Last week, the major dailies were all abuzz with one particular news about the RH (Reproductive Health) Bill debates: Actor-turned-Senator Manuelito "Lito" Lapid publicly acknowledging his weakness in English, and therefore his hesitation to go further into the RH Bill debates, since English will be considered "the" language to be used for questioning and interpellation. (See http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/62167/sen-lapid-dying-to-enter-rh-bill-debates-but-pia-miriam-scare-him)
He is particularly hesitant to go head to head with two lady senators who have been at the forefront of chamipioning the RH Bill, Senators Miraim Defensor-Santiago and Pia Cayetano. Santiago, in particular, is well known for her sting with the use of the English language.
I say go ahead and let him debate in Filipino (which is Tagalog in terms of dialect, much to the frustration of the other dialects in the country).
Language should not be used to hinder someone from participating in something of such importance. That sounds to me as something "elitists" would do, and this Bill concerns ALL Filipinos, so the more people involved in the debate, the better. As a Senator - one I did not vote for, but he is one - he should make his voice known, if only to represent the people who did vote for him.
Both Santiago and Cayetano have said that they find no issue if he decides to use Filipino to engage them in debates.
Personally, I welcome it because I admit as well my weakness in the national language (one of them, since both Filipino and English are considered our national languages). I do not like learning it from inane telenovelas and local dramas, because while some of them may use terms I have never heard before, the insipid plotlines and endless caterwauling make my teeth literally hurt, and it's all I can do to stand through 5 minutes of the same drivel in every channel, every night, over and over.
I welcome the chance to learn it, as it will be used in discussions of a bill that I have great interest in - and most Filipinos should have that same interest as well, given how almost everyone I know has an opinion or something to say about it, nowadays.
One of the considerations switching from language to language is that some of the nuances and "hidden meanings" may be lost as they try to communicate in different ways. But that works both ways: an English speaking senator like Santiago would also find it hard to put her points across in Filipino without losing some of its intended meaning in English - that is both the bane and boon of languages.
And while I remember being punished severely as a youngster for speaking in "Taglish" (a bastardized form of speaking in English and Filipino intermittently) - my mom would always reprimand us that we should either speak in straight English or Filipino - this is one instance where the form should pay homage to substance, and if using "Taglish" will be something that will communicate an idea better without losing much of the translation for what the speaker intends to say, then I am all for it.
What would be deplorable, given this leeway, is if there is no substance behind the form.
Our senators should remember that the RH Bill is also a measure that respects ALL religions - and I know this acutely well, being a non-Catholic. I know exactly when something is being imposed on me, it is something I have lived with all my life in a country that proudly carries its "we are true blooded Catholic" credentials. (My past blogposts already relay this in more detail.) An overwhelming amount of the opposition to the RH Bill had been based on religious views, specifically the Catholic view that is it "immoral" to use or promote artificial contraception.
Our senators would do well to remember that our government is still a democracy, NOT a Catholic theocracy. The tenets and practices of one religion should NOT be forced and enforced on others who do not share this particular faith. Many Catholics themselves are supportive of the RH Bill, if we go by current, scientific surveys. How they resolve this with the statements of their anti-RH leaders is a matter of personal choice, faith and conscience. I find it odd that that those who are rabid in opposing the RH Bill based on their faith keep invoking the "freedom of religion" as their basis for opposing it - while seeing nothing hypocritical about what they wish to happen as being disrespectful to others who do not share the same faith and see nothing wrong with using artificial contraception.
The RH Bill is a PUBLIC HEALTH issue. Period. Our lawmakers should keep this in mind when they make their debates and their decisions about the bill.
In whatever language.