Have you thanked your interpreters today?

One of my Facebook friends and now my “kumare” since I’m the Godson of her baby daughter Dean Nicky Templo – Perez of College of St. Benilde, tagged me in his post about sign language interpreter’s day.  I didn’t know there is one? It turns out that Mr. Joshua Jones, a deaf-blind from Seattle, created a Facebook Group Account called “Official Interpreter Appreciation Day 2013” honoring sign language interpreters.  I was approved as a member a few minutes ago. 🙂

This is what appears on their page which currently has more than 1,800 members:

We should show our appreciation to the interpreters. They work hard to help people to communicate via different languages. It is time for us to give the shout outs for their hard works. We did the polls here. We decided to do first Monday of May every year. May 1st will be our very first official Interpreter Appreciation Day.

The group declared that:

We celebrate our nurses on May 6, our Armed Forces on May 18, our teachers on May 7, and even our bosses on October 16. Today (Apr 24), it just so happens to be Administrative Professionals Day. But what about appreciation for the nimble-fingered professionals who break down communication barriers with the hearing world?

I have been a sign language interpreter in the Philippines since 1991. I love this work, although most of the time, I considered this as a thankless career. Living in a developing country such as the Philippines, sign language interpreters are “thought” to be just a helper or “Personal Assistant” of a deaf person and not a service provider. Interpreting, from the perspective of my countrymen, is not a profession but rather a mission or vocation and you must not expect any compensation from your work except, the “crown in heaven”.  View my entire post on another blog here.

That is why our Deaf citizens who are in need of interpreters are often being served by half-baked, unskilled and even unprofessional interpreters. Their reason for not rendering a better service is that they do this for free so don’t expect an excellent work.

My primary goal in blogging for the past five years is in order for people to become more aware and sensitive about the needs of the deaf while at the same time appreciate the work being done by service providers like us TERPS.

Deafview.com has a wonderful list of suggestions a deaf person might want to do in order to show his appreciation to his sign language interpreter. Come visit their page. Among those are educating your friends about what sign language interpreter does, small gifts or flowers and vlog them.

So it’s “official”. Sign Language Interpreter’s Day will be held every 1st Wednesday of May. Since the first Wednesday falls on May 1, which fittingly coincides with my country’s Labor Day, then, May 1, 2013 is SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETERS‘ DAY. Happy TERPS Day to all my colleagues in the sign language interpreting world. 🙂

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Impeachment trial in sign language

Guys I’d like to share with you a very informative and insightful article written by Sir Raul Pangalangan in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. He explicitly discussed about the importance of utilizing sign language interpreters in getting the truth and protecting the rights of a deaf person. However, he also enumerated the problems it poses like the interpreting cost, interpreter’s competence and the admissibility of interpreted statements in courts.

Impeachment trial in sign language
By:

10:23 pm | Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

No, this is not about mysterious signals coming from the senator-judges or from the parties’ counsels about where the impeachment trial is going. This is literally about sign language, and the “inset” or the small box that you see on the TV screen if you watch via ANC, showing an interpreter who translates the proceedings in sign language for the deaf. This is a triumph for Filipino deaf rights advocates, but they have a long journey ahead.

According to Dr. Liza Martinez, founder and director of the Philippine Deaf Resource Center, sign language insets appeared on Philippine TV for the first time on Channel 5 for the 2010 State of the Nation Address of President Aquino, his very first. That same channel has since sustained these pioneering insets in its early evening, one-hour news program. Another channel, ABS-CBN, has also used sign language insets, but only in their Central Visayas and Davao news broadcasts and not yet for programs that are broadcast nationwide.

There is now a pending bill before Congress, the Sign-language Insets for News Programs Act, that will make these insets mandatory. The existing law, the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons (Republic Act 7277), states the obligation rather softly: TV stations are “encouraged to provide a sign language inset or subtitles in at least one newscast program a day and special programs covering events of national significance.” It classifies “qualified interpreters [for] individuals with hearing impairments” as “auxiliary aids or services.”

The proposed sign-language insets act will convert the Magna Carta’s hortatory clause into a binding obligation. Sponsored by Reps. Neri Colmenares and Teddy Casiño (Bayan Muna Party-List), it will require sign-language TV news insets, noting that the inset is preferred over subtitles or captions because less than 5 percent of the reported 120,000 deaf Filipinos are literate. Last week, Doctor Martinez testified before a congressional committee that the networks should be given a choice between the inset and captions, hopefully to make it more acceptable to the networks and likewise enable them to adapt to the variable literacy levels of deaf people in the Philippines.

Over the years, I have heard of the travails of deaf Filipinos. There was that case about the deaf rape victim who testified about her ordeal through a sign-language interpreter. Her complaint was thrown out on the ground that it relied on hearsay evidence. Hearsay evidence from the rape victim herself? Yup, you got that right. The hearsay rule says: “A witness can testify only to those facts which he knows of his personal knowledge; that is, which are derived from his own perception.” So when the sign language interpreter spoke, the stupid prosecutor asked him: Did you actually witness the rape? These lawyers should be taught that signing is a language in itself, no different from Spanish or Chinese or Filipino. Going by this ridiculous episode, all testimony that has to be translated is intrinsically hearsay!

There was also the deaf man who was invited to Qatar for a training seminar precisely for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs). He was barred at Naia by an immigration officer (now under investigation) who questioned the authenticity of his trip because he was deaf. And finally there is that series of cases where deaf passengers were either barred from boarding or off-loaded even after they had boarded their planes.

The mandatory inset for sign language interpreters is merely the first step. The Supreme Court (assuming the Chief Justice takes kindly to the “signing”) should likewise require courts to provide sign language interpreters for deaf witnesses. Without such an order, deaf witnesses can testify only by hiring and paying for their own interpreters. That poses several problems.

First, there is the problem of cost. This is tantamount to putting a price tag on the truth. It would be naïve to think that that price tag wasn’t there from the outset; the cost of litigation goes way beyond the professional fees of the lawyers, and goes into the invisible costs and risks that the victim pays by deciding to go into battle. But one cost, i.e., sign language translation, must be borne by the state if it is to make good on the constitutional guarantee of equal treatment and the international obligation of non-discrimination against PWDs.

Second, there is the regulation of the sign language interpreters themselves. There is the issue of competence. Without a Supreme Court regulation, any Tom, Dick and Harry can purport to translate the “sign” testimony. There is also the issue of ethics. What if the Tom, Dick or Harry is so good he can improve the testimony or, worse, embellish or distort it? We need a system of accreditation to replace the open but loose market that exists today.

Third, the Supreme Court regulation should clear the way, once and for all, for the admissibility of sign language translations. The hearsay rule applies to the witness himself or herself, not to the interpreter who merely translates what the witness says into a language that the court can understand.

ANC’s sign language inset for impeachment trial is historic twice over, and apart from the Constitution and the laws, is just about the most public recognition that, in a trial on public accountability, the deaf Filipino must be heard.

(Today, Doctor Martinez presents the results of her study on Philippine cases of anti-deaf discrimination. It will be held at 4:30 p.m. at the UP College of Social Work & Community Development.)

Solon urges Supreme Court to Allocate Funds for Sign Language Interpreters

Cong Teddy Casino
A lawmaker today urged the Supreme Court to create and allocate a budget for a court interpreter item under the judiciary who will be tasked to assist persons with disabilities while attending court proceedings.

The recommendation was raised by Rep. Teddy Casiño (Party-list, Bayan Muna) during the recent budget hearing for the judiciary.

Citing the study of the Philippine Deaf Resource Center (PDRC), Casiño said there are unresolved cases involving deaf children and other persons with hearing disabilities due to the absence of court interpreters during the proceedings.

“In one of the rape cases involving a deaf woman that was cited by PDRC, the complainant failed to narrate her story and those present during the hearing could not understand what she was saying,” Casiño said.

Casiño said that of the 53 cases of sexual abuse of deaf women reported over the past eight years; only 14 cases were actually filed in court. None have prospered.

Appearing before the House budget hearing, Supreme Court Administrator Midas Marquez said they had already met with the officials of the PDRC who assured them of their support.

“Pending the signing of the bill into law we will address the concerns of the group. We were informed that this is happening in many parts of the country,” Marquez said.

Casiño has filed House Bill 4631 instituting court interpreters for persons with hearing disabilities.

Casiño said the bill proposes a system that would be in place so that interpreters for the deaf would be present during government proceedings whether it is a police investigation, court or public hearing.

Citing the data from the PDRC, Casiño said one out of three women is a victim of rape while 65 to 70% of deaf children are victims of molestation.

“Of the 82 cases cited by PDRC, 67% of deaf complainants lodged rape complaints while 32% of deaf respondents were accused of theft. With the high incidence of criminal cases involving deaf persons, there is a need for interpreters,” Casino said.

The PDRC said the only existing policy covering cases of the deaf so far is Supreme Court Memo 59-2004, which requires that an interpreter be provided for the deaf when they testify in court.

However, the PDRC said the memo contains no specific guidelines on the choice and assignment of qualified and ethical court interpreters as well as guidelines on the actual process of interpreting in the courtroom.

The PDRC said there is no organized system for interpreting sign language in court rooms. Judges, lawyers and court staff also lack awareness in sign communication.

Note: This is a repost from the House of Representatives Press Release.

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