DepEd: Students can’t be expelled for speaking Ilocano

Tonisito MC Umali

DepEd Asst. Sec. Tonisito Umali

DepEd Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali says that under the manual of regulations, a private school has the power to craft its own policies and sanctions that “must be equal to the offense of the student” but that expulsion of a student is a penalty that must be approved by the Office of Education Secretary. Well, on account of the apparent mishandling of the case of the three students “advised to transfer” out of Saviour’s Christian Academy for speaking Ilocano within the confines of the school campus, I believe it’s high time that “manual of regulations” allowing the speak-English-only-in-school language policy imposed by any school is examined thoroughly and realigned with recent laws pertaining thereto. Even the language policy under Article XIV of the 1987 Philippine Constitution does not mention an “English-only” language policy:

“Section 7. For purposes of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English.

The regional languages are the auxiliary official languages in the regions and shall serve as auxiliary media of instruction therein.

The regional languages, of which Ilocano is one, shall serve as auxilliary media of instruction.

Then, as recently as May 15, 2013, President Aquino signed into law the Enhanced Basic Education Act 0f 2013, otherwise known as RA 10533. Section 4 of this law provides:

For kindergarten and the first three (3) years of elementary education, instruction, teaching materials and assessment shall be in the regional or native language of the learners. The Department of Education (DepED) shall formulate a mother language transition program from Grade 4 to Grade 6 so that Filipino and English shall be gradually introduced as languages of instruction until such time when these two (2) languages can become the primary languages of instruction at the secondary level.

The law is rather clear — whether it be the 1987 Constitution or RA 10533 — the languages of instruction applicable to all under the basic education program governed by DepEd, and specifically to the three Grade 8 students who were essentially dismissed from Saviour’s Christian Academy because they violated a “speak-English-only-in-school” policy are: (1) Filipino, (2) English, AND (3) the regional language (Ilocano in this case) as auxiliary medium of instruction. If DepEd has a manual of regulations with provisions that run afoul of the above provisions of the 1987 Constitution and/or RA 10533, now is the time to scuttle those provisions and clear the way for reason and common sense.


DepEd: Students can’t be expelled for speaking Ilocano

Posted at 08/09/2013 5:26 PM


MANILA – Students can be reprimanded for violating a school’s “English only” policy but they cannot be expelled, Education Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali said Friday.

In an interview, Umali said the expulsion of 3 students from Saviour’s Christian Academy in Laoag City does not have the backing of the Department of Education. The 3 were expelled for violating the school’s English-speaking policy, which means students, parents and even teachers, are barred from speaking other languages – even Ilocano – inside the campus.

“Mali po talaga yun. Walang batang dapat patalsikin dahil nagsalita lang naman ng Ilokano kahit may English-speaking policy,” he told ABS-CBN “Umagang Kay Ganda.”

Umali said expulsion of a student is a penalty that must be approved by the Office of Education Secretary Armin Luistro.

He said that under the manual of regulations, a private school has the power to craft their own policies and sanctions “but it must be equal to the offense of the student.”

The DepEd official said the department has not acted on the Laoag City case since it has yet to receive a formal complaint. It was learned the school has already offered to take back the students.

Meanwhile, Ilocos Times columnist Herdy La Yumul said the threat of expulsion for speaking in Ilocano was too much. He said the student’s handbook already listed the appropriate sanction for such a violation is a reprimand.

He said the student handbook also noted that the maximum penalty for bringing pornographic material or cheating in an exam is suspension.

“Bakit ang nagsalita ng Ilocano pinatalsik? Mas matindi ba ang pagsalita ng Ilocano sa pagdala ng pornographic material o pangongopya sa exams?” he asked.

Yumul said there is collective outrage among Ilocanos against the decision of the school to expel the students. He noted that SCA’s president, Brian Shah, is a Singaporean and a pastor.

He said several groups have already filed a complaint before the Commission on Human Rights while an online petition is pushing the education and foreign affairs departments to ask Shah to leave the country.

Yumul said he does not agree with the school’s rule that those who do not abide by the “English only” policy should transfer schools.

“Ang argumento kasi nila kung ayaw niyong sumunod sa policy, just transfer school. Our argument is that – kung ayaw mo naman ng tao na magsalita ng Ilokano, wag ka magpatayo ng eskwelahan sa Ilocos,” he said.



DepEd exec condemns expulsion of students

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

LAOAG CITY, Philippines—An official of the Department of Education (DepEd) has condemned the expulsion of three students from a private high school for speaking in Ilocano on campus last month.

Cecilia Aribuabo, DepEd supervisor in Ilocos Norte, said while the Saviour’s Christian Academy (SCA) has a strict “English only” policy, the expulsion of the students was not appropriate.

On July 31, a memorandum signed by SCA principal, Cristeta Pedro, was sent to the three students and their parents, advising them to transfer to another school for defying the order of the school president, Pastor Brian Shah, not to speak Ilocano while on campus.

SCA’s policy on the exclusive use of English applies to all students, parents and teachers.

Pedro said Shah had called the attention of the students several times and warned them about the consequence of speaking Ilocano but they continued to defy his order.

The SCA student handbook states a student “shall be reprimanded for speaking the vernacular inside the campus.” Students are expelled when they are caught smoking, drinking or for “inappropriate action” while in school uniform and outside the campus. Posting indecent photos and derogatory words on social media accounts is also punishable by expulsion.

But Aribuabo said the school officials should have given the students another chance.

“The students are in their formative years and as adults, it is the duty of elders [like the school president and teachers] to guide them,” Aribuabo said. “How I wish they (SCA) should have reviewed the sanction and gave the students another chance.”

She said while DepEd has been trying hard to encourage students to finish school, there are schools, like SCA, that are driving them away.

“This is the danger when we expel students, we are not guiding them and worse, we lose control of them when they are out of school. The school administrator should have contacted us and sought advice,” Aribuabo said.

One of the expelled students had transferred to Divine World College of Laoag while another went to Sarrat National High School in Sarrat town. The third student is applying at Holy Spirit Academy.

The mother of one the three expelled students said only one of the children spoke an Ilocano cuss word when they discussed a class project that had to be submitted but was supposedly taken by another student.

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