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Sep 28th
Home Sections Literature and Fourth Estate Ethno-linguistic Minorities in a Federal Government
Ethno-linguistic Minorities in a Federal Government PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Literature and Fourth Estate
Monday, 05 May 2008 00:14

In a surprising move, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., and other senators recently sponsored a multi-party resolution for the federalization of the Philippines. It proposes the creation of states that will establish 11 centers of finance and development in the archipelago.

These states are Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Minparom (Mindoro Oriental, Mindoro Occidental, Palawan, Romblon and Marinduque), Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Western Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao and BangsaMoro (Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, <Shariff Kabunsuan> Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi).

Editor’s Note: This article appeared also in The Manila Times, May 1, 2008, issue. We are reprinting it with the permission of the author, who now writes regularly for our website.

Metro-Manila will become a federal administrative region like Washington, D.C. It will be composed of Manila, Quezon, Makati, Mandaluyong, Pasay, Pasig, Caloocan, Muntinlupa, Las Piñas, Parañaque, Malabon, Marikina, Taguig, Navotas, Valenzuela, San Juan and Pateros.


A language for every state

 Under a federal Philippines, each state is given the opportunity to govern itself and to protect its ethno-linguistic minorities. Through legislative measures, the lingua franca of the ethno-linguistic minorities can be legislated as the “official language” of a state.

The Summers Institute of Linguistics listed the 77 major ethno-linguistic groups in the Philippines as follows:

Luzon: The major ethno-linguistic groups are Ivatan/Itbayat; Ilocano; Tinggian; Apayao; Kalinga; Balangao; Kankanay; Kankanaey; Bago; Bontoc; Ifugao; Ibaloi; Ikalahan/Kalanguya; Iwak; Isinay; Pangasinan; Ga’dang; Ibanag; Itawit; Malaweg; Yogad; Ilongot; Kapampangan; Palanan; Tagalog; Bicol; Negrito and Sambal.

Visayas: Masbateño, Abaknon, Rombloanon, Bantoanon, Aklanon, Kiniray-a/Hamtikanon, Hiligaynon, Sulod, Bukidnon, Boholano, Cebuano and Waray.

Minparom: Mindoro: Mangyan. In Palawan, Tagbanwa; Agutayanen; Kuyonen; Pala’wan; Molbog; Batak; and Tau’t Batu.

Mindanao: Manobo, Sangil/Sangir, Maranao, Ilanun, Magindanao, Tiruray, Tasaday, T’boli, B’laan, Subanun, Kamiguin, Mamanwa, Butuanon, Kamayo, Bagobo, Mandaya, Kalagan and Kolibugan. In Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Yakan; Sama; Sama Dilaut; Tausug and Jama Mapun.


Culture and identity

 These groups have their distinct language, culture, identity and contribute to the rich and diverse Philippine cultural heritage that are worth preserving if legislated at the state level.

Unfortunately the 1987 Constitution (art.14, sec. 7) provides, “For purposes of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English. The regional languages are the auxiliary official languages in the regions and shall serve as auxiliary media of instruction therein.”

This provision creates an unfair playing field for the development and use of the regional languages in education. Since regional languages are merely “auxiliary media of instruction” and not even “official,” the government fails to ameliorate funds to support the educational requirement of public school children, particularly the availability of reference books.

Moreover, the provision contradicts international treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child that contains a provision that addresses the rights of linguistic minorities. The Philippines is one of the first signatories of these treaties.

Article 17(d) reads: “The States shall encourage the mass media [in education] to have particular regard to the linguistic needs of the child who belongs to a minority group or who is indigenous.”

And Article 30 reads: “In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities or persons of indigenous origin exist, a child belonging to such a minority or who is indigenous shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of his or her group, to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practice his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language.”


Year of languages

 The United Nations has proclaimed 2008 as The International Year of Languages to promote unity in diversity and global understanding. The U.N. recognizes that multilingualism is a “means of promoting, protecting and preserving diversity of languages.”

The current form of government has totally disregarded the issue of ethno-linguistic minorities, including the preservation and development of the endangered languages.

Under federalism, each state can recognize its regional language as the official language of instruction. The citizens of the state can promote their lingua franca, or the language spoken at home, not only in school but also in the communities where they belong. # # #


Prof. Fred Cabuang is the founder and chairman emeritus of the Institute for Linguistic Minority, an NGO engaged in saving all languages in the Philippines and the PRO-Board Member of Defenders of Indigenous Languages of the Archipelago (DILA).

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Last Updated on Monday, 05 May 2008 00:20

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