Apparently, there are two bills that are currently pending in the Philippine Senate that seek to revive Philippine Komiks through its use in education and dissemination of government information.
Senate Bill 1929: PHILIPPINE KOMIKS REVIVAL ACT OF 2007
You can download the PDF version of the bill here.
Senate Bill 1934: KOMIKS INDUSTRY ACT OF 2007
You can download the PDF version of the bill here.
Senate Bill 1929 is “An Act to enhance genuine Filipino Culture and to encourage the growth of Philippine artistic tradition through the re-introduction and revival of the komiks (comics) as popular instructional materials in education and effective dissemination of government information.”
The bill seeks to make it government policy to “preserve, enrich, and evolve Philippine National Culture based on the principle of unity in diversity in a climate of free artistic and intellectual expression.”
Senate Bill 1934 is “An Act promoting the revival of the Komiks Industry, providing Tax incentives therefor, and for other purposes.
It’s a rather lofty goal, and it’s one that I can completely go behind. It’s rather like a dream come true for someone like me seeking to do the same. The preservation, enrichment and evolution of Philippine comics are things that have defined my life for the past several years. And all the comics that I have done in this time are the result of my pursuit of free expression in my art.
I was curious how Senate Bill 1929 proposes to make something like this possible. The bill continues:
“To this end, the use, utilization and reading of komiks (comics), as a tool for instruction and information shall be promoted.”
“The Department of Education is hereby mandated that ten percent (10%) of all instructional materials being printed and utilized in all academic institutions, both public and private, shall be in komiks form.”
“As far as practicable, all departments, agencies and instrumentalities of the Philippine government shall take immediate steps to implement this Act and shall incorporate the use of komiks in all its printing and information dissemination campaign for the general public.”
“All equipment and materials that are reasonably necessary and are not manufactured or produced locally for the propagation and renewed popularization of komiks shall be tax or duty-free.”
“Five percent (5%) of the total travel tax collection for five (5) consecutive years beginning the year of effectivity of this Act shall be constituted as a fund to conduct valuable research on the re-introduction and revival of the komiks as a popular art. Substantial portions of it shall be constituted as a revolving fund for the printing of such komiks publications.”
“Within sixy (60) days from the effectivity of this Act, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the National Commissin on Culture and Arts, the Department of Education and the Philippine Information Agency shall jointly come up and promulgate necessary rules and regulations for the effective implementation of this Act.”
The immediate good that I can see in something like this is to give the many writers and artists of comics employment. Many disenfranchised creators of the old industry, many of whom are still alive and are still able to work, are left with very little to do and very little to earn a living with.
With this Act, they are assured employment for the foreseeable future.
However, there is nothing here that I can see which will fulfill the goal of enriching and evolving Philippine National Culture. What the Act does is to simply make 10% of textbooks and other educational reading material compulsory in komiks form. This assures that more comics are made and distributed (and jobs for comics creators), but this will not necessarily result in the enrichment and evolution of Philippine National Culture.
Indeed, it is worth noting that both of these Senate bills were filed by Senator Manny Villar, the same senator who filed the Anti Obscenity and Pornography Act of 2008. It is an act that I vehemently oppose in its present form.
Please don’t interpret my opposition to the Anti Obscenity and Pornography act to mean I am for obscenity and pornography. I am simply against the flawed policy found within it which would restrict my freedom to freely express myself as an artist. This kind of restriction I believe would stunt the enrichment and evolution of not only comics but all kinds of art in the country.
And doesn’t Senate Bill 1929 explicitly states “preserve, enrich, and evolve Philippine National Culture based on the principle of unity in diversity in a climate of free artistic and intellectual expression.”?
How do these two bills work out this seeming inconsistency and opposing policy? One can’t be for free artistic and intellectual expression but at the same time restrict the portrayal of nudity in works of art “regardless of the author’s intent.”
Not all nudity is obscene and pornographic. There’s nudity on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. There is nudity in portraying the teaching of human anatomy. There is nudity in many critically acclaimed and important films such as Schindler’s List, The Godfather, etc. There is nudity in critically acclaimed comic books such as The Sandman and From Hell.
The best thing I can say can be found in Senate Bill 1934 which has provisions which include:
“Fiscal Incentives. To attract more investors in the komiks industry, publishers of komiks shall be exempt from the payment of their business tax. The imposition of EVAT for the purchase of materials needed for the publication and printing of the komiks shall likewise be suspended for the next five (5) years: Provided, however, that such expenses shall be exclusively used for the printing and publication of the same.”
Now this is more like it. I have written several times in the past that the one thing that the government can do to truly help revive the industry is to give komiks publishers a tax break. And apparently, this is something that the Act proposes. And the way it’s written, publishers are exempt from the payment of their business tax… for all time. If this is truly how this is interpreted (it depends on the Implementing Rules and Regulations at a later stage), then it’s fantastic.
The emphasis on komiks as a tool for education, information and entertainment is worthy of scrutiny.
That is all well and good, but where is the emphasis on the pursuit of comics as a true and vital art form? Not just popular art, but a serious art form akin to literature?
If there is something consistent about the government’s attitude toward Philippine komiks, then it is its INCONSISTENCY.
On one hand, the government supports komiks for its use in education and entertainment, and yet on the other hand, there is very little support to consider komiks as true art.
For example: The National Library, or at the very least members of it, refuse to provide comic books with ISBNs because they say comics “Do not have research value.”
Another example. For a country as the Philippines to have a rich history in comics extending way back to the 1800s, not a single comics creator has been awarded the National Artist Award, although candidates like Francisco V. Coching and Larry Alcala are completely worthy.
Another example. There are none, or very few archived and preserved material on vintage komiks or komiks original art. As far as I know there is hardly anything at both the National Historical Institute and the National Museum. The only museum I know that preserves komiks and respects komiks as an art is the Lopez Museum, which is a privately owned museum.
There is still something good that comes out of Senate Bills like this, if ever they were made into law. I wish it could be something more, but I am thankful nevertheless for what it proposes to provide.