English vs Tagalog debate stalls RH bill debate

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 24 2011 07:02 PM | Updated as of Aug 25 2011 03:02 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Tensions flared at the plenary debates of the House of Representatives on the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill over the medium of debate.

At past 5 in the afternoon on Wednesday, Leyte Rep. Sergio Apostol took to the floor to interpellate the author assigned to defend the bill today, Rep. Arlene Bag-ao.

Apostol propounded his questions in English, but Bag-ao was replying in Tagalog.

Both Bag-ao and Apostol are lawyers by profession.

This prompted Apostol to ask the chair to compel Bag-ao to answer in English, which he said is the official language.

Bag-ao insisted that Tagalog, or Filipino, is an official language. 

Deputy Majority Floor Leader Magtanggol Gunigundo insisted that Bag-ao can answer in Filipino as it is an official language.

Apostol then insisted that Tagalog or Filipino is not his official language and that if Bag-ao persists, he will demand for an interpreter.

Presiding officer Isabelle Climaco ruled that the interpellation can proceed in whatever language they choose.

A few minutes later, suspension was then called to diffuse the tension and sort out the matter on the sidelines. After the suspension, Bag-ao relented and agreed to talk in English.

ACT teachers Party-List Rep. Antonio Tinio then tried to address the floor on how deplorable Apostol's stance was, but Apostol rebutted him in plenary.

The exchange ended with the interpellation proceeding just the same.