Monday, July 24, 2006

Makati court interpreter feels ‘Nicole’s’ pain

By Ferdinand Fabella

FOR court interpreter Catherine Aceveda, the Subic rape case has been the most demanding and exhausting trial in her four years with the Makati City Regional Trial Court.

And what makes the trial particularly hard for her is her growing sympathy for “Nicole,” the 22-year-old Filipina who is accusing four United States marines of raping her in Subic, Olongapo, on Nov. 1.

“As a woman I can feel what she feels, but I have to ignore my feelings because this is a job,” says the 34-year-old legal researcher who serves as an interim interpreter for Judge Benjamin Pozon of RTC Branch 139.

“It’s so difficult. I often skip lunch as I’m too nervous to eat because of the hearings.”

Pozon had personally requested Aceveda, a law graduate from the University of the East and a mother of two, to be his court interpreter after his own interpreter went on leave.

Aceveda is a regular staff member of Branch 140 Judge Leticia Morales, Pozon’s pairing judge. Before Aceveda, another court staffer had acted as interpreter in the case, but that one didn’t last long because of his comic translation of witnesses’ testimonies.

As an interpreter, Aceveda sits beside all witnesses on the stand and translates their responses to lawyers’ questions.

She jots down key Filipino words on a notepad before translating them into English to avoid getting lost in the jumble of words. But she has been laughed at and rudely corrected in mid-sentence for failing to translate some Filipino words into their exact English equivalent.

“That’s all right with me,” she says.

“I just smile at them.”

When Nicole testified for the first time on Thursday, Aceveda says she fought hard to control her tears when Nicole broke down repeatedly under direct examination.

“I was beside her and I could feel her pain,” Aceveda says.

“I asked her repeatedly if she wanted to continue. It was hard.”


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