By Merlina Hernando Malipot
The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on Wednesday commended the latest ruling of the Supreme Court (SC) denying the motion for reconsideration against its memorandum order to exclude Filipino and Panitikan in the General Education Curriculum (GEC) of all higher education institutions.
CHED Chairman Prospero De Vera III, in a statement, called the SC resolution “decisive and timely.” The CHED Memorandum Order (CMO) Number 20, series of 2013, otherwise known as the “General Education Curriculum: Holistic Understandings, Intellectual and Civic Competencies” was issued during the Aquino administration. It delisted Filipino and Panitikan as part of the core subjects of the GEC.
De Vera explained that the SC decision “clearly shows” that the Commission ‘did not abolish’ Filipino and Panitikan in the GEC. “Instead, these were transferred to the Senior High School level since these are important building blocks in the preparation of senior high students to be university-ready when they graduate,” he said.
The decision of the SC supporting the CHED CMO did not sit well with advocates of the Filipino language – particularly of Tanngol Wika.
The alliance of teachers and other advocates of the Filipino language from various schools accused the SC as well as the CHED of “killing” the Filipino language. Related to this, De Vera noted that the “accusation of critics that CHED is anti-Filipino is wrong.”
While the CHED “believes in the fundamental role played by language in education,” De Vera noted that Filipino “cannot merely be taught as a subject, but must be used in oral and written forms, across academic domains” for it to be “properly cultivated.”
Respect SC decision
Meanwhile, De Vera appealed to all sectors to “respect and abide” by the SC decision.
“This issue has been debated for too long and CHED calls on all sectors to respect and abide by the SC decision so that the revised curriculum for various degree programs can now be fully implemented with dispatch by the close to 2,000 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) nationwide,” De Vera explained.
Following the SC decision, De Vera said that HEIs “must now exercise their academic freedom to include innovative reforms in their various curricula.” These, he noted, “that may include language proficiency not just in Filipino but also other Philippine languages” such as Ilocano, Waray, Cebuano, Ilonggo, Pangasinan, Bicolano. He added that HEIs may also choose to offer Asian languages “that will make graduates regionally and globally competitive.”
In addition to this, De Vera said that CHED “will support” HEIs that will “pursue language innovation.” He added that the commission will also provide “scholarship and professional education assistance to affected Filipino and Panitikan teachers” through the K to 12 Transition Program Fund.
In April 2015, Tanggol Wika along with other stakeholders filed a petition before the SC to stop the implementation of the CMO No. 20, which the high court granted a few days later.
However, in November 2018, the SC said that the CMO 20– which removed Filipino, Panitikan, and Philippine Constitution from core subjects in college – was valid when it declared the Republic Act 10533 or the K to 12 Law constitutional. Soon after, Tanggol Wika filed a motion for reconsideration.
De Vera reiterated that the SC denied the motion for reconsideration because the “petitioners failed to present substantive new arguments” and that the “mandate of including the study of Filipino was general and did not specify the educational level in which it must be taught.”
Citing SC decision, De Vera stressed that CMO 20 “did not violate the Constitution when it transferred these subjects as part of the curriculum of primary and secondary education” and that the said CMO “does not limit the academic freedom of universities and colleges to require additional courses in Filipino, Panitikan and the Constitution in their respective curricula.”
The CMO No. 20 s. of 2013 was issued to align the tertiary level curriculum with that of the basic education level. Thus, the implementation of the K to 12 law or Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 which, De Vera said, was “enacted to promote the interest of the public and not only of a particular class.”
Given this, De Vera reiterated that the SC – when it declared the K to 12 Law constitutional and denied the motion for reconsideration – did “not violate substantive due process of petitioners because the means employed still aim to improve the quality of basic education and to make the country’s graduates more competitive in the international arena.”