lawyer interview tsn (pearlie)

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Going back to your answer with regard to handling child witnesses, can you expound in your own
experience how you handled a child witness in a particular case that was referred to you when you
were still with the CHR?
A: Majority of the cases that involve children filed before the CHR are usually gender-based violence
related. So they are usually victims of molestation or sexual abuse. So chances are they don’t know how
to convey and they’re not comfortable talking about it. So number one, we have lady investigators and
lady lawyers assigned to talk to girl child victims. We cannot let male investigator or male lawyer talk to
them. That’s the very basic rule that you have to understand because they wouldn’t be comfortable talking
to a guy regarding that issue. Second, in the CHR under our investigation department, we have this childfriendly room. So when you get in there it’s a colorful room, with books and stuffed toys. An area wherein
a child will feel comfortable. So when a child is involved, we usually bring the child there, let her play first
and let her be comfortable for a couple of minutes, and talk to her starting off with a little introduction,
and not go directly to what happened to her. And when you already gained her trust, that’s when you try
talking to her about it in her words and not in our words. We have to kind of spoon-feed them and ask
them carefully about what happened to them. So it takes a lot of time before a child will open up to you.
So where are the parents in this kind of scenario?
A: The sad thing about a girl child victim of sexual abuse is that the usual perpetrators are guardians or
somebody who are close to them. It’s not usually somebody they don’t know. So the ones who bring them
are either their lolo, lola, a relative, or sometimes the mother. But if the stepfather or live-in partner is
the perpetrator, sometimes the mother isn’t even there. But during the interview, usually, the adult
relatives or those who brought them there, sometimes the social worker, they are there also but not all
of them are inside the room. So it depends on who’s closest to the child.
So you are telling us that there is an indifference with regard to the attitude of the mother?
A: Not in all cases. It’s only when the partner is the perpetrator.
So there’s the indifference there. Being a woman, how do feel about that?
A: Personally of course you’d get offended and you’d feel this negative emotion which you cannot
understand because the first thing that comes into your mind is why is the relationship more important
than the child. But when you try to look at the dynamics of the family, there are a lot of factors eh.
Sometimes kapit sila dun sa guy because they don’t have their own means of living. So if they are not in
good terms with the guy, how would they live? And sometimes they don’t know that they are suffering
let’s say from battered woman syndrome. So there are a lot of factors but the initial reaction would be, a
big question mark. Parang it’s not logical for me but it’s happening. So the best that we can do in the
government is try to intervene and help save the child. They are placed in a proper institution to be helped
by the government and treated hopefully in a manner wherein they would feel that the environment that
they’re growing in is a safe environment.
Looking forward, do you have confidentiality rule with regard to your interview or your contact with a
child witness and their immediate family?
A: Yes. Confidentiality is very basic when the people involved are children, especially if it’s a gender-based
violence case. That’s already under our special laws that there’s a confidentiality clause that if you violate
that, you could be administratively or criminally liable for violating the confidentiality provision under
these special laws. So what we do in our case in CHR, its basic that we don’t usually just let other people
read our investigation reports. We ask who they are, why do they need copies of it, stuff like that. Actually
our rule in CHR is not to release copies of the investigation report but just the resolution of the case. So if
the case is still pending, if it is still in the investigation stage, we don’t release any document before the
public. Just the resolutions.
To sum it up, how is your personal experience with the CHR before we go to your stint with the DOJ as
Clerk of Court?
A: Being a lawyer in the CHR, I would have to say, is one of the most fulfilling jobs that I have ever
encountered. That’s because, you are not just doing legal work per se, you actually feel like you are helping
the people directly because you are in contact with the vulnerable sector in a direct manner. Unlike other
jobs in the government or maybe in the private sector, you cannot feel the impact that you’re having in
the community. So I think that’s one of the things I love about CHR because you get to be exposed to the
realities of life and the state of the vulnerable sector. Because I’ve been to a lot of areas in Region 11, for
example Davao del Norte IP communities. So we go there, we talk to them, ask them what they need,
legal advice, mga ganun. And then we do jail visitations, we go inside jails. So your perception about them
changes when you get exposed to them. You see the sadness in their dire situation. Because when we see
criminals, accused, what we are seeing is just the bad things that they did. We do not see them as human
beings anymore. But when you go inside and talk to them, you’ll see how human they are and how sad
their situation is. You even get to talk to innocent people who are also there. So it’s a sad reality. And
sometimes makataba sya sa puso after doing that kind of work because at the end of the day you will feel
how blessed you are even if on your own you think you don’t have a lot. But after doing that, you’d feel
like oh I have so much, I’m so blessed and I can still give a lot. So I guess that’s one of the best feelings that
you can have while doing you advocacy work, I mean legal and advocacy work. 09:08
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