Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Filipino with the "F": A Guide for the Perplexed (Part Two)

Continued from here.

The complete article can be found here

B. Tagalog and the Purists in the Institute of National Language

On 13 November 1936, Congress enacted Commonwealth Act No. 184. The act created the Institute of National Language composed of a director, seven members, and an executive secretary, each representing one of the linguistic groups of the Philippines. The Institute was principally tasked to choose the native tongue which was to be used as a basis for the evolution and adoption of the Philippine national language. In the selection, preference was to be given to the tongue that was most developed as regards structure, mechanism, and literature, and was accepted, and used by the greatest number of Filipinos. A year after it was established, the Institute was directed to publish its linguistic studies, and to recommend to the President the adoption of the national language based on the native tongue it had chosen.

On 9 November 1937, the Institute passed a resolution recommending that Tagalog be made the basis of the national language. On 30 December of the same year, President Quezon declared33 Tagalog as the national language of the Philippines. He subsequently authorized34 the printing of the dictionary and grammar prepared by the Institute, and fixed 18 June 1940, as the day upon which the national language was to be taught in all public and private schools. Tagalog became the official language effectively on 4 July 1946 by congressional act.35 Tagalog was later designated as Pilipino.36

Gradually, the multi-lingualists found reason to protest the actions of the Institute of National Language. The movement was not organized, but it had a wide reservoir of support which could be drawn upon any time.37 One of the issues raised by the multi-lingualists was the difficulty in learning and applying of the grammar prescribed by the Institute. The Institute coined terms in place of grammatical texts which were already familiar to many people and reduced that alphabet to the twenty-letter pre-Spanish alphabet. Such were considered signs of retrogression instead of progress.38 Soon enough, the critics called the linguistic attitude taken by the Institute as “purism.”

The mono-lingualists, on their part, lamented the junior role which Pilipino took in the general language program of the government. English continued to be the language of official communication and the principal medium of instruction. The place of Pilipino in the official business of government, on one hand, was merely ceremonial. Among the few government actions on language, for instance, were the mandatory celebration of the National Language Week,39 the naming of all government buildings, edifices, and offices in Pilipino;40 and the translation of all letter-heads of departments, offices, and agencies of the government to Pilipino.41 English, on the other hand, was the language in which laws and executive orders were passed and issued.

The courts promulgated their decisions in English. In the schools, the principal subjects of math and science were taught in English. Schools were also allowed to impose fines on students who spoke in Pilipino within the school premises.

C. The 1972 CONCON: Birth of Filipino

The mono-lingualists and the multi-lingualists debated anew on the provision of language during the 1972 Constitutional Convention (1972 CONCON). The issues against the mono-lingualists were the “purist” attitude of the Institute, the limited twenty-letter Pilipino pre-Spanish alphabet, and the political deception employed during the 1934 CONCON. For their part, the mono-lingualists pointed to the developments achieved in the propagation of the national language, particularly in mass media. They also raised the point that disregarding the gains of Pilipino would only perpetuate the continued domination of the English language in the country.

Professor Yabes offeres a framwork42 for studying how the struggle between the two movements on language ensued in the 1972 CONCON. According to him, it was three-phase struggle. Phase one was the struggle over which language of the Constitution was to be promulgated. In this phase, the multi-lingualists prevailed when the 1972 CONCON decided that the Constitution was to be promulgated solely in English and not in Pilipino.43

The second phase was the struggle in the Committee on National Language over what was to be the national language. In this phase, the multi-lingualists prevailed again when the committee decided44 to adopt Filipino, a language yet to be developed on the basis of existing native languages and dialects, and without precluding the assimilation of words from foreign languages. Pending the adoption of a common national language, the committee recommended the continuance of English and Spanish as official languages. It also recommended the vernaculars spoken in the various areas or regions as official languages in those areas or regions, including Arabic and the Manila Lingua Franca in the Muslim and Greater Manila Area.45

The third phase was the struggle over the final text of the language provision. In this phase, the real victor was uncertain, as the proposal of the committee underwent the following changes: a) Pilipino was made the second language of the Constitution and the second official language; b) reference to the vernaculars and the Manila Lingua Franca were deleted.

The final text of the 1973 Constitution provision on language read,

Section 3. (1) This Constitution shall be officially promulgated in English and Pilipino, and translated into each dialects spoken by over fifty thousand people, and into Spanish and Arabic, in case of conflict, the English text shall prevail.

(2) The National Assembly shall take steps towards the development and formal adoption of a common national language to be known as Filipino.

(3) Until otherwise provided by law, English and Pilipino shall be the official languages.46

When the adoption of the 1973 Constitution was finally declared, the national language was supposed to be multi-language based, but the multi-lingualists did not appear to be the clear winner. The real outcome was contingent upon how the Batasang Pambansa was to evolve the multi-language based Filipino as the 1973 Constitution mandated.

D. Inaction of the Batasang Pambansa

The mandate of the Constitution to the Batasang Pambansa to take steps towards the development and adoption of Filipino was never fulfilled. The only positive effort was the filing of Parliamentary Bill No. 7199, which was introduced by Mambabatas Pambansa (MP) Pacificador and eleven other MP’s. Under section 7 of the bill, Pilipino was to be the nucleus of Filipino. The bill was never enacted into law, but it indicated a willingness to compromise on the part of the multi-lingualists, and it laid the foundation to the 1987 Constitution’s Filipino. Meanwhile, under then existing laws, Pilipino kept its stature as a national language.47

It may be concluded that, the struggle between the mono-lingualists and the multi-lingualists ended in a deadlock of sorts. On one hand the multi-lingualists were able to correct the deception which took place during the 1934 CONCON. On the other hand, there was no law to support the multi-lingualists’ Constitutional provision. Thus, the mono-lingualists were able to maintain the preferred position of Pilipino over the other native languages in the national language policy.


33 Executive Order 134 (1937).
34 Executive Order 263 (1940).
35 Commonwealth Act No. 570 (1940).
36 Department Order No. 7 issued by the Department of Education (1959).
37 Yabes, supra note 31 at 343.
38 Id. at 346.
39 Proclamation No. 12 (1954).
40 Executive Order No. 96 (1967).
41 Memorandum Circular No. 172 (1968).
42 See L.Y. Yabes, Let’s Study the New Constitution: The Language Provision, 38 Philippine Social Sciences and Humanities Review 1-172.
43 The basis of the voting was the so-called Quirino resolution which was adopted by a vote of 146 to 78 on second reading and 165 to 101 on third and final reading.
44 Voting was twenty-five (25) to nine (9) in favor of Filipino with one (1) voting for Filipino with reservations.
45 L.Y. Yabes, supra not 43 at 100-107.
46 Philippine Const., art. XV, sec. 3 (1973).
47 Department of Justice Opinion No. 73 (1973).

(To be continued)


DJB Rizalist said...

Nice collection of very pertinent information here Marv. Thanks.

northwolf said...

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- The Magnificent Atty. Perez