Senate passes bill promoting Filipino sign language

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate approved on 3rd and final reading the bill seeking to declare Filipino sign language (FSL) as an official medium of instruction and mode of communication in the Philippines.

Senate Bill (SB) 1455, sponsored by Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, aims to make FSL the official language of the deaf community to “promote their identity, expression, and communication.” It was passed with a unanimous 20 votes on Tuesday, August 28.

“The use of sign language in the Philippines dates back to 1596. FSL has since evolved to be an effective visual language that is well-researched, based on Filipino culture and history, and even incorporates indigenous elements,” Aquino said in a statement.

What the bill wants: If the bill becomes law, FSL will be used as the medium of instruction in schools when educating deaf students. A separate subject teaching FSL to deaf learners would also be included in schools’ curriculums.

FSL will also be the official mode of communication used in government transactions involving those who are deaf. This will be facilitated by FSL-trained interpreters who will be posted in government offices.

According to Aquino, the use of FSL in government transactions will significantly help deaf Filipinos have a “fair share” in the country’s justice system, particularly in the courts and police stations.

The proposed bill also will also make FSL an official means of interpretation in broadcast media to deliver news and information “consistently” to the deaf community.

To do this, the proposed measure tasks the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWP), the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) to create a national standards for interpreting FSL in media.

Why this matters: Senator Nancy Binay, co-sponsor of the bill, said that with FSL recognized as an official mode of communication in the Philippines, Filipinos who are hard of hearing can exercise their right to expression and opinion without prejudice.

“The State should recognize and promote the use of sign languages embodying the specific cultural and linguistic identity of the Filipino deaf,” Binay said.

SB 1455 was co-authored by Senators Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda, Joel Vullanueva and Juan Miguel Zubiri. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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