Group seeks return of Filipino, Panitikan as core subjects in college

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
Group seeks return of Filipino, Panitikan as core subjects in college
In this photo taken November 26, 2018, protesters assail the Supreme Court ruling that upheld the validity of Republic Act 10533 or the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013.
The STAR / KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — A group on Monday pressed government to reinstate Filipino and Panitikan as mandatory subjects in colleges and universities, as the country marks Buwan ng Wika this August. 

The Supreme Court in 2019 ruled that studies on the Filipino language and literature could be excluded as core subjects at the tertiary level. 

Members of the high court then struck down petitions questioning the constitutionality of Circular Memorandum 20 s. 2013 by the Commission on Higher Education. 

For the group Alyansa ng Mga Tagapagtanggol ng Wikang Filipino (Tanggol Wika), the coronavirus pandemic showed the important role the two subjects play, especially at the time of a crisis. 

Lead convenor David Michael San Juan told a briefing about how Filipino and Panitikan helped record people's experiences during the pandemic, and allowed more to understand discussions on health. 

"It is through these subjects that problems in this situation are tackled more," he said in Filipino, "where many have nothing to eat or have lost their jobs. Yet these are subjects that were removed in college."

San Juan also credited universities' Filipino departments to helping fight COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the country. Such is a problem that even government acknowledged in its goal to inoculate up to 70 million this year.

He said those behind the efforts work to translate materials from the Department of Health that are usually set in English to Filipino. 

Two bills were since filed to legislate making Filipino and Panitikan mandatory units in college — House Bill 223 by Rep. France Castro (ACT Teachers' Party-list), and Senate Bill 1838 by Sen. Francis Pangilinan. 

Their passage, however, remains unclear in the 18th Congress, with only a few months left before lawmakers get busy to work on their election or re-election bids in 2022.

Add that to other pending measures certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte, as well as getting next year's national spending plan on the floor.

"We call on our congressmen and senators and possible candidates to give priority to these measures," said Mon Karlo Mangaran of Tanggol Wika, adding they hope the bills would be refiled in the next legislative cycle. 

San Juan said CHEd leadership under its chairperson Prospero de Vera III could still leave a "lasting legacy" for the next generation by reverting the CMO 20. 

He also urged school administrators to no longer wait for recourse, as the Supreme Court ruling only allowed institutions to make Filipino and Panitikan optional, but did not mandate their removal. 

"This Buwan ng Wika, we challenge universities to walk the talk," San Juan added in Filipino. "Let us not make our national language a mere decoration every August."

Tanggol Wika's briefing was held to launch its 10-point manifesto for the 2022 elections, with making Filipino and Panitikan on top of their list. 

Among other concerns included were to also make Philippine Government and Constitution required in college, as well as Philippine History in high school. 

The group also called for strengthening Lumad schools and other institutions in communities that are preserving language, culture, and tradition, as well as increasing the government's spending on the education sector.

"We are not setting aside traditional celebrations of the Buwan ng Wika," San Juan said in Filipino, "but we need to add more and make it deeper especially on issues concerning our people."

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