A Primer on the Filipino Sign Language Act of 2018

Republic Act No. 11106 or the Filipino Sign Language Act of 2018 declares the Filipino Sign Language (FSL) as the national sign language of the Philippines which shall be recognized, promoted, and supported as the medium of official communication in all transactions which involve the deaf in the Philippines.[1]

The law was enacted in furtherance of the vision undertaken by two prior legislations, the Early Years Act or Republic Act No. 10410 and the Enhanced Basic Education Act or Republic Act No. 10533 which already recognized the FSL in the education of deaf learners.[2]

FSL in Education

To enforce the use of FSL as the medium of instruction and curriculum, the law orders the Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and all other national and local government agencies involved in the education of the deaf to use FSL and coordinate with each other on the use of FSL.[3] R.A. No. 11106 also provides that FSL shall be taught as a separate subject in the curriculum for deaf learners in schools. Moreover, reading and writing of Filipino, other Philippine languages, and English shall be taught to deaf learners[4].

The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) together with nationwide teacher education programs are directed by the law to employ alternative assessment procedures as affirmative action measures which shall factor in the conditions, abilities, and social barriers of the deaf teachers.[5] This step aims to promote the licensing and mobilization of deaf teachers in formal education as well as alternative learning systems. The learning of FSL in Teacher Education Programs should include curricular or co-curricular offering as deemed appropriate, consistent with inclusive education and Universal Design.[6]

Under the law, national and local government agencies and centers which provide education to deaf students must undertake regular pre- and in-service training and evaluation of their teachers. The University of the Philippines (UP), together with the Komisyon sa Wikang Pilipino (KWF), professional sign linguistics and linguistics researchers, in collaboration with the CHED and the DepEd, and the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Council are tasked to develop guidelines for the development training materials in the education of the deaf for use by all the state universities and colleges (SUCs), as well as their teachers and staff.[7]

Furthermore, the DepEd Instructional Materials and Council Secretariat, in coordination with the Bureau of Learning Resources and the Bureau of Learning Delivery, as well as the ECCD Council are mandated to develop guidelines for the selection, production, procurement, and distribution of print and video instructional materials in FSL to public schools, day care centers and national child development centers.[8]

Under Sec. 12 of the Act, seventy-five percent (75%) of all procurement contracts shall be reserved for deaf people’s organization, including regional or provincial enterprises and cooperatives run by the deaf and recognized by the local government units (LGUs).

Standards for FSL Interpretation

            The FSL Act mandates the KWF, with the involvement of the deaf community and other stakeholders, to establish a national system of standards, accreditations, and procedures for FSL interpreting, without prejudice to other forms of communication which respect the right of a deaf person to accessibility, and to seek, receive, impart ideas on an equal basis with others according to their choice.[9]

The standards shall include policies on the practice of interpreting as a profession such as compensation rates and benefits, working conditions, procedures for grievances and others. [10]

FSL in the Justice System

            The FSL shall now be the official language of legal interpreting for the deaf in all public hearings, proceedings, and transactions of the courts, quasi-judicial agencies, and other tribunals.[11]

In its goal to ensure effective access to justice for the deaf on an equal basis with others and to facilitate their effective role as direct and indirect participants in the legal system, the courts, quasi-judicial agencies, and other tribunals are mandated to ensure the availability of a qualified sign language interpreter in all proceedings which involve the deaf, without prejudice to the right of the deaf to choose other forms or modes of communication.

More specifically, the law defines “hearings, proceedings, and transactions” to cover those in police stations and before the Lupong Tagapamaya of the Katarungang Pambarangay, as well preliminary investigations and other initial stages in the courts, quasi-judicial bodies, and other tribunals.[12] The Supreme Court and other agencies shall also promote appropriate training for those engaged in the administration of justice such as hearing interpreters, deaf relay interpreters, and other court personnel, police, and prison staff.[13]

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the Judiciary, with the involvement of the deaf community and other stakeholders, are tasked to create a national system of standards, accreditation, and procedures for legal interpreting in FSL.[14]

FSL in the Workplace

            The law also declares that the civil service and all government workplaces shall use the FSL as the official language of its Filipino deaf employees. Thus, all government offices must take reasonable measures to encourage the use of FSL among its deaf and hearing employees. Awareness and training seminars on the rationale and use of FSL must also be conducted under the law.[15]

Guidelines for the development of training materials for the employees of the DOJ, the Judiciary, the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Philippine Commission on Women (CWC), and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) will be formulated by the UP, together with the KWF, professional linguistics organizations and deaf linguistics researchers.[16]

FSL in the Health System

            State hospitals and all health facilities are also mandated to ensure access of the Filipino deaf to health services, including the free provision of FSL interpreters and accessible materials upon request of deaf patients, or individuals who have deaf family members. Private health facilities are also encouraged to provide access to health services to all deaf patients and their family members.

FSL in Other Public Transactions, Services, and Facilities

            All national agencies including government-owned or -controlled corporations (GOCCs), and LGUs are directed to use FSL as the medium of official communication in all public transactions involving the deaf.[17] For this purpose, qualified FSL interpreters and accessible materials shall be provided whenever necessary or requested during for a, conferences, meetings, cultural events, sports competitions, community affairs, and activity conducted by government agencies and GOCCs.

FSL in Media

            The FSL shall also be the language of broadcast media interpreting.[18] As a means to guarantee access to information and freedom of expression of the Filipino deaf, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP), and the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) shall within one (1) year from the effective date of the Act, require FSL interpreter insets, compliant with accessibility standards for television, in news and public affairs programs.[19] The MTRCB shall also promote progressive use of FSL in all other broadcasts and programming, particularly in education television programs for children.

The KBP and the MTRCB, as well as the deaf community, and other stakeholders shall have the duty to create a national system of standards, procedures, and accreditation for broadcast media interpreting in FSL.[20] All videos published online, including those on social media, are ordered to conform to Philippine web accessibility standards.

Promotion of FSL

Offering FSL as an elective subject in the regular or mainstream curriculum, particularly of SUCs is one of the appropriate measures to propagate and promote sign language competency among hearing people, to be led and undertaken by the DepEd, CHED, UP, Linguistic Society of the Philippines and other national agencies and LGUs, in consultation with professional organizations with expertise and experience in language policy and planning and the deaf community.[21] SUCs, led by the UP, in coordination with the KWF are directed by the law to continue research for the development, propagation, and preservation of FSL and its cultural history.

To ensure that the objectives of the FSL Act will be met, strict monitoring and implementation shall be spearheaded by an Inter-Agency Council consisting of one (1) representative each from the CHR, the CWC, the PCW, the KWF, and the FSL organizations or institutions.[22] An annual report on the monitoring ang implementation and the copy of which shall be submitted to both the Houses of Congress and published in accessible formats and other means necessary to serve the purpose of effective dissemination.


[1] Republic Act No. 11106, Sec. 3

[2] Sec. 2

[3] Sec. 4 (a)

[4] Sec. 4 (a)

[5] Sec. 4 (b)

[6] Sec. 4 (c)

[7] Sec. 4 (d)

[8] Sec. 12

[9] Sec. 5

[10] Sec. 5

[11] Sec. 6

[12] Sec. 6

[13] Sec. 6

[14] Sec. 6

[15] Sec. 7

[16] Sec. 7

[17] Sec. 9

[18] Sec. 10

[19] Sec. 10

[20] Sec. 10

[21] Sec. 10

[22] Sec. 14

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