SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The House of Representatives unanimously approved on third and final reading last Tuesday House Bill 7503, seeking to declare Filipino Sign Language (FSL) as the national sign language of the Filipino deaf and the official sign language of the government in all transactions involving them.
During the session, all 211 House Members present thumbed up the proposed “Filipino Sign Language Act” which is principally authored by Rep. Antonio Tinio (Party-list, ACT Teachers)
The bill also seeks to mandate the use of FSL in schools, broadcast media, and workplaces when involving the deaf.
It declares that the State, in accord with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, shall continue to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons with disabilities (PWDs).
Likewise, the State shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the Filipino deaf can exercise the right to expression and opinion. Accordingly, the State recognizes and promotes the use of sign languages embodying the specific cultural and linguistic identity of the Filipino deaf.
The FSL shall be recognized, promoted, and supported as the medium of official communication in all transactions involving the deaf, and as the language of instruction of deaf education, without prejudice to the use of other forms of communication depending on individual choice or preference.
In this regard, the Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher and Technical Education (CHED), the Technical Educational Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and all other national and local government agencies involved in the education of the deaf shall henceforth use FSL as the medium of instruction in deaf education.
The FSL shall be taught as a separate subject in the curriculum of deaf learners. The reading and writing of Filipino, as the national language, other Philippine languages, and English shall also be taught to deaf learners.
The University of the Philippines and the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF), professional sign linguistics and linguistic researchers in collaboration with the CHED, DepEd and the Early Childhood Care and Development Council (ECDC), shall come up with guidelines in the development of training materials for the education of the deaf. These materials shall be used by all state universities and colleges as well as their teachers and staff.
In the justice system, the FSL shall be the official language of legal interpreting for the deaf in all public hearings, proceedings, and transactions of the courts, quasi-judicial agencies, and other tribunals.
To ensure effective and equal access of the deaf to justice and facilitate their effective role as direct and indirect participants in the legal system, the courts, quasi-judicial agencies, and other tribunals shall ensure the availability of a qualified sign language interpreter in all proceedings involving the deaf, without prejudice to the right of the deaf to choose other forms or modes of communication, if they so prefer.
Hearings, proceedings and transactions shall include those that are held in police stations and before the Lupong Tagapamayapa as well as preliminary investigations and other initial stages in the court, other quasi-judicial bodies and tribunals.
The FSL also shall be the official language of the deaf employed in the civil service and all government workplaces. All government offices shall take reasonable measures, including the conduct of awareness and training seminars on the rationale and use of FSL, to encourage its use among deaf and hearing-impaired government employees.
In the health system, state hospitals and all health facilities shall ensure access of the Filipino deaf to health services, including the free provision of FSL interpreters and accessible materials upon the request of deaf patients or individuals who have deaf family members.
The FSL also shall be used as the medium of official communication in all other public transactions, services and facilities.
Likewise, the FSL shall be the language of broadcast media interpreting. The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) and the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) shall, within one year from the effectivity of the Act, require FSL interpreter insets, compliant with accessibility standards for television, in news and public affairs programs.
The bill mandates the KWF to promulgate the necessary rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the Act in coordination with the Education Secretary, CHED Chairperson, TESDA Director-General, Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) Chairperson, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Justice Secretary, and the heads of other relevant agencies, and in consultation with representatives of the deaf community, teachers with knowledge and experience with the use of FSL in deaf education, the academe, interpreters, and other persons concerned./ Rowena B. Bundang