Cry no more, Juana, help would soon abound
MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers have taken up the cudgels for women with disabilities by calling for the hiring of court sign language interpreters.
Gabriela Women’s Party Representatives Emmi De Jesus and Luz Ilagan filed House Resolution 304, directing the House Committee on Justice to assess the present status of providing qualified interpreters during court proceedings and law enforcement procedures for those with communication disabilities.
“We have encountered cases of deaf women who are victims of rape or VAWC, and they lose their court cases eventually because the clients lacked timely and accessible interpreter services,” Ilagan said in a statement, a day before Women with Disabilities Day on March 31.
Meanwhile, De Jesus said, “Filipino persons with disabilities (PWDs) especially the hearing-, speech- and visually-impaired, are vulnerable to abuse because they face extreme hardships in filing complaints against offenders, or defending themselves if they happen to be the accused, given the communication barriers between them and the authorities.”
She explained that a study conducted by the National Council for Disability Affairs revealed that courts and police stations had difficulty or were not able to document depositions from persons with disabilities.
“Therefore, the government should provide them sign language interpreters, who are also trained in sign-related terminologies used in the justice system,” De Jesus said.
Under Supreme Court Memorandum 59-2004, an interpreter must be provided for deaf persons involved in court proceedings.
However, “the Philippine Federation of the Deaf noted that there is no organized system for sign language procedures in the justice system, as the memo itself has no clear guidelines on the choice and assignment of qualified and ethical court interpreters, who are only called during testimonies and reading of charges,” the lawmakers said.
Ilagan said Congress should persuade the high court to “beef up its memorandum to compel the courts and the justice system to devote significantly more resource shares to empower PWD clients.” She said lawmakers may also push for a higher budget for court interpreter positions and training programs.
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