MANILA, Philippines — Saying President Aquino is “Pangulo ng Pilipinas”—not “Pangulo ng Filipinas”—Malacañang has taken to task the chair of the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino (KWF) for tampering with the President’s official message on the recent 225th birth anniversary of the poet Francisco Balagtas.
Undersecretary Manuel L. Quezon III of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) asked National Artist Virgilio Almario to make the necessary corrections in KWF publications and refrain from altering the original message of the President.
“Any message of the President cannot be changed or revised without permission from the Office of the President,” Quezon said in Filipino in his Aug. 16 memorandum, a copy of which was obtained by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
The PCDSPO has gotten a copy of the KWF publication Araw ni Balagtas, where the word Pilipinas in the President’s message was changed to Filipinas, according to Quezon.
Citing the Constitution, he pointed out that the official title of the President is Pangulo ng Pilipinas, not Pangulo ng Filipinas.
Attached to Quezon’s memo were references to provisions of the charter: “It is Pilipinas if you are referring to the country’s name, Pilipino if you are referring to a Philippine national and Filipino if you are referring to the national language.”
Last week, KWF personnel brought to the attention of the Office of the President the alteration made by the agency on Aquino’s official message on Balagtas’ birth anniversary.
In an April 2 souvenir program, the commission changed the country’s name Pilipinas to Filipinas.
In the same publication, it also corrected the name “Republika ng Pilipinas” to “Republika ng Filipinas” in Proclamation No. 964, issued on Feb. 11, 1997, by then President Fidel Ramos. It was Republika ng Pilipinas in the original copy of Ramos’ proclamation.
When interviewed, Almario admitted using Filipinas in the publication and on the agency seal and letterheads, among other KWF materials.
He said he would apologize to Aquino if necessary. But if only Aquino would hear him out, he said the President would surely take his side.
In jest, he said: “On Monday, the President might just say, ‘Almario, you’re fired from your job.’”
Aquino is expected to open the KWF’s first ever congress on the Filipino language on Monday (Aug. 19) at the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City.
According to Almario, the congress will be the highlight of the celebration of the National Language Month.
He admitted the Office of the President had yet to give the agency the go-ahead to change the Filipino translation of the Philippines from Pilipinas to Filipinas. He acknowledged that such a change would require the passage of a law.
But Almario asserted the necessity of promoting the “P to F” campaign to explain the wisdom of adopting Filipinas as the country’s international name.
He pointed out that Filipinas, as the corrected spelling of Pilipinas, was in “application of the national orthography,” or the standardized system for writing words using letters according to established usage.
Earlier, Almario said Filipinas had been the original name of 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 would be Filipinas, he said.
In an April 12 resolution, Almario and all 10 members of the KWF board decided to adopt the name Filipinas, replacing Pilipinas.
Reacting to the controversy, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said over government-run dzRB: “We have not had a discussion with the President on this: whether it would be wise to change the ‘P’ in Pilipinas to ‘F’.”
Valte said the KWF move had not been “high on the list thus far,” given the “the number of pressing things that the President needs to pay attention to.”
But Malacañang cautioned government agencies against altering any portion of presidential messages.
“Just for everybody’s information, when a group requests that they be given a message for their anniversary or their event … there is a reminder on the cover letter that the signed message cannot be altered in any form,” Valte said.
Valte said: “We’d like to see the actual document. There is an allegation that the message of the President was tampered with. However, we’d like to see the evidence first.”
“When it comes to disciplinary matters, normally, we forward that to the Office of the Executive Secretary for its proper disposition,” she said. “I understand that there is a letter, there is a complaint … . Should it turn out that there really is a complaint, then it will be forwarded to the proper authorities.” (With a report from TJ Burgonio)