MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a consolidated bill requiring television stations to provide sign language translations in their news programs.
Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño is the bill’s principal author. His co-authors are Representatives Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City, Maximo Rodriguez of the party-list group Abante Mindanao and Raymond Palatino of Kabataan.
Casiño said the measure aims to make television more accessible to persons with hearing disabilities.
He said the bill requires television stations to provide Filipino sign language insets in at least two newscast programs a day and special programs covering events of national significance.
He said TV stations would have the option to provide sign language insets in other programs such as those pertaining to cultural affairs, livelihood and those catering to children.
The committee on public information, chaired by Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, endorsed the consolidated bill.
Before the bill was approved by the committee, Rodriguez sought the deletion of the word “Filipino” in the measure as reference to sign language because he said the Tagalog-based medium of communication is not understood by many in Mindanao and the Visayas.
He cited a Tagalog word which means sexual urge but which people in Mindanao understand to mean confusion.
“So let us drop ‘Filipino’ from the bill so that people in Mindanao and the Visayas who don’t understand and speak Tagalog will understand sign language,” he said.
However, the bill’s authors explained that Filipino sign language consists not of words but of symbols that deaf-mute Filipinos already accept and comprehend.
They said the word “Filipino” in the bill distinguishes the local sign language from the universally accepted American sign language.
Rodriguez said there should be no distinction between Filipino and American sign languages.
“What happens if a Filipino deaf-mute travels to the United States. He will not be able to understand American sign language, and he will be at a loss,” he said.
Other committee members suggested that TV networks should be given the discretion on what sign language to use - Filipino or American - since it is their viewership or audience that would be affected.
But the bill’s authors countered that the networks cannot be allowed to use American sign language, which they said Filipinos with hearing and speaking problems would not be able to understand.