Court overturns graft conviction vs Ex-governor Grace Padaca

The Philippines’ Sandiganbayan, a special appellate collegial court in the Philippines that has jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases involving graft and corrupt practices and other offenses committed by public officers and employees, has reversed the graft conviction against the former governor of Isabela Province, Grace Padaca.

Isabela Governor Grace Padaca
Isabela Governor Grace Padaca, Photo from CNN Philippines

Here is a repost from the original news article published by the CNN Philippines dated September 20, 2020.

Sandiganbayan overturns graft conviction vs. ex-Isabela governor Padaca

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 20)— The Sandiganbayan has reversed the graft conviction against former Isabela governor Grace Padaca over the granting of a P25 million fund to a foundation for the province’s rice program.

In a decision dated June 23 but which surfaced over the weekend, the anti-graft court’s third division granted Padaca’s motion for reconsideration, reversing the graft charge due to the prosecution’s “failure to prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”

The anti-graft court in 2019 sentenced Padaca to 12 to 14 years for malversation and six to 10 years for graft. She was also ordered to pay the Isabela government a fine of P18 million.

Padaca’s motion for her malversation case was meanwhile denied due to lack of merit.

Despite this, the former official said she was thankful for the “positive development.”

Noong June 23,2020, nag-desisyon ang Sandiganbayan na ipawalang sala ako sa isa sa dalawang cases against me… Sa totoo lang, hindi na ako umasa noon na babaligtarin pa ng mga judge ang desisyon nila laban sa akin, but I am thankful for this new and positive development,” Padaca wrote on her social media account.

[Translation: Last June 23, 2020, the Sandiganbayan decided to acquit me in one of the two cases against me. The truth is, I was not expecting that the judge will reverse their decisions against me, but I am thankful for this new and positive development.]

The Sandiganbayan also ordered the lifting of the hold departure order against Padaca.

Padaca earlier denied receiving an amount from the million-peso fund. She maintained that Isabela’s provincial council authorized the memorandum of agreement she entered with the foundation for the program.

Governor Grace has been the most searched Filipino Person With Disability in my blog. I am always monitoring happenings on her life. This turn of events proves that the good governor is innocent of the crimes hurled against her. Mabuhay po kayo and Congratulations, Gov Grace!

Here is the link to the original post.

Philippine’s Media Network and Law of Classroom Explained in Sign Language

Since 2019, one of the hottest issues that hogged most of my Facebook feed is the imminent end of the franchise of the Philippines’ largest broadcasting network, ABS-CBN Corporation. Then it reached its peak when the National Telecommunications Network (NTC), the country’s regulatory body on matters of allotting frequencies to telecommunications companies, issued a “Cease and Desist Order” on May 5 to ABS-CBN demanding them to return to the government the airwave it allowed to be used for 25 years. The network immediately stopped broadcasting on both their TV and radio channels on the same day.

Naturally, there was outrage coming from both the pro and anti groups. Those who made loud noises are the network’s stable of popular artists like Coco Martin, Judy Ann Santos, and Daniel Padilla. Then the (in)famous “Law of Classroom” vlog rant of reality contest winner Kim Chiu went viral and created many parodies, memes and even song-and-dance videos.

However, I observed that our Filipino Deaf community was not completely informed about the true reason why the sudden closure of their beloved station. Not even the sign language inset interpreting on TV newscasts cannot fully explain the events that happened.

So our school decided to create a short (15-minute) and very simple explainer video complete with picture-in-picture and simple animation on the issue. Our resident Deaf graduate, Kennel Alonzo did the sign language explanation. Our objective is for our deaf people to have a more clear understanding of the issues including the function of an airwave and the Philippine Franchise Law. It was uploaded in MCCID Facebook page yesterday (May 26) as well as in Kennel’s own wall. As of this writing, there were already more than 2,000 views and nearly 50 shares.

The video was also uploaded on MCCID’s YouTube Channel.  Here it is:

Update:

Due to requests from followers of  MCCID College Official Facebook page who can hear,  I added a computer-generated voice that reads and captions aloud in English. The purpose of this is so that they can easily understand the signs even without reading the sub-titles. Here it is:

Are deaf people deprived of their “mother language”?

Today, we celebrate “International Mother Language Day”. Held every 21st day of February as approved at the 1999 General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it was born out of the initiative of Bangladesh and has been observed worldwide since 2000.

UNESCO commemorates this day to the belief that,

in the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity for sustainable societies. It is within its mandate for peace that it works to preserve the differences in cultures and languages that foster tolerance and respect for others. [link]

This recognition centers on the observation that native languages are increasingly threatened as more and more languages disappear. Dominant languages have been emphasized excessively that modern kids were discouraged in schools to use the language they use at home. Aside from that, books and other written materials using their mother language were scarce and readily unavailable. Nevertheless, progress is being made in mother tongue-based multilingual education with a growing understanding of its importance, particularly in early schooling, and more commitment to its development in public life.

But what about those who are deprived of language acquisition? What about those who were not able to access their “mother language” the moment they were born? How do we address those vulnerable sectors, most especially those who are deaf and hard-of-hearing?

What is Language Deprivation?

Language deprivation means, exactly, a language that is taken away from people. According to Therapy Travellers Website, Language deprivation is

 the term used for when a child does not have access to a naturally occurring language during their critical language-learning years. [link]

Deaf children are the most affected because they are not exposed to a language that would develop their cognitive growth. A deaf baby has not received any language exposure during the critical period between ages 0 to 2.

To illustrate,

stick figure of parent asking a hearing child what he wants and replies with milk, milk, milk
The hearing parent asks his hearing child what he wants. The hearing child replies by speaking what he needs which is milk.

 

The hearing parent can readily communicate with his baby what he needs because they both have access to sounds and speech. A baby with no hearing impairment would easily acquire speech and language. Studies show that the brain forms more than one million new neural connections every second from age 0 to 5. This means that they can accumulate emotional and physical health, social skills, and cognitive-linguistic capacities that emerge in the early years. [link]

 

 

stick figure of a deaf child asking milk but the parent doesn't understand
A deaf baby asking his father to give him milk. But the father asks “What do you want?” because he does not understand the baby.

Now compare that with a deaf baby interacting with his parents. Since a deaf baby does not hear her parents, he does not understand what they mean. He cannot associate any actions to the words or phrases that come out of their parents’ mouths because nothing enters his ears. No matter what the baby utters, the parent cannot seem to understand him. Does he need to pee? Is he hungry? Does he want to go out? Is he sick? Does he want to play? Situations like this often lead to frustrations, irritations, and tantrums. Eventually, this leads to ignoring the baby’s needs and thus stunt his overall emotional and intellectual growth.

That is language deprivation.

 

 

Worldwide, over 5% has disabling hearing loss, roughly 466 million people. 90% of deaf children are born with hearing parents. This means that their parents are not familiar with or even aware of how to deal with having a deaf child. So, their tendency is to just give the deaf kid what they perceived he wants without affirmation that it was really what he wants. Worse, the parents would just let them be and do their own thing. Problems in the delay in language development would appear when they are already in school, work, communicating with others, and even self-confidence.

Baby Sign Language

Research has shown that early exposure to a first language will predict future language outcomes. The earlier he can acquire a language, the better he can succeed. And since a deaf baby can learn a language using his eyes, he should be exposed to sign language at the earliest possible time.  Because signed languages are the only languages that are 100% accessible to a deaf child, we can be sure that the child’s brain is receiving language input.

Stick figure of a parent teaching his deaf child the sign for milk
A parent teaches his baby the sign language for milk while at the same time mouthing the words milk and holding the feeding bottle.

Deaf children who do not learn to sign until later in life are more likely to process signed languages not as linguistic input, but as visual input, contrasting with children exposed from birth, who process signed language in the same region of the brain in which hearing people process spoken language. Scientists suggest that the best guarantee of good language outcomes for Deaf children is to establish Sign Language as a secure first language before a cochlear implant program (CIP) is considered.[link]

I created an infographic about this today as part of our Deaf Sensitivity Series. It was posted on the official Facebook page of our school for the deaf. As of this writing, it has been shared nearly 50 times. Feel free to download the image below. 🙂

infographic

You may also view a very informative video below created by Nyle DiMarco Foundation of the hugely popular “America’s Next Top Model” deaf winner.

Happy International Mother Language Day! 🙂

Can a deaf person be a reliable witness?

I chanced upon an article in Nikkei Asian Review which exposes the misleadings done by hugely popular internet search engines Google and Baidu which forcefully directs us to “floods of advertisements and micro-targeted results” and recommended the use of lesser-known but becoming increasingly popular sites such as ByteDance of China and DuckDuckGo of the US. I got curious about these two alternative sites so I tried them out.

I opened only the DuckDuckGo site since the other one is only for the Chinese market. The screen looks like the minimalist web style of Google.com. But what’s strikingly good is what appears at the bottom of the search box which says “The search engine that doesn’t track you.”, the tagline “Privacy, simplified” and the popup box advising us that “Your data shouldn’t be for sale.”

I then tried typing “deaf Philippines”. I was pleasantly surprised that the top search was rightfully one of the first non-profit foundations that work to educate impoverished deaf in Bohol, followed by the Philippine Federation of the Deaf Wikipedia article which I created in January 2008 using my Wiki name Jomanila. Our school for the deaf landed in the top 20. However, I was a bit shocked that the hugely popular and limelight hogging college in Manila is nowhere to be found in the top 50 results.

Deaf on a witness stand
Deaf on a witness stand (not the actual event)
Google Photo courtesy of http://www.interpretereducation.org

Enough of the long intro. I like to focus on the article in Philippine Star Online Edition that did not even rank among the top results in Google which I only discovered in Duckduckgo. It’s about a case of a “deaf-mute” (a term used in the article which I so much disdain) person who became an eyewitness in the rape-slay of a single lady, Erica. Here is the entire story as narrated by a famous Filipino lawyer, Atty. Jose C. Sison which appeared in his column on June 27, 2017:

Deaf-mute witness
Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) – June 27, 2017 – 4:00pm

All persons who can perceive, and perceiving, can make known their perception to others may be witnesses in cases being tried in court. But are deaf mutes competent witnesses? What must be shown so that they can qualify as witnesses? These are among the issues resolved in this case of Erica.

Erica was single and working as a bookkeeper in a Credit Cooperative located in Manila. On the first working day of the year, she reported to the office bringing with her a camera to take pictures of her officemates for souvenir before going back to her hometown on the occasion of their town fiesta. At 5 o’clock, she left the office bringing with her the camera and P3,000 cash money for expenses in the celebration.

She arrived at about 7:30 pm and alighted along the highway about 300 meters from her house. Across the highway was a waiting shed with four persons inside, namely Andy and his brother Tony alias “Baba” because of his elongated chin, Rolly, alias “Boy Tattoo,” and Sergio, alias “Pipi” because he was deaf mute. The four just came from a beer house where they had a drinking spree with four other barkadas since daytime. They left when they got drunk going to a rice field. On the way, they pass by the waiting shed where Andy and Rolly took “Pidol” cough syrup.

Then Andy, Tony and Rolly left the shed when they saw Erica on her way home along a road which was very dark and silent and surrounded by tall trees and grasses. They asked Sergio to leave already. But instead of leaving, Sergio hid behind the bushes and trees, and thus saw the ensuing incident.

He saw his three barkadas caught up with Erica, as Rolly pushed her while Andy got her shoulder bag. Then Tony and Rolly pushed her against a tree and stabbed her several times in the neck. At this point Andy also joined the two and stabbed Erica until she fell down. As Erica was lying on the ground, Rolly pushed the bottle of cough syrup into her private parts aided by Tony. Then Andy hugged Erica who was still alive and resisting the assault. Together, they undressed Erica and successively raped her, starting with Andy, then Rolly and then Tony. As they take their respective turns in raping Erica, the two others were holding her hands.

After raping Erica, Andy took her bag, Rolly got her camera and cash money while Tony got her ring, earrings and watch. Thereafter, Rolly and Tony went to the rice field while Andy proceeded to the opposite direction.

When the already stiffed body of Erica lying on her back was found by the rice field owner the next day, and upon investigation by police investigators, the Provincial Prosecutor filed two Informations for rape with homicide and theft against Andy, Tony and Rolly.

Andy was arrested and arraigned first and pleaded not guilty. His brother Tony went into hiding upon learning of Andy’s arrest and was apprehended only one year later in the course of the trial. He also pleaded not guilty. But Rolly remained at large.

On five different dates of trial over a year, Sergio the deaf-mute eyewitness narrated what he saw through sign language interpreted by an expert who had 22 years of teaching experience in a school for the deaf, exposure in TV programs and had testified in five other previous court proceedings. So after trial, the RTC found the brothers Andy and Tony guilty as charged despite their denial and alibi that they were at home when the crime happened.

In their appeal to the Supreme Court, Andy and Tony contended that the RTC should not have given full faith and credit to the eyewitness account of Sergio who had no formal schooling in a special school for deaf mutes so that conjectures, surmises and inconsistencies in his testimony could not be discounted. They also attacked his character, claiming that he is a drunkard and a drug addict with appending case of rape.

But the SC still affirmed the RTC decision. The SC said that deaf mutes are NOT incompetent witnesses as long as they: (1) can understand and appreciate the sanctity of an oath: (2) can comprehend facts they are going to testify on; and (3) can communicate their ideas through a qualified interpreter. In this case, the interpreter is definitely qualified with a special training and education for interpreting sign language. The imperfections or inconsistencies in Sergio’s testimony do not detract from the credibility of his testimony much less justify its total rejection. What is material is that he personally knew the accused, was with them when the incident happened and had personally witnessed the rape-slay and theft three meters away from the scene. He did not waiver in the identification of the three accused despite the rigorous cross examination and positively pointed to them as the persons who raped and killed Erica and took her personal effects.

The character of Sergio and the pending case against him does not disqualify him from becoming a witness. For the test to measure the value of a witness’ testimony is whether or not such is in conformity to knowledge and consistent with experience of mankind.

The defense of alibi must yield to the positive identification of Andy and Tony by Sergio. Moreover the place where the crimes happened was just ten to fifteen minutes away from the residence of Andy. In the case of Tony his flight should be taken as an admission of guilt. There was also conspiracy among the three accused.

So they are really guilty as charged and sentenced to two death penalties upon each of them for the rape with homicide and imprisonment of 6 months to 2 years, 11 months and 10 days for theft (People vs. Tuangco et.al. G.R. 130331, November 22, 2000)

As per the narration, Sergio, the deaf witness did not attend formal schooling so he is what we call low-verbal deaf. He is also a hearing-friendly person judging from the buddies he accompanies with. But he is also very strong-willed, and unafraid to tell the truth even though the criminals were his barkadas and even if they counter-charged him.

The Supreme Court of the Philippines affirmed that a deaf person can become a competent witness so long as he/she believes in the sacredness of oath, understands the facts and, most importantly, CAN COMMUNICATE HIS THOUGHTS THROUGH A COMPETENT SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETER.

So, to answer the title question, YES, the deaf can be a reliable witness. Oh, I just wish I knew who the sign language interpreter is so that I will hug him/her so tight and shake his/her hand congratulating his/her awesome skill and dedication. I hope he/she reads this article and contact me. 🙂

You can read the original article on the Philstar Online Edition page.

  • – Highlights and all caps mine

Philippines Celebrate International Day of Sign Languages

fsl rally 2019

Please come and invite everyone! Please use the timeline cover and share it!

Filipino Sign Language advocates; FSL students;

Supporters of Philippine languages / indigenous languages

Human rights advocates, human rights defenders

Media contacts

International Day of Sign Languages (IDSL) – Open Ceremony

FSL Rally March

September 23, 2019 (Monday)

7:00 AM onwards

March from CHR to House of Representatives along Commonwealth Ave. Quezon City

Philippine Federation of the Deaf (PFD) in cooperation with the

Philippine Federation of the Deaf Youth Section (PFDYS),

FSL Advocates, IDSL Committees and Filipino Deaf Vloggers (FDV).

Please wear any blue.

Bring your org tarp / logo.

Invite at least 3-5+ other friends.

Bring whistles, horns, noisemakers, drums; megaphone, speakers, sound system, loudspeaker etc. if you have

Make placards on these issues / messages:

– Congress/ Senate: give 2M Budget for KWF!

– Congress/ Senate: FSL in Accessibility bills NOW!

– Congress / Senate: Give Budget for implementation of RA 11106 / FSL Act!

– Ombudsman: Decide on Mocha Uson complaint NOW!

– Support the inclusion of Filipino Sign Language in RA 10533!

– FSL is our mother tongue!

– DepED: Use FSL as Mother Language NOW!

– FSL – National Sign Language of the Philippines!

– FSL in courts!

– FSL in hospitals!

– FSL insets for TV!

– FSL not ASL!

– Learn FSL!

– Deaf teachers in public schools NOW!

– Accessibility NOW!

– Deaf should teach FSL!

– Inclusion YES! Exclusion NO!

– STD NOW! Stop The Discrimination NOW!

etc.

If have any concerns, please kindly contact our PFD Secretary Henry Bibo Perey at philfedeaf1997@gmail.com Thank you so much.

More power to you,

PFD

#SupportFilipinoSignLanguage
#NativeFSL
#YesInclusionofFSLinRA10533
#FSLActRA11106
#FSLDeafEducation

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