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Senate looks into DFA handling of Panamanian diplomat accused of rape


MANILA, Philippines—Outraged senators are inquiring into the Department of Foreign Affairs’ issuance of a certification that eventually set free a Panamanian national accused of raping a Filipino woman.

Senator Loren Legarda, Climate Change Act of 2009

Senator Loren Legarda. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

“Rape would not fall under the ambit of a diplomat’s official functions,” Senator Loren Legarda said on the floor, demanding that the DFA and the Department of Justice explain if they give precedence to  diplomatic immunity before the rights of the victim. She said such immunity is not absolute.

On a move by Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, the committees on foreign relations, justice and human rights are opening an inquiry into the matter next week.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who referred to the Panamanian as a rapist, backed the move.

“We better look into this. Anybody raping a Filipina, even if he’s a diplomat, at least should be haled to court and answer for it,” he said.

Enrile said the DFA director for immunities and privileges  who issued the certification that Erick Bairnals Shcks has diplomatic immunity  “should be removed.”

Shcks was released from police detention on the basis of the DFA certification.  Shcks, 35, technical officer of the Panama Maritime Authority, was facing a rape case in the Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch 57. The 19-year-old alleged victim said the rape took place last April 23 at Shck’s place.

Legarda, chair of the foreign relations committee, pointed out that the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations grants immunity to diplomats, ambassadors and officials of international organizations, but this is “anchored on functional necessity,” and hence, is not absolute.

The purpose of such privilege is not to benefit individuals but to ensure the performance of a function by a diplomat, she said.

“A close reading of the Vienna Convention privilege does not provide protection and benefits for the diplomat as an individual acting outside of official task,” she said. “Diplomatic immunity can’t be absolute. It does not provide unlimited immunity to all classes of diplomats.”

Legarda said the DFA and DOJ should explain if they held the view that diplomatic immunity takes precedence over international conventions on human rights.

Sotto, in a privilege speech, said he was amazed at the speed with which a member of a foreign embassy was exonerated.

“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,” he said.

“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. Is rape a privilege to enjoy?” he asked.

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Tags: Crime , Diplomacy , Foreign affairs , Immunity , Panama , Rape

  • jose_rizal11

    Sa sarili na natin bansa ganyan tratohin mga babae natin, ano na kaya kong sa ibang bansa ngyari un!!! lifetime imprisonment dapat or ipagahasa sa mga bakla yan sa muntinlupa!!!

  • tanzangluma

    Kung ang Pilipino na  may immunity na naka assigned sa ibang ibansa ay:

    o lahat na ng criminal case

    ang katapat na hatol ay PERSONA NON GRATA. signatories ang Pilipinas sa Viena Convention.

    kaya nasasaklawan tayo ng treaty na ito.

    Ganoon din ang kaso ng Panamanian. PERSONA NON GRATA lang ang puwedeng ihatol sa kanya.

  • Elio Madama

    So, a filipina said “I was raped” and that’s all?
    Who are you people to call “rapist” a person just because a verbal complaint?
    You want to fight against the whole world.
    Where is the law?
    You are innocent until prove it guilty.
    The girl went to this man condo to watch TV?


    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JR3XHBEHBOBWRAASFKEEA3QWKM jun_ac

      Are you the person accused?

  • Elio Madama

    This lady went to hospital to have a vaginal inspection?
    Is a doctor report stating that this girl had semen in her vagina?
    How dare somebody can call another person RAPIST, WITHOUT HARD EVIDENCE?

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