Say It, Write It, Defend It And Judge It – In English!

4007 words - 17 pages

We see them in public discourses, Filipino lawyers and people of the law expressing their opinions and rebuttals in English. We see them stored up in voluminous heights, documents of trial proceedings written in English. Our courts are alive with people engaging in the litany of judicial trials in English. For a layman who has no grasp of the motions of court trials, the experience could well be both overwhelming and confusing, not only on account of the case itself, but also on the awesome impact of the language being extensively used during the whole process. English, though considered the second language of many Filipinos (and first language to some) (Graddol, 1997) continues to ...view middle of the document...

Governance of its people controlled and manipulated in the last 350 years since its independence in 1935 necessitates adoption of its colonizer’s justice system. Juco (1969) articulated that Filipinos wanted independence but not many of them really knew what was going on when we were drafting our constitution in 1934-1935. The form and the manner by which independence was to come was left not to the common Filipino citizen, but to the more informed segment of the society – the elite. Thus, by virtue of the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934, the draft of the Philippine constitution patterned after the United State of America’s constitution was began and to be completed the following year. In 1921 (Sibayan, 1999), then US President McKinley instructed the Philippine Commission to use English as the medium of instruction in schools, which became the dominant language in several domains such as those in the courts of law, legislation, government, international relations, business and industry. The Philippine constitution has been ratified and amended in 1971, 1973, and 1986. Not much changes were introduced and though renamed and re-titled, the one single provision that remained unchanged is that one found in both 1973 and 1986 charters, under Article XVI, General Provisions, section 3 stating that “this Constitution shall be

officially promulgated in English and in Filipino, and translated into each dialect spoken by over fifty thousand people, and into Spanish and Arabic. In case of conflict, the English text shall prevail.” (emphasis mine).
Juco seemed to have succinctly expressed his wariness about how our constitution could have taken a different course if the Filipinos back then had been more vigilant, and literate, to insist integration of features unique to our culture. The more-informed segment of society, the elite comprising a minute population, was charged to make decisions and take steps toward independence for the whole nation.

Why English?

Much can be said about the seeming tolerance of the Filipinos to use the English language in defining its Constitution, much more in drawing the laws that govern the judicial system. In the eyes of the self-proclaimed nationalists, its proliferation goes contrary to the nation’s aspiration of freedom, of acquiring a unique identity and of veering away from the shadow and therefore borrowed identity of its colonizers. But there seems to be veritably good reasons for using the language when it comes to the judicial system. Ma. Lourdes Bautista, Editor or Manila: the Linguistic Society of the Philippines (Sibayan, 1999) wrote that language has domains and sub-domains and even sub-sub-domains. These domains have (1) human population or users of language, (2) support groups and structures, and (3) a tradition of language use.
The language domain of the law has for its population lawyers, judges, and professors of law to name just three. Support groups and structures consist of...

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