DAVAO CITY — The House of Representatives approved on second reading a bill declaring Filipino Sign Language (FSL) as the national sign language of the Filipino deaf and the official language of government in all transactions involving the deaf, and mandating its use in all public schools, broadcast media, and workplaces.
The proposal is embodied in House Bill 6428, which substituted HB 450 authored by Rep. Antonio L. Tinio (Party-list, ACT Teachers). It was endorsed for plenary approval by the Committee on Appropriations chaired by Rep. Isidro T. Ungab (3rd District, Davao City) and Committee on Social Services chaired by Rep. Arturo B. Robes (Lone District, San Jose del Monte City).
A bill approved on second reading is commonly passed in the third and final reading.
Tinio said the bill aims to realize the rights of the Filipino deaf to full and equal participation in society by enabling the acquisition of life and social development skills through the use of FSL as the language of instruction in an environment which respects their identity and distinct capabilities.
According to Tinio, deaf children break the barriers to communication by learning language through a natural sign language in formal education.
“The FSL, a natural sign language indigenous to the Filipino deaf community, has its own grammar and linguistic structure. FSL is learned without effort from the interactions of Filipino deaf children with other deaf children and the deaf community,” said Tinio, an Assistant Minority Leader.
Tinio said research shows that exposure to native users of FSL facilitates the learning of the Filipino deaf.
“They develop language and acquire conversational skills easily. Deaf children are proven to have increased the chances of self-esteem and higher competencies for college and employment if the primary medium of instruction is their first language (a visual language), which can then be used as a bridge to other language,” said Tinio.
However, Tinio said Philippine schools at the primary and secondary levels have mainly used the Signing in Exact English (SEE) /and or Sign Supported Speech which are artificial sign systems based on oral and written language.
House Bill 6428, or the proposed “The Filipino Sign Language Act,” provides the State, in compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons with disabilities.
The bill is co-authored by Reps. Neri J. Colmenares, Luzviminda C. Ilagan, Fernando L. Hicap, Carlos Isagani T. Zarate, Emmi A. De Jesus, Terry L. Ridon, Cresente M. Paez and Scott Davies S. Lanete, M.D. (davaotoday.com)