Friday, February 15, 2013

Translation/Interpretation for Filipinos Accused in Japan: Navigating this Very Narrow Data Window

I know a number of Japanese and Filipinos who serve as translators and interpreters for the Japanese police or Japanese courts in cases involving Filipinos.  These individuals gain unique access to valuable information on Filipinos in Japan  but strict privacy and confidentiality rules and regulations in Japan present a virtual minefield for the researcher wishing to tap into this data source.

In what ways can data from this tricky source be mined effectively by researchers without compromising privacy protections?

These translators (when working with documents) and interpreters (when in live verbal exchanges) are called by the police at any day or time, accompanying them on overnight stake-outs or raids, or assisting them in interrogating Filipinos already in detention.  Court service allows them more predictability as hearings and pre-trial preparatory meetings involving visits to Filipinos in detention centers are scheduled way in advance.

When doing translation, payment is based on a per-character rate.  When doing interpretation, payment is usually per visit, but the hours being open-ended.  Actual rates are not made public by default, and vary depending on the contracting organization (the police, the courts, or a non-profit organization assisting migrants).

One may think that the rates could support a full-time career in translation/interpretation but, at least among those I know personally, the calls they get are few and far between.  Considering that in 2009 an average of 4 Filipinos were arrested across Japan every day (see Table 1 of this post) either 1) there are more Filipino-Japanese-Filipino translators/interpreters (henceforth to be referred to as "TI") available than there are cases which need them or 2) cases involving Filipinos are not consistently provided TI support.

I suspect it is more of the latter situation -- that there is a mismatch between TI support needed and TI support provided -- but not due to any negligence or bad faith on the part of Japanese authorities.  More than anything, if indeed there is a mismatch, this is mostly due to timing issues and the level of organization of TI individuals for Filipinos.

By timing I mean the particular stage in the legal process that the case is in, that is, whether it is in the investigation/pre-trial stage, formal indictment, district court level, appeals court level or supreme court level.  Individual cases vary in the time they remain at each level depending on the circumstances of each case and other external factors which may cause to expedite or delay its progression along the legal pipeline.

By level of organization I mean how the TI individuals are organized as a formal organization which may have a single point of contact for all authorities or organizations wishing to tap their services and how, because of this level of organization, they are able to pass on or share or refer requests for TI support to other available co-members.  It would seem that the contracting party has the burden of tracking down an available TI individual and that its success would depend on the comprehensiveness of the TI individuals on their list or on the exhaustiveness of the personal network of the TI individual if he or she may not be available at the requested time.  Two particular TI individuals I know explain that they are sometimes called to far places as the contracting parties explain that they are unable to find available TI individuals in their locality.

In addition to timing and level of organization -- which are factors involving the case itself and the TI individuals -- there is another variable that, in my opinion, further complicates the provision of TI support to cases involving Filipinos.  This variable -- which rests squarely on the shoulders of the contracting parties -- is a preference scale that seems to determine which TI individual is contacted and for what type of service.

If the contracting party is a government body (the police, the courts, etc) then they seem to prefer Japanese TI individuals over Filipino TI individuals the higher the case progresses in the legal system.  Again, to qualify, this does not mean that there is discrimination by government body against Filipino TI individuals but just that probably there are not too many Filipino TI individuals who have been able to establish their credibility and legitimacy in the legal translation/interpretation field especially with public contracting agencies.

[to be continued...]

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