A scapegoat has been found for the supposedly unauthorized alteration of the first letter of the country’s name from “P” to “F” in the official messages of four government agencies on the celebration of Buwan ng Wika (National Language Month) in August.
For now, it’s an unnamed “putative overenthusiastic proofreader.”
Virgilio Almario, head of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF), or the Commission on the Filipino Language, has claimed “it is possible that some overenthusiastic proofreader from the KWF has introduced the changes in [the] spelling [of the country’s name].”
Almario, a national artist for literature, said the changes were made “even if there were express instructions from the KWF chair not to interfere with official communications,” citing the orthography of the national language, the standardized system for writing words using letters according to established usage.
In a letter to the Inquirer, he expressed the Office of the President-attached body’s “apologies to the concerned agencies.”
The KWF, he said, would “send our due explanations and regrets internally.”
“We will also plead with them to indulge our putative overenthusiastic proofreader who may have passionately believed in the wisdom of the language reform we are now undertaking,” Almario said.
He said the KWF was not in the habit of tampering with official or other documents.
“[W]e at KWF take our mandate to heart. That is why, we have been undertaking very specific programs and projects almost double time,” Almario said.
He said the recent Pambansang Kongreso sa Wika (Filipino Language Congress) was among these projects. “This is the first-ever gathering of language experts, teachers, writers and other lovers of language from all over the Philippines to discuss very important language issues. No previous KWF leadership has mustered such a historic assembly.”
Some KWF old-timers, however, disputed Almario’s claim that a KWF proofreader was responsible for the “lapses in the proofreading” of agency souvenir programs.
“It’s common knowledge that [Almario] has not given up on his ‘P-to-F’ campaign despite Malacañang orders not to do so,” said a KWF personnel.
The employee dared Almario to identify the erring KWF proofreader he was referring to.
Last month, Almario admitted in an Inquirer interview that he had authorized the use of Filipinas instead of Pilipinas on the KWF seal, letterheads and publications.
Francisco Duque III, chair of the Civil Service Commission (CSC), called the KWF “pasaway (stubborn)” last week for tampering with the official messages of the CSC and three other government agencies on the celebration of the National Language Month.
In a 96-page souvenir program, the KWF altered the word Pilipinas to Filipinas in the messages issued by the CSC, Department of Tourism, Department of National Defense, and National Commission on Culture and the Arts.
In the KWF’s official invitation to its congress on the Filipino language on Aug. 19 at Ateneo de Manila University with President Aquino as guest of honor and speaker, it changed the country’s name from Pilipinas to Filipinas.
In the plaque it presented to the President, the KWF used Republika ng Filipinas.
President’s message, too
Earlier, Malacañang took to task Almario for tampering with Aquino’s official message on the recent 225th birth anniversary of the poet Francisco Balagtas.
Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office asked the KWF chief to make the necessary corrections in commission 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.
Citing the Constitution, Quezon pointed out that the official title of the President is Pangulo ng Pilipinas, not Pangulo ng Filipinas. “It is Pilipinas if you are referring to the country’s name,” he added.
When interviewed, Almario acknowledged that the Palace had yet to give the KWF the go-ahead to change the Filipino translation of the Philippines from Pilipinas to Filipinas. He said that such a change would require the passage of a law.
But he stressed the need to promote 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 an application of the national orthography.
In an April 12 resolution, Almario and all 10 members of the KWF board decided to adopt the name Filipinas, replacing Pilipinas.