“We are losing our sense of being Filipino.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Defenders of the Filipino language today brought their fight to the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the implementation of the new college curriculum which removes Filipino language as a mandatory subject.
Citing violations of the Constitution and various laws, the petitioners filed for a certiorari and prohibition with temporary restraining order to stop the implementation of the “Revised General Education Curriculum,” also known as the Commission on Higher Education Department (Ched) Memorandum Order (CMO) 20.
The petition named President Benigno Aquino III and Ched chair Patricia Licuanan as respondents.
The petition had 86 signatories, led by the Alyansa ng mga Tagapagtanggol ng Wika (Tanggol Wika) convener and National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, Act Teachers partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio, Kabataan partylist Rep. Terry Ridon and Anakpawis partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap.
Among the signatories were Filipino professors and officials of at least 14 universities in Metro Manila and Luzon; various linguistic luminaries and personalities from academic, linguist, literary, student and nationalist groups.
Tanggol Wika conveners filed the petition at 4:54 p.m., minutes before the court’s closing hours. They were supported by Filipino language teachers and college students from the Pamantasan ng Pasig (PLP) and Philippine Normal University (PNU) who gathered outside the SC gate. The petitioners’ lawyer is Greg Fabros.
The petition cites five violations of the Constitution, including provisions on the national language, Philippine culture, nationalist education, and labor policy.
In 2013, Ched issued the CMO 20 which abolishes the Filipino language, literature, Philippine government and Constitution as mandatory general education subjects in college.
The curriculum changes were to be made as part of the government’s K to 12 program, and will be effective in 2018 or earlier, in time when the first batch of K to 12 graduates enter college.
In a statement, Tanggol Wika said CMO 20 “disregards the pro-national language spirit of the framers of the Constitution, the Constitution’s emphasis on nationalism and cultural awareness as core values of Philippine education, and the Constitution’s pro-labor provisions that gives workers – including teachers and workers in the education sector – the right to participate in policy-making activities.”
Tanggol Wika said that CMO 20 also violates various laws, such as the Education Act of 1982, the Organic Act of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (Commission on the Filipino Language or KWF), and the Organic Act of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
The petitioners said that the Ched also “violated the law when it usurped one of the KWF’s functions – which is to formulate language policy.”
Professor Jonathan Geronimo, a faculty of the Filipino department at the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) and a Tanggol Wika convener, said that the removal of the Filipino subjects “also removes the students’ access to deeper disciplines which develops the national consciousness.”
Geronimo said Tanggol Wika has received reports that some schools are already abolishing their Filipino departments.
“They’ve made a ‘multidisciplinary design,’ supposedly to support Filipino. But how can we have discipline and intellectualization when there is no more department or program?”
Without a department or program, nobody will be interested to take up Filipino, let alone be experts in the language, he said.
“Less students are taking up Filipino as a major. It’s cultural euthanasia,” he said.
Andrea Jean Yasoña, 19, a fourth year Filipino major at the PNU, thinks that many students in high school under the K to 12 are not learning enough in their Filipino subject, as shown by low scores in their National Achievement Test. Filipino class period in some schools has also been shortened from one hour to only 40 minutes daily, as reported by her brother, an incoming Grade 10 student.
Yasoña, who chairs the group Kapisanang Diwa at Panitik (Kadipan), said that the lack of Filipino education also widens the generation gap between youths and their elders. “At times, my brother doesn’t get what our grandmother is saying,” she said.
The PNU, formerly Philippine Normal College, was one of the bastions of colonial education, Yasoña said, as it trained teachers in the American era. Although nationalistic fervor had been revived in the school in the past decades, this may not last long, in her school and elsewhere.
“The Filipino language is one of the fuels of nationalism,” Yasoña said. “How can we instill nationalism if we’re going to remove Filipino as a medium?”
Francheska Trixia Santuico, an incoming second year Values major in PNU, said Filipino in their GE subjects has already been cut down to only three units, from the six required of the older batches. She lamented that her batch was subjected to the Outcome-based Transition Education Curriculum (Obtec) which was to be implemented for the next three years, as part of the K to 12 program.
Filipino teachers in high school who support Tanggol Wika said they could only do so much to help their students speak Filipino, let alone “intellectualize” the class discussion.
Via delos Reyes, 21, a Grade 8 Filipino teacher at the Pasig City Science High School (PCSHS), said many students have a limited Filipino vocabulary, because they came from “English only” schools, where they were forced to communicate only in English.
Delos Reyes decried that many parents are proud to have their children speak English, oblivious that they are losing grasp of the Filipino language and identity.
“If they’re going to remove Filipino in college, what would become of these students?” said Delos Reyes.
“How will they fight for their Filipino identity, when the Filipino language is being slowly killed?” she said. “We are losing our sense of being Filipino.”
Jay-Ann Bonan, a Filipino high school teacher in between jobs, said she sees the need to support the campaign against CMO 20.
“It’s hard to teach without taking a stand,” she said. “You can’t teach Filipino and stand in front of students, without doing anything, as the language gets attacked.”
Tanggol Wika had proposed to Ched that given the curriculum revision, it should still retain Filipino as a subject, six units of Filipino as general education subjects, and nine units of Filipino for education and humanities courses.
Both the KWF and the National Committee on Language on Translation (NCLT) under NCCA had issued resolutions supporting Tanggol Wika’s proposal, said the group.
In November last year, Ched said that it is not changing the provisions in the memo.