Practice Relating to Rule 100. Fair Trial Guarantees
Section H. Assistance of an interpreter
In its judgment in the Cuizon case in 1996, the Supreme Court of the Philippines stated:
Unfortunately, appellant Paul Lee, who does not speak or understand a word of English or Pilipino and only knows Chinese-Cantonese, was not able to take the witness stand for lack of an interpreter who would translate his testimony to English.
It is clear that appellant Lee was effectively denied his right to counsel, for although he was provided with one, he could not understand and communicate with him concerning his defense such that, among other things, no memorandum was filed on his behalf; further, he was denied his right to have compulsory process to guarantee the availability of witnesses and the production of evidence on his behalf, including the services of a qualified and competent interpreter to enable him to present his testimony. In sum, he was denied due process. For this reason, we hold that the case as against Lee must be remanded to the court of origin for a re-trial.
In its judgment in the Parazo case in 1999, the Supreme Court of the Philippines stated:
Records on hand show that appellant was tried below without the benefit of a sign language expert. The fact that he was “helped and assisted by a person who has been known to him since 1983”, as noted by the trial court of origin and appearing on page 6 of the transcript of stenographic notes for February 8, 1995, is of no moment, absent any clear showing that appellant was aided by a competent sign language expert able to fully understand and interpret the actions and mutterings of appellant.
As held in People v. Crisologo:
The absence of an interpreter in sign language who could have conveyed to the accused, a deaf-mute, the full facts of the offense with which he was charged and who could also have communicated the accused’s own version of the circumstances which led to his implication in the crime, deprived the accused of a full and fair trial and a reasonable opportunity to defend himself. Not even the accused’s final plea of not guilty can excuse these inherently unjust circumstances.
The absence of a qualified interpreter in sign language and of any other means, whether in writing or otherwise, to inform the accused of the charges against him denied the accused his fundamental right to due process of law. The accuracy and fairness of the factual process by which the guilt or innocence of the accused was determined was not safeguarded. The accused could not be said to have enjoyed the right to be heard by himself and counsel, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him in the proceedings where his life and liberty were at stake.
All the foregoing studiedly considered, the court is of the irresistible conclusion that movant richly deserves a re-arraignment and re-trial.