What’s Tagalog for ‘crooked politician’?

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If you’re confused by the impeachment trial of Philippine president Joseph Estrada, it may not be the politics that have you stumped. It may just be that you don’t speak one or more of the four languages that lawyers and politicians are using inside the courtroom.

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According to the CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, the proceedings are held in English, Tagalog, Filipino and ocassionally Spanish, depending on the subtle message that the prosecution or defense wants to send. Language has long been spoken along class lines in the Philippines, where the English-speaking elite look down on Tagalog and Filipino spoken by the masses.

Lawyers use English when bickering with each other, then shift to Tagalog when questioning witnesses. While Estrada’s defense uses Tagalog to garner public support among working-class Filipinos, the prosecution uses the same language to discredit witnesses before upper-class viewers.

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