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Monday, June 24, 2024

‘Law needed to order singing of Bagong Pilipinas’

Cecille Suerte Felipe – The Philippine Star, June 11, 2024

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang’s directive to integrate the singing and recitation of the “Bagong Pilipinas” hymn and pledge into the weekly flag ceremonies of national government agencies and instrumentalities needs a law, according to Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III.

“I suggest that the executive branch submit a bill containing those ideas, to amend the existing law governing the national anthem, pledge and flag-raising ceremonies. The (memorandum circular) is not sufficient. I believe a law is needed in order to authorize that,” Pimentel said.

Malacañang has ordered national government agencies and instrumentalities and encouraged local government units (LGUs) to integrate the singing and recitation of the “Bagong Pilipinas” hymn and pledge into their weekly flag ceremonies.

Memorandum Circular 52, which was signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, seeks to “further instill the principles of the ‘Bagong Pilipinas’ brand of governance and leadership among Filipinos.”

The Palace directed the heads of all national government agencies and instrumentalities, including government-owned and controlled corporations and education institutions, to ensure that the “Bagong Pilipinas” hymn and pledge are properly disseminated within their respective institutions and offices.

The Presidential Communications Office was also tasked to implement measures to communicate and make available the hymn and pledge to all government agencies and the public.

Pimentel said the policy “involves the way of thinking of the people. Hence, such a mandate must emanate from the people’s chosen representatives – their legislators.”

“Also, notice that the MC involves SUCs (state universities and colleges). The students therein are not even government employees. They all observe the established flag ceremony under existing law,” he pointed out.

For Senate Majority Leader Francis Tolentino, the question in the MC includes “whether that is only for the executive branch or for everyone because the judiciary and then the legislature are separate, so (we need) to clarify that as well.”

Senate Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada explained that insofar as laws are concerned, the singing and playing of the Philippine National Anthem are governed by Republic Act 8491.

Section 38 of RA 8491 stipulates that whenever the national anthem is played at a public gathering, it must adhere to the musical arrangement and composition by Julian Felipe. Attendees are also expected to sing the anthem with fervor.

“It’s important to note that MC 52 is neither illegal nor irregular; rather, it aims to foster a culture of good governance and progressive leadership across all government levels,” Estrada said.

“It is no different from the singing of the Senate, school and university hymns, which is a way to remind us of the patriotism and unity of us Filipinos,” he added.

On the other hand, law professor Mel Sta. Maria of Far Eastern University declared that the memorandum on the “Bagong Pilipinas” hymn and pledge is “in violation or goes beyond the mandate of RA 8491” or the Flag and Heraldic Code, and that the Office of the President “just transgressed a law which it claims it is implementing.”

Sta. Maria called the MC 32 a “coercive memo.”

Superficial attempt

Meanwhile, teachers are opposing Malacañang’s directive to require schools, national government agencies and instrumentalities to sing and recite the “Bagong Pilipinas” hymn and pledge in weekly flag ceremonies, calling it a move “reminiscent of the political propaganda tactics seen during the martial law years.”

The directive is impractical, unnecessary and has nothing to do with educating students about nationalism and patriotism, according to the Teachers Dignity Coalition (TDC).

“This initiative is a superficial attempt to instill a brand of governance that, instead of genuinely educating schoolchildren about nationalism and patriotism through the exemplary lives of our national leaders, resorts to mandatory recitations and songs,” the TDC said in a statement yesterday.

“True nationalism and patriotism cannot be enforced through hollow rituals or the blind worship of national symbols, let alone a piece of propaganda,” it added.

Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin signed last week MC 52, as approved by President Marcos, which aims to instill the principles of “Bagong Pilipinas.”

The TDC pointed out that the administration does not need to force its own brand of governance and should instead work genuinely in the interest of Filipinos to “truly inspire and educate the youth.”

“The people in power have a duty to be responsive and responsible, exhibiting genuine love for the country through their respect for human rights, adherence to the rule of law and an active fight against corruption,” the TDC said.

“They must foster social justice through meaningful actions and legislation, not through the forced singing of a propaganda song and the recital of a pledge that appears redundant. The best way to teach our children about nationalism and patriotism is to show them leaders who lead by example, demonstrating their commitment to the country through their actions, policies and dedication to public service,” it added.

The group also stressed that the national anthem is enough to remind students of their duties to the country.

Meanwhile, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) said it saw nothing wrong with the directive as, aside from Marcos’ having the prerogative to enforce his policies within the executive branch, instilling “positive values and virtues” to ensure everyone in government is aligned with the administration’s goals.

“If this is tied with the new Philippine Development Plan, then I don’t see what is wrong with ensuring that everybody in government is aligned with the goals and principles being pushed for by the administration,” CSC Chairman Karlo Nograles said at a press conference yesterday.

While the CSC is not required to follow Malacañang’s directive on the hymn and pledge recital, Nograles noted that he would speak with the rest of the CSC commissioners about implementing it.

Unconstitutional?

The Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND) also opposed the new Malacañang directive, saying it may be unconstitutional.

Citing law experts’ opinion, CONTEND said RA 8491 or the Flag Law “does not provide the Office of the President the authority to create and require a new hymn to sing or pledge to recite during flag ceremonies in the country.”

CONTEND added that the introduction of the “Bagong Pilipinas” hymn and pledge is reminiscent of the “dark chapter in our history, glorifying an era that brought suffering to countless citizens.”

“The ‘Bagong Lipunan’ of the Marcos dictatorship in the ’70s was a period marked by severe human rights violations, suppression of dissent and economic hardship for many Filipinos,” the group said.

“We challenge all educators to resist this unconstitutional move by Marcos Jr. and instead underscore historical truth and the principles of nationalism and democracy in our classrooms and research,” it added.

Manila complies

Some government offices in the City of Manila played the “Bagong Pilipinas” hymn and pledge during flag-raising rites yesterday.

The Manila LGU and the Manila Police District (MPD) played the soundtrack of the “Bagong Pilipinas” hymn.

MPD personnel recited in unison the “Bagong Pilipinas” pledge following pauses by the leader at the MPD headquarters.

At the LGU’s flag ceremony held at the Kartilya ng Katipunan Shrine beside the Manila city hall, a leader recited on her own the new pledge with right hands of the attending personnel raised. — Neil Jayson Servallos, Ghio Ong

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