Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Constitution Upholds Bilingualism

PDI Columnist RANDY DAVID was talking to Ricky Carandang on ANC In The Morning about their Petition asking the Supreme Court to void plans and orders of the Department of Education (Deped) and the President to make English the primary medium of instruction in the secondary school level. He was expounding upon the Petitioners' thesis that these orders are UNCONSTITUTIONAL and he read out the part in red below for the TV audience to prove it:
1987 Constitution Article IV

Section 6. The national language of the Philippines is Filipino. As it evolves, it shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages.

Subject to provisions of law and as the Congress may deem appropriate, the Government shall take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system.

Section 7. For purposes of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English.

The regional languages are the auxiliary official languages in the regions and shall serve as auxiliary media of instruction therein.

Spanish and Arabic shall be promoted on a voluntary and optional basis.

Section 8. This Constitution shall be promulgated in Filipino and English and shall be translated into major regional languages, Arabic, and Spanish.

Section 9. The Congress shall establish a national language commission composed of representatives of various regions and disciplines which shall undertake, coordinate, and promote researches for the development, propagation, and preservation of Filipino and other languages.
Note that the Constitution declares Filipino to be the NATIONAL LANGUAGE, which it recognizes to be evolving and is developed and enriched by Arabic, Spanish, English and the regional dialects Tagalog, Cebuano, Pampango, Ilokano, Tausug. Indeed, a "national language commission" is mentioned in Section 9 for its "development, propagation and preservation" because as I have claimed in the recent posts, Filipino is an ARTIFICIALLY DEFINED language, which is a politically calibrated amalgam of the local dialects. The 1987 Constitution clearly expects "the Government to take steps to initiate and sustain its use as (a) a medium of official communications; and (b) language of instruction in the educational system. This provision clearly applies to the entire Government, not just the education department. It would be senseless otherwise.

Why does the Government have to take steps to INITIATE the use of Filipino in its own official communications and medium of instruction in the schools?

Well, perhaps it has to do with the undeniable fact that the 1987 Constitution itself was written originally in English, just like the 1935 and 1973 charters. The Malolos Constitution was of course written in Spanish. The Decisions of the Supreme Court, and all the Laws of the Land, are originally written and promulgated in English, not Filipino.

Randy did not quote however, Section 7, wherein the Constitution clearly states that "until otherwise provided for by law," the OFFICIAL LANGUAGES of the Philippines are Filipino AND English "for the purposes of communication and instruction."

Randy trotted out the old charley-horse about how English is "part of our colonial past" and that we should look to languages like Chinese Mandarin, or even Hindi to take over the world as "majority language". Perhaps he is right, but the point is irrelevant for I hardly think either language is in our immediate future.

What has survived even the powerful rhetoric of Renato Constantino is an ineradicable reality that the English language is a BIG part of the modern Filipino's cultural and intellectual heritage. Perhaps the biggest part, as it has been, in the personal successes of most of the Petitioners, like Randy David, who of course writes a popular English-language column weekly for the biggest English language broadsheet in this neck of Asia.

We come to a third important language related term in this debate: MEDIUM OF INSTRUCTION. What I think the Petitioners miss here is that the Medium of Instruction has to be a WRITTEN language, as well as as a widely spoken one in the student population. Education, as the old formula goes, is about Reading, Writing and 'Rithmetic. The Medium of Instruction must serve these essential needs.

(By sheer coincidence, leading Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, addressed the difference between NATIONAL language and OFFICIAL language during the debate last Saturday in the New Hampshire Primary for the 2008 US Presidential elections. That was in response to a question from moderator Wolf Blitzer regarding English as the national language of the United States. Barach Obama agreed with Hillary on English as the official language but groused that the question was intended to be "divisive." Well, as Jonah Goldberg of National Review noted, THAT is what the question was intended to do, to reveal differences among the candidates.)

Related Posts:
The Medium is the Mess (Part 1) and Part 2

English, the Rizal Law and the Filipino Cultural Heritage
Michael Tan's Arithmetic with Roman Numerals

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