Some old-timers at the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino (KWF), an Office of the President-attached agency, called it “tampering with an official Malacañang document.”
They were referring to the “unauthorized alteration” made by the KWF on President Aquino’s official message on the 225th birth anniversary of Francisco Balagtas, the so-called “Prince of Philippine poets” and author of the classic metrical romance “Florante at Laura.”
In an April 2 souvenir program, the agency changed the country’s name Pilipinas, as noted by the President, to Filipinas.
The Inquirer obtained a copy of Aquino’s original message, which read: “Nawa’y manatili tayong handang tumugon sa tawag ng pagkabayani sa ating sariling paraan, nang mapabilis pa ang ating pagtunton sa Daang Matuwid … Sama-sama nating ipagpatuloy ang pagsulong ng Pilipinas tungo sa lalo pang masagana at lalo pang makatarungang lipunan (May we always be ready to heed the call for heroism in our own way to advance in our pursuit of the straight path. Let us together as a country continue to push forward toward a progressive and just society).”
However, the word Pilipinas became Filipinas in the KWF publication.
In the same 60-page souvenir program, the KWF also corrected the name “Republika ng Pilipinas” to “Republika ng Filipinas” in Proclamation No. 964, issued on Feb. 11, 1987, by then President Fidel V. Ramos. It was Republika ng Pilipinas in the original copy of Ramos’ pronouncement.
Asked for comment, KWF Chair Virgilio Almario, National Artist for Literature, admitted using Filipinas in the publication, as well as the agency seal and letterheads, among other KWF materials.
Almario said he is ready to apologize to Aquino if necessary. But if only he would hear him out, he said the President would surely take his side.
Almario said someone must have reported the matter to the President, which prompted him to air his side in writing. The Palace has yet to respond to his letter.
“Eh baka sa Monday biglang sabihin ng Presidente, ‘O Almario, tanggal ka na sa trabaho,’ (On Monday, the President might just say, ‘Almario, you’re fired from your job’),” he said in jest.
Aquino is expected to open the KWF’s first-ever congress on the Filipino language on Monday at Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City.
According to Almario, the congress will be the highlight of this month’s celebration of the “Buwan ng Wikang Filipino (National Language Month).”
Almario admitted that the Office of the President has yet to give the commission the go-ahead to correct the Filipino translation of the Philippines from Pilipinas to Filipinas. He acknowledged that such change would require a legal move.
But he said it was necessary to start promoting the “P to F” campaign to explain the wisdom of adopting Filipinas as the country’s international name.
Almario recalled that as early as April this year, the KWF had been promoting the use of the term Filipinas, being a vestige of American colonialism.
In a resolution dated April 12, he and eight of the 10 commissioners of the agency decided to adopt the name Filipinas, replacing Pilipinas.
In a July 5 resolution, Almario and all 10 members of the board issued the same statement.
Almario pointed out that Filipinas as the corrected spelling of Pilipinas was an “application of the national orthography,” or the standardized system for writing words using letters according to established usage.
On Aug. 5, Valenzuela City Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo assailed the KWF for changing the official name of the country.
In a privilege speech before the House of Representatives, he asked: “Is the KWF not aware of Sec. 2, Article 16 of the 1987 Constitution that gives Congress the authority to change the name of our country? Is KWF not aware of Republic Act No. 8491 that provides that the coat of arms and seal of our country must contain the words Republika ng Pilipinas with a ‘P’ and not ‘F’? Is KWF not aware that the President uses Pilipinas to refer to our country as he did in his State of the Nation Address?”
Earlier in a statement, Almario explained that Filipinas has been the original name of the country until the end of the 19th century.
Since the nation has been using Filipino to refer to the national language, then it must correspond to the name of the country, which is Filipinas, the KWF head added.