May 8, 2012
SEN. VICENTE C. SOTTO III
By and large, we are a gentle and hospitable nation. Our tendency to be respectful with a "Sir" or "Ma'am" in our speech, with a matching smile on our face, is natural. We welcome visitors to our shores with respect and deference to excess.
Higher wages and better opportunities elsewhere pull our men and women to travel to unknown climes and cultures, just so these economic exiles can provide a decent roof to cover the heads of their young, spread the daily bread on the breakfast table, enter better schools, and pay for medical attention when illness comes. Many gain success, but many have sad stories to tell. Falling into slavery, prostitution and drugs are real tragedies waiting to happen to the unsuspecting Filipino overseas worker. When things get rough, and we fail to come to the succor of our countrymen abroad, we have a built-in excuse - distance, expense, and a different language, culture and law stand in the way of our helping them.
But when we fail to protect our very own, especially the dignity of our women, in our own backyard, in our own country, Mr. President, there can be no excuse.
A few days ago, it came to my attention that a young Filipina, (Let's just call her Pamela, for convenience), charged a holder of a Panamanian Diplomatic Passport of rape. Our Department of Foreign Affairs, through the Director on Immunities and Privileges, issued a number of certifications allowing the suspect Panamanian to go free. On April 25, 2012, the DFA issued a certification that subject Panamanian was a member of the Panamanian embassy with no mention of immunity. After two days, or on April 27, 2012, the DFA issued a certification that subject Panamanian has immunity from arrest and detention. Lastly, the DFA issued a certification that the subject Panamanian is not immune from civil and administrative liability.
Thus, within days, the DFA issued three different certifications. Hindi po ba magulo ang mga pangyayari, Mr. President? There are other interesting details. On April 30, 2012, 2:00 p.m., the information was filed against the accused. After 50 minutes, or at 2:50 p.m. of the same day, the case was dismissed based on a Motion to Withdraw filed by the Prosecutor of Makati City.
Mr. President, I am amazed at the speed of the wheels of justice exonerating a member of a foreign embassy in the Philippines. Is it not that there are crimes that are not covered by diplomatic immunity, as a matter of fact international law has no natural superiority over local laws. Even labor laws in the United States put our Ambassadors in hot water if there is an inkling that they harbor an illegal immigrant in their household.
This is about the crime of rape, Mr. President. It is not a small matter. Are we so helpless or too kind to foreigners in grievous matters such as these? They say that diplomats enjoy certain privileges and immunities. Ang rape ba ay isang privilege to enjoy? Ano pa ba ang mga crimes na kasama sa mga privileges and immunities na ito?
During a press conference held on May 3, 2012, I called the attention of the Department of Foreign Affairs, questioning the way they handled the case.
The date of the incident - April 21, 2012.
The accused-Erick Schcks Bairnals of the Embassy of Panama.
The circumstances - The accused met Pamela in a Book Fair. The Filipina was invited to have dinner with the accused. The Filipina declined. She later agreed on April 23, 2011 to dine with the accused in a Makati restaurant. Through false pretenses, Pamela went with the accused in his apartment and in said apartment, Pamela was forced to sniff a drug and by reason of force and intimidation, was raped and sexually abused by the accused. A few hours, upon reaching home, the naïve 19 year old victim broke down and told her lola about the incident. Hours later, they proceeded to report the crime which led to the arrest of Shcks, the investigation by the City Prosecutor of Makati City and the filing of the Information before the Makati Regional Trial Court.
I raise important legal questions such as the basis of the grant of immunity from arrest and detention, the regularity of the issuance of the certifications and the actions that the DFA could have done before certifying that the accused is immune from criminal, civil and administrative jurisdictions.
Mr. President, considering the gravity of the offense and the circumstances surrounding the case, we need to review our standards in matters of this nature. I therefore, most respectfully propose that this matter be subject of an inquiry by the proper Senate Committees on Foreign Relations and Justice and Human Rights, with the end in view of clarifying our existing rules and procedures in the treatment and grant of immunity to our diplomatic personnel in the Philippines.
Tuesday, May 21
Monday, May 20
Sunday, May 19
Saturday, May 18
Thursday, May 16
Wednesday, May 15