November 12, 2018
Baguio City has passed an ordinance that has drawn national attention.
On one level, it has been lauded by parents and others leader of society as important to the development of morality among the youth. On another, it has been questioned as to its legality, as posssibly a violation of the freedom of speech as provided in the Constitution.
This is an ordinance prohibiting “cursing, cussing, expressing insults or the use of foul language to express anger or any other extreme emotion in establishments frequented by students, from pre-school to college level.” These establishments should include schools, of course, and also computer shops and arcades.
As may have been expected by many, opposition to the ordinance was expressed by presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo. “I think cursing is part of freedom of speech — for as long as you do not injure the person that is the subject of your curse,” he said.
Panelo surely had President Duterte in mind when he voiced this opinion. The President is known to use frequently the common Filipino cuss words “Pu… mo.” He used them on Pope Francis when he encountered heavy traffic during the Pope’s recent visit to the Philippines. He used them on former United States President Barack Obama when the latter voiced concern over the many deaths attributed to the anti-drugs campaign.
There is no national law prohibiting the use of profanity in public, although some argue that it constitutes oral defamation while others say it is one of the acts that constitute bullying. The Baguio ordinance may indeed be challenged by anyone accused of violating it, although it now only provides that a violating student be reprimanded or – at the discretion of the school –suspended or expelled.
The city council, in enacting the ordinance which was immediately approved by Mayor Mauricio Domogan, said cursing has become such a normal practice, penetrating schools, business establishments, and society as a whole. “The very fabric of morals and human decency has deteriorated to such a degree that we have to prevent it before the damage would become irreparable,” it said.
There are indeed legal and constitutional issues involved but we share the concern of Baguio City officials over the need for action to stop the deterioration of morals and decency in society today, especially among the youth. At the very least, the ordinance should spur discussions in classrooms and other forums on this growing problem in our society.