Panamanian official accused of rape can be held liable ‘civilly’—De Lima

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05:44 PM May 10th, 2012

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By: Tetch Torres, May 10th, 2012 05:44 PM

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said the Panamanian official accused of raping a Filipina can still be held “civilly liable” despite his diplomatic immunity.

De Lima said Erick Bairnals Shcks, who works as a technical officer at the Panama Maritime Authority here, “can be held civilly liable for his actions outside his official duties.”

The Makati City regional trial court on May 9 dismissed the rape case against Shcks after the court received a certification from the Department of Foreign Affairs that he was covered by diplomatic immunity.

The DoJ chief met the 19-year-old victim at the Department of Justice Thursday.

The victim expressed dismay over the Philippine government’s inability to pursue the criminal case against Shcks.

“Nakakalungkot kasi [It’s said as] we expected them to fight with us and not hide behind some technicality in the legal convention. It’s very distressing,” the victim said.

After reviewing the Vienna Convention of which the Philippines is a signatory, De Lima admitted that the government’s hands were tied in pursuing the criminal case against Shcks unless the Panamanian government waived his diplomatic immunity.

“We were able to confirm with our readings and study of the pertinent provisions of the Vienna convention…wala na kami magagawa [there’s nothing we can do].”

“Diplomatic immunity from criminal prosecution also covers those technical and administrative officers in this case, the Panamanian embassy,” De Lima told reporters.

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