BACOLOD CITY- Courts should be child sensitive but not at all child-friendly and know the needs of the child witness.
This was stressed by Doris Alejo, senior state prosecutor of the Department of Justice in a lecture before court interpreters across the country held at the Bacolod Pavillon Resort Hotel, this city.
She cautioned that being child-friendly might cast aspersion in the mind of the defense counsel that the court is bias, which should not be the case.
Alejo, one of the lecturers in the 8th Philippine Association of Court Interpreters Inc held in Bacolod City early this week, underscored the need for the court interpreters to have extra admirable patience in handling a child witnesses.
She added that the law presumes child witnesses as qualified witnesses, whose competency could be ascertained in same proceedings. She, however, emphasized the need to employ such skill necessary to elicit the truth from the child, such as talking to them in their level and not the level of an adult.
Citing hypothetical scenarios of case hearings involving child witnesses, the Philja lecturer emphasized on the need for court interpreters to devise a method to correctly express the crime perpetrated with the use of testimonial aids especially if the case is elevated to the appellate court.
A classic situation is the hearing of rape case where anatomically correct drawings or dolls will be very helpful in gathering the significant facts from the child witness, especially the rape victims.
Under the Child Witness Rule promulgated years back by the Supreme Court, the courts are supposed to have waiting rooms for child-witnesses and live-link interview facilities in order to keep the child witness’ comfort while inside the court.
However due to the high cost of installation of live-link equipment very few courts have this facility.
Other courts also had the staff room as waiting room in the dearth for waiting room for child witnesses.
Handling child witnesses is the sole concern that the vital role of court interpreters is underlined. They are generally considered integral part of the justice system, especially that their interpretation or translation of testimonies in open court may “make or unmake a witness,” according to Justice Delilah Vidallon Magtolis, chief of office of the Academic Affairs of Philippine Judicial Academy.
Magtolis, who was also among the lecturers on the PhilACI convention, said the “proficiency in the discharge of their duties helps elicit the truth in a case (being tried in court).”
However, she reminded the court interpreters to be equipped with the weapons they need to be proficient.
Among these are keen perception, deep concentration, rich vocabulary, fluency both in English and the local dialect, quick thinking, good memory and mastery in the use of grammar. She likewise emphasized the need for them to exercise proper decorum and conduct while in court.
She said an erroneous interpretation could produce a litany of negative effects such as confusion and misunderstanding and waste of time, money and resources. “Truth being evasive, if the erroneous translation is not corrected, this may lead to wrong conclusion,” Magtolis said.
While others have easy time carrying out their tasks as interpreters in open court, others do not. Coping with stress is an imperative among court interpreters.
Fr. Rafael Cruz, a professor at PhilJA and a clinical psychologist who also is a guest priest in the Diocese of Pangasinan, stress could be overcome equally with the acronym STRESS, namely to spiritualize and pray, travel, relive the inspiring moments, exercise to produce the feel good hormone, east substantial food and have good sense of humor.
Besides court work, court intepreters, through the PhilACI, are working on their welfare as collective lobbying group. They are slated to ratify the organization’s constitution and by-laws and elect their new set of officers. (EILEEN NAZARENO BALLESTEROS)