‘Nakatunganga Ako’: Why Robin Padilla’s English Skills Aren’t the Main Problem
Jul 29, 2022   •   Kyzia Maramara
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Jul 29, 2022   •   Kyzia Maramara
Political rookie Senator Robin Padilla looks like he had an exciting first week as a senator but that did come with some minor inconvenience. The 52-year-old confessed he struggles to comprehend plenary debates — a crucial part of the lawmaking process and a senator’s job — in English.
“Nahihirapan lang ako ‘pag nag-e-Englishan na, medyo ‘pwede dahan-dahan lang?’ Gano’n,” Padilla told reporters Thursday during an interview about his first week as senator. The newcomer lawmaker admitted that once his colleagues start heatedly debating in English, all he could do was stare.
“Nakatunganga ako. ‘Ah, okay.’ Gano’n lang ako. ‘Okay, bukas mababasa ko sa journal ‘to,” he said revealing that he relies on the Senate journal to make sense of the floor discussions. He also asks staff to brief him.
He clarified that he understands the conversations but when his fellow lawmakers use English words that are “pang-dictionary,” that’s when he gets lost.
“Lalo ‘pag nagtatalo na. ‘Yun naglalabasan na ng mga webster doon. Medyo tenga ko ang dumugo. Hindi naman ako pinagsalita eh,” Padilla said with a laugh. “‘Wag tayong papahalata. Kunwari tumatango-tango ka pa pero nasa isip mo ‘Ano daw?'”
This isn’t the first time the senator voiced his struggle with the English language and his preference for the native tongue. Earlier this month he also said that he would push for government offices to use regional languages and dialects in legal documents.
“Dapat mag-request. Halimbawa pag nag-request ang tao gusto ko ng Pilipino dapat meron tayo laging nakahanda. Huwag dapat matakot ang kababayan nating mag-request. Kasi siyempre minsan nasanay tayo, masyado tayong Inglisero, masyado tayong Amboy,” said Padilla who even included the proposed Equal Use of Languages Act in his first 10 bills as senator.
Padilla clarified that he isn’t belittling Filipinos’ abilities to comprehend and speak in English but that “there should be equal treatment to the use of the two languages.”
We are in the Philippines and Filipino is the national language. However, netizens are dismayed by the fact that Padilla who is “underqualified to be a senator” seems to be complaining about his job. “Ano yan, senado mag-a-adjust?” said one netizen.
“How can you interpellate and rebut during the debate? Sometimes we should be like water, let’s seek our level. And not everyone can be a legislator,” said another on Facebook.
“He is taking it in jest making it appear like a comedy is his way of admitting na hindi biro ang maging isang senador. This is not humbleness. This is a real lack of preparedness and thorough knowledge of the hard job he aspired to tread on,” said yet another disappointed netizen.
After all, one of the most important responsibilities of senators is to debate measures during plenary sessions. If one does not understand the language, how can one participate in the discussion or defend their stand?
While there are netizens who disagree with the neophyte senator, some thought his predicament through. It’s true that not all Pinoys are fluent in English, this could be a factor why the general public isn’t too interested or informed in political matters.
“…I think the exasperation of Robin is well understood. Our Congress (including the courts, too) often debate in English. Hindi maintindihan, oftentimes boring rin. If procedures are done in Filipino, mas maiintindihan siya,” reasoned one tweet.
“My take on Robin Padilla: He has a point. Our laws should be available in Filipino. And possibly debated in Filipino,” said another netizen. “However, I do not excuse his incompetence and lack of experience. Filipino or English, he wouldn’t understand legal jargon.”
In the end, it’s not the language comprehension that Pinoys find fault in, it’s the fact that the senator who topped the senate race has no background in law and once said he will hire lawyers to draft laws for him if he wins. While Padilla did express his interest and excitement to learn the ropes of being a senator, this is simply not something you learn while on the job.
What do you think of Robin Padilla’s argument that we should start using the Filipino language more?
Kyzia spends most of her time capturing the world around her through photos, paragraphs, and playlists. She is constantly on the hunt for the perfect chocolate chip cookie, and a great paperback thriller to pair with it.
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