Alliance appeals SC ruling removing Filipino as required college subject

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino language advocates on Monday, November 26, filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to reverse its ruling that lifted a 2015 temporary restraining order (TRO) on a higher education directive removing Filipino and Panitikan as required subjects in college.

In a 19-page petition filed by the Alyansa ng Mga Tagapagtanggol ng Wikang Filipino/Alliance of Defenders of the Filipino Language (Tanggol Wika), the group argued once more that Section 6, Article XIV of the Constitution is in fact self-executory because “the entirety of the Constitutions is still presumed to be self-executory.”

“Exceptions to that rule must be declared only with extreme caution and as a last resort in order to prevent the wrong impression that there are, as Justice Leonen puts in his dissent, 'second -order rights.' Exceptions, where declared, must also be limited and strictly construed against government and more favorably interpreted in favor of the rights denigrated,” they said.

In 2015, advocates appealed to block the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) memorandum issued in 2013 excluding Filipino, Panitikan, and Constitution as required subjects in college, saying it was unconstitutional. This because, the Constitution says “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.”

The SC in its decision, however, said that the provision was not absolutely instructive.

This means that the SC considered it among parts of the Constitution that cannot be enforceable by itself; instead these need separate legislations to be in effect.

 

Responding to this, Tanggol Wika argued the use of “shall” in the Constitution leaves government no other choice but to take steps to enrich the use of Filipino. They also said the provision was self-executing because government is tasked to “sustain” the use of Filipino, as outlined in the provision.

They group likewise warned that implementing the higher education order would leave rights guaranteed by the Constitution such as the right to education and work, “vulnerable to being diminished or defeated at the hands of a government…which fails…to act on mandates of the Constitution.”

“The Tanggol Wika Petitioners fear that with this we’re back to rhetoric,” they added.

Not a repeat of topics: Tanggol Wika also argued that the teaching of Filipino and Panitikan were not duplications of subjects taught in elementary and high school, as the CHED and SC said in its memorandum and decision, respectively.

The group said a side-by-side comparison of Filipino in the core curriculum of basic education and Filipino in the general education curriculum of colleges showed the argument had “no factual basis.” This, because, there were topics covered in the tertiary level, which were not present in elementary or high school.

But CHED Chair Prospero De Vera earlier said the law did not require the subjects to be taught in colleges and that "the study of Filipino can easily be included as courses of study in the tertiary level, if higher education institutions decide to do so."

In response, the group said Filipino cannot be sustained if left to the “whims of higher educational institutions.” They also said excluding the subjects would reverse decades of efforts that saw advocates fight to to increase Filipino units in college.

Meanwhile, groups and faculty from several universities previously slammed the SC's decision, saying the removal of the subjects from the minimum required courses in college would lead to the erosion of Philippine culture and identity.

Implementation of the order is also on hold, as the CHED said it would wait for a final decision from the SC after education and language groups said they planned to appeal the Court’s decision. – Rappler.com

 

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

image