GMA language bill faces more opposition

Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and Pampanga Representative Gloria Mcapagal-Arroyo share a light moment before signing an agreement on creating a National Child Development Center cum training laboratory at the Pamantasang Lungsod ng Pilipinas, October 25, 2016. DANNY PATA/


MANILA — An expert joined Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) in opposing Pampanga Rep. and former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s HB 5091 (An Act to Strengthen and Enhance the Use of Englishas the Medium of Instruction in the Educational System).

Essayist and translator Michael Coroza urged Congress to junk HB 5091, noting this proposed law violates the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

“It’s clear in the Constitution that English isn’t the country’s leading language of instruction,” he said Friday at a briefing KWF spearheaded in Metro Manila.

Studies show students learn better when lessons are taught in languages they understand, he continued.

In April this year, KWF’s board of commissioners approvedResolution 17-35 objecting HB 5091.

KWF is the government agency tasked with promoting and developing Filipino and other Philippine languages.

Article XIV Section 6 of the Constitution set Filipino as the country’s national language.

The Constitution provides that subject to provisions of law and as the Congress may deem appropriate, 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.”

“For purposes of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English,” reads the Constitution’s Article XIV Section 7.

Regional languages “are the auxiliary official languages in the regions and shall serve as auxiliary media of instruction therein,” the Constitution provides further.

Rep. Arroyo acknowledged the Constitution’s Article XIV Section 7 but is pushing for enactment of HB 5091, noting the bilingual policy government introduced in 1974 to teach Filipino as a subject in the primary, secondary and tertiary levels adversely affected learning of the English language.

“One reason is what linguists call language interference,” she said in HB 5091. “Targeting the learning of two languages (English and Pilipino) is too much for the Filipino learners, especially in the lower grades. And if the child happens to be a non-Tagalog speaker, this task means actually learning two foreign languages at the same time, an almost impossible task.”

She said HB 5091 aims developing students’ aptitude, competence and proficiency in the English language to help maintain and improve their competitive edge in local and international industries, particularly information and communications technology.

According to KWF, however, HB 5091 is unconstitutional and based on “apparently misinformed” assumptions on language and education.

“This latest attempt by Rep. Arroyo, which is in fact a recycling of her similar previous efforts, must be nipped in the bud,” said KWF’s Resolution 17-35.

HB 5091 is already “superfluous and unnecessary” under prevailing laws and national policy on language and medium of instruction under the national educational system, the resolution noted.

The bill is unnecessary since the operational and existing – and actually spoken ‘lingua franca’ nationwide – is Filipino, KWF further said.

Several surveys and common experience show Filipino has been and is still the country’s ‘lingua franca,’ KWF added. Catherine Teves/


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