Finally, the use of Filipino dialect in Philippine courts is now being experimented!

Having practiced law for more than 1 year now, I bemoan the fact that the wheels of justice in this country (The Philippines) is just too slow. Practicing law here is very discouraging. The primary reason for this is of course because of the big “C” (Corruption) which is also the problem of most government offices. Add to that inefficiency, ineffectiveness, laziness of the court staff who are always sitting down in their office furniture and taking it easy and of course judicial sloth. I blogged about this sad personal experience on our court’s inefficiency in the blog post entitled “Inefficiency, the mother of all injustice.”

Being an industrial engineer at the same time, I always put my “IE mind” to work everyday and in every situation that I experience. Industrial engineers are trained to improve systems. We believe that “There is always a better way.” This is the mindset that Industrial Engineers are always trained to think. This is the mindset that Frederick Taylor the father of modern Industrial engineering has established. There is indeed always a better of doing things.

As I practice in court, I noticed some things that need to be eliminated and changed in order to find a better way to speed up the proceedings. Speeding up court proceedings will of course benefit society as a whole and will help the judiciary achieve its constitutional mandate of giving the citizenry a speedy disposition of their cases. Being connected with Jurists Bar review center, I sometimes engage in discussion with some of the most brilliant legal minds regarding the improvement of court processes in this country.

One of the things that I believe is slowing down our court processes is the language barrier. There are several effects of this problem. First, court proceedings are delayed because what is being said to the witnesses and parties to the case has to be translated from English to the local dialect and vice versa since only English is being used by the courts. Secondly, the parties involved in the case who do not know how to speak English do not understand what is being litigated. Lastly, I believe it is better to cross examine a witness in his or her local dialect because translating the questions would give the witness more time to think about what he is suppose to say. This affects the witnesses’ spontaneity and affects the determination of whether a witness is telling the truth or not.

I discussed this problem in my Legal Profession class. I pointed out that fact that even the late Justice Irene Cortes, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and former dean of the U.P college of law highlighted this problem in her speech “Education in the law: Philippine experience” which was delivered at the Seminar on Legal Cooperation in ASEAN held at Jakarta Indonesia on August 9, 1982.

In this speech, Justice Cortes praised the Indonesian justice system for being ahead of the Philippines because the Indonesian Justice system uses Bahasa Indonesia as the official language and as a medium of instruction. She continues to say that “There are those of us in the Philippines who have begun to give serious thoughts to using our own language in legal education. The need for this is even more urgent in the courts now clogged with unresolved disputes.” She continues to say that “One of the factors for delay is most certainly the language problem since in court proceedings multiple-level interpretation would be required when witnesses, counsel and judge do not share the same language.”

It is only after more than 26 years that the dream of Justice Cortes is finally realized. I was surprised when the Philippine Daily Inquirer carried the good news entitled “SC: Use of Filipino language in courts ‘positive’” Chief Justice Puno says that initial efforts to use the Filipino language in court proceedings have yielded encouraging results.


Although it is still in its “experimental” stage as it is only being implemented in some pilot areas this indeed is a positive development in our judicial system.

Using “Filipino” in courts in the Tagalog speaking areas of the country might improve the court processes. But for some part of the country it might become a bane instead of a boon.  The reason for such is that in the Visayas and Mindanao areas where the “Visayan” dialect is used, using “Filipino” would only aggravate the language barrier problem since the local population is not very well versed in speaking “Filipino.”

The solution therefore is to follow the American justice system model. Court processes must be localized and a Federal form of government must be adopted wherein each state will have its own State Supreme Court that uses the local dialect of a certain locality. A Philippine Supreme Court will still maintain control over the federal courts. Only cases submitted to the Philippine Supreme Court will have to be translated to English. This of course requires a major overhaul of our present 1987 Constitution.

So when will this “experiment” of using the Filipino dialect in court processes be finally implemented? I hope it will not take another 26 years! If it will take that long then we are only giving truism to the saying that justice delayed is indeed justice denied.

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5 Responses to Finally, the use of Filipino dialect in Philippine courts is now being experimented!

  1. pau says:

    “But for some part of the country it might become a boon instead of a bane.”
    shouldn’t it be “it might be a bane instead of a boon”?

  2. Felipe says:

    Hay que destacar que las leyes filipinas fueron escritas en castellano y que aún existen miles de tomos editados en español a los que tienen que referirse los jueces del archipiélago. Es más, todavía se puede utilizar la lengua cervantina en los tribunales de aquel país.

    Translation courtesy of Google: “It should be noted that Philippine laws were written in Castilian and that there are still thousands of volumes published in Spanish to which judges must refer the archipelago. Moreover, you can still use the language of Cervantes in the courts of that country.”

  3. zigfred says:

    Felipe: Thanks for the input. However let me correct a misconception. Not all Philippine laws are written in Spanish. Philippine law is a mixture of Spanish and U.S laws. Most of our Civil Code and Penal laws more particularly the Revised Penal code is based in Spanish. However our Constitution, Legal ethics, Constitutional laws and Labor laws are mostly American in nature. It is also true that in the Philippines there are thousands of volumes published in Spanish however most judges rarely refers to this as most cannot even speak Spanish. However there is a provision in our laws which states that in case of doubt, we must refer to the original Spanish text, but this is seldom done nowadays. In fact I can only recall a single case in Criminal law wherein our Supreme Court has referred to the Spanish text. (This was done years ago) You cannot any more use Spanish in our courts as nobody understands that nowadays. Spanish is not anymore taught in the colleges.

    A lot of Filipino words though have Spanish origins in fact our numbers is based on Spanish (uno, dos tres, etc.), but most Filipinos can’t speak fluent Spanish although most of us know a smattering of Spanish words, however most can’t construct a cohesive understandable sentence in Spanish. There is a place though somewhere in Mindanao where the still speak Spanish. They call it “Chavacano” or as other people call it “broken Spanish.” That dialect has the most similarity to Spanish than any other dialect in the Philippines.

    I wish though that we were all taught Spanish side by side with English as Spanish sounds so elegant for me. I wish every Filipino could somehow converse in Spanish, but that’s just not the case anymore here. It may had been the case in the early or mid 1900s but not since the turn of the 19th century. The old people could probably converse in Spanish. (My grandparents speaks it as it was taught to them) but Gen X and Gen Y of Filipinos can’t speak it anymore.

    I am translating what I have written to Spanish so that you could understand. However take note, I am not doing the translation, Google has done it, so we have the wonders of technology to be thankful for. heheheh 🙂 I may have a Spanish Family name and probably a little bit of Spanish blood and may know to construct a few conversational sentences in Spanish but I really can’t carry out a long conversation in Spanish. Perhaps one day I might learn it. 🙂

    Translation to Spanish: Felipe: Gracias por la entrada. No obstante, permítanme corregir un malentendido. No todas las leyes de Filipinas están escritos en español. La legislación de Filipinas es una mezcla de español y leyes de los EE.UU.. La mayor parte de nuestro Código Civil y las leyes penales más en particular el Código Penal revisado se basa en español. Sin embargo, nuestra Constitución, la ética jurídica, las leyes constitucionales y las leyes laborales son en su mayoría de América en la naturaleza. También es cierto que en la Argentina hay miles de volúmenes publicados en español, pero la mayoría de los jueces rara vez se refiere a esto como la mayoría no puede ni siquiera hablar español. Sin embargo, existe una disposición en nuestras leyes que establece que en caso de duda, debemos consultar el texto original en español, pero esto raramente se hace hoy en día. De hecho, sólo puedo recordar un solo caso en el derecho penal en el que nuestro Tribunal Supremo se ha referido a la versión en español. Años (esto se hizo hace) No se puede más el uso del español en nuestros tribunales, como nadie entiende que hoy en día. Español ya no es enseñado en los colegios.

    Un montón de palabras filipino aunque tienen origen español, de hecho, nuestros números se basa en español (uno, dos tres, etc), pero la mayoría de los filipinos no se puede hablar español con fluidez, aunque la mayoría de nosotros conocemos a un puñado de palabras en español, sin embargo la mayoría puede No construir una frase coherente comprensible en español. Hay un lugar si en algún lugar de Mindanao, donde el todavía hablan español. Lo llaman “chabacano” o como otras personas lo llaman “mal español”. Dialecto que tiene la mayor similitud con el español que cualquier otro dialecto en las Filipinas.

    Deseo sin embargo, que todos nos enseñó parte española a lado con Inglés como el español suena tan elegante para mí. Ojalá todos los filipinos de alguna manera podrían conversar en español, pero eso no es el caso más aquí. Puede que hubiera sido el caso en el año 1900 o mediados, pero no desde el comienzo del siglo 19. Las personas de edad probablemente podrían conversar en español. (Mis abuelos lo habla como le enseñaron a ellos), pero la generación X y la Generación Y de los filipinos no se puede hablar más.

    Que estoy traduciendo lo que he escrito al español para que pudieran entender. Sin embargo, tomar nota, no estoy haciendo la traducción, Google lo ha hecho, así que tenemos las maravillas de la tecnología para estar agradecidos. 🙂 heheheh puedo tener un nombre de familia española y probablemente un poco de sangre española y puede saber para construir un par de frases de conversación en español, pero realmente no puedo llevar a cabo una larga conversación en español. Tal vez algún día yo podría aprender. 🙂

    Por cierto por favor dígame si la traducción de Google en español está mal gramaticalmente 🙂

  4. Felipe says:

    Pero Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ha mandado que se vuelva a introducir en la enseñanza el estudio del castellano. Ya iba siendo hora. Esperemos que el nuevo gobierno de Benigno Aquino siga con esta ley y que los filipinos se unan otra vez a la gran familia hispana.

    Translation: “But Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered the re-introduction in teaching the study of Castilian. It’s about time. Hopefully the new government of Benigno Aquino follow this law and that the Filipinos will join again to the large Hispanic family”

  5. zigfred says:

    Felipe: Eso espero! Aparte del hecho de que el español es hablado por más de un mil millones de personas en todo el mundo, me encanta el idioma español porque suena tan grande y real. Espero poder aprender a hablar bien algún día. Además de mi apellido es “Díaz,” Así que deben aprender la lengua española. 🙂

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