in court--which is, really, the only way to get anything done around here where the government is concerned.

Just my qualification. ;) Thanks as always!


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