Poet/playwright Bienvenido Lumbera is a National Artist of the Philippines. That honorable designation goes to a Filipino receiving the highest recognition for significant contributions to developing Philippine arts. It also brings a lifetime emolument along with material and physical benefits comparable in value to what the country’s highest officers receive. This includes a cash award of 100,000 pesos net of taxes, a monthly life pension, medical and hospitalization benefits, along with a place of honor at national state functions, and recognition at cultural events.
He is also chairperson of Concerned Artists of the Philippines, an activist group that “organizes artists in defense of their rights and welfare, and in promoting nationalist, people-oriented art and culture,” according to its Facebook page.
In short, he’s a national cultural treasure. So the country’s press took notice when he joined signees of a seventh petition asking the Supreme Court (SC) to scrap several provisions of the controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act.
The 30-page petition complains that the new law violates freedoms of speech, expression, the press, the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to privacy, along with other fundamental rights.
Petitioners have asked for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or writ of preliminary injunction to prevent implementation of the law, which is scheduled to go into effect on Tuesday, Oct. 2.
The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 was signed into law in September. At that time, some analysts were viewing it as a declaration of E-martial law. That was followed by a growing storm of protests, and the genesis of Supreme Court petitions to declare the law unconstitutional. A number of noted leaders joined Lumbera in signing Monday’s petition.
The legislation echoes similar national and international attempts at cybercrime legislation stretching from the U.S. to the European Union. These include ACTA, PIPA, SOPA, and President Obama’s moves to put the Internet under government control.
Lumbera, born in Lipa in 1932, publicly opposed Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos‘ declaring of Martial Law, and was arrested by the Philippine military in January 1974. He was released in December of that year. In 1977, he served as editor of Diliman Review, a university publication which openly opposed the Marcos dictatorship. However, the military left him alone. At the dictatorship’s height, he created musical dramas which received praise, and he also authored several books.
His works include poetry, literary criticism, textbooks, and librettos. His honors include the National Book Award from the National Book Foundation, the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award, and the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communications.