An open letter urging the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) to investigate an alleged rape incident at a recent writing event has made rounds online.
A female fellow of the 26th Iligan National Writers Workshop or INWW shared on Facebook her harrowing rape experience allegedly committed by keynote speaker-panelist Timothy Dimacali last May.
In the open letter, hundreds of writers, including the workshop’s former fellows, expressed their support to the fellow who took to social media after being dismissed by officials of the workshop.
“The National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA), having funded INWW through the years, conduct a thorough and independent inquiry into the matter, together with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR, given its mandate to look into human rights violations by state agents and duty-bearers in government agencies), the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW, because it is mandated to protect women and their human rights), and MSU-IIT (as it is the institutional sponsor of the workshop and the incident took place within the university premises),” read part of the letter.
The writers also denounced the workshop director and the Mindanao Creative Writers Group (MCWG), Inc. for their response that is suggestive of immediate disbelief on the fellow’s testimony and refusal to be held responsible for it.
Aside from the NCCA, they also urged the Ombudsman to step in because the workshop’s organizers are professors of a state university.
“As things stand, we are sorely disappointed by the response of the workshop director and MCWG. This is not what we expected from institutions and individuals who receive financial support in the form of public funds. Any further inaction, then, is tantamount to complicity not just by those of us expressing concern but also to the good Filipino taxpayers,” they said.
Former fellows or chosen attendees of the INWW who were listed in the letter came from different parts of the country.
Names of award-winning and renowned members of the Philippine literature community such as J. Neil C. Garcia, Dean Francis Alfar, Edgar Samar and Joselito D. De Los Reyes were also mentioned here.
It was not indicated when the letter was made.
The INWW is one of the most prestigious annual writing workshops in the country that is sponsored by the NCCA.
Palanca Awardee Rebecca Añonuevo wrote a poem about rape and shared it on Facebook on August 6.
She also perceived the criticisms of the people on the workshop and at MCWG director Christine Godinez-Ortega unfair.
“Hindi makatarungan ang halimaw ng panlilibak kay Christine Godinez-Ortega. Hindi makatarungang ipabalikat sa Iligan Workshop ang anumang pangyayaring hindi dapat nangyari ayon sa mga naisiwalat na ng mga nasasangkot. Natitiyak kong walang nagpapasok sa tahanan ang nanaising gumising sa pagbasag ng tiwalang kaloob sa kaniyang mga panauhin,” Añonuevo said.
Afterward, Filipino authors Alma Anonas-Carpio and Edgar Calabia Samar both shared poems on Facebook seen as counter reactions to Añonuevo.
Halang na bitukaKung gagawing sandataAng tula, ang katagang hasang-hasa,Huwag itututok o ipuputokSa taong…
Hindi ko kayang tulaan ang panggagahasa na para bang hiniling iyon ninuman.
Veteran journalist Inday Espina-Varona, meanwhile, directly slammed Añonuevo for her post.
“I will defend anyone’s freedom of expression, Añonuevo’s included. But those who do should not stop there. Uphold that freedom. Condemn the intellectual malice that went into the use of art with the clear goal of protecting the close-knit and very hierarchical world of certain sectors of the literati,” Varona said.
According to the female fellow’s story , the incident happened during the event’s closing ceremony on May 31 at the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology.
She recalled the event having a celebratory mood and that she had one too many drinks. She asserted that she never gave consent to the panelist, who she named as Dimacali, to proceed with intimate acts on her.
Dimacali vehemently denied this in a statement on Facebook. MCWG and the director likewise made a non-apologetic message on what happened, a post that had since been deleted.
The Anti-Rape Law of 1997 specifically states that rape is committed when “the offended party is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious” among others. This includes being intoxicated with alcohol and drugged.