Unfair of Sotto to pin blame on me, says De Lima
MANILA, Philippines – “That’s very unfair.”
So responded Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III who had said that she should be blamed for the flight of a Panamanian national accused of rape by a Filipino woman.
“To me, that’s very unfair that I’m being blamed for that. I need to remind the good senator that I now have no power to stop through a watch list order or an HDO (hold departure order) anyone who wants to leave (the country),” De Lima said in an interview yesterday.
She said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had “quietly” tried to persuade the Panamanian government to waive the diplomatic immunity of Erick Bairnals Shcks, a technical officer of the Panama Maritime Authority, but it was unsuccessful. A 19-year-old woman has accused Shcks of raping her in his apartment in April, days after they first met.
On Sunday, Sotto said De Lima did not lift a finger even after senators had questioned the issuance of a certification that said Shcks had diplomatic immunity. “Is she our justice secretary or the justice secretary of Panama?” Sotto had decried in a phone interview.
De Lima pointed out the Supreme Court had issued a temporary restraining order against the DOJ circular that allowed her to issue HDOs.
The DFA, she added, had also already issued a certification (saying that Shcks enjoyed diplomatic immunity). “The DFA is the primary agency that knows, understands and has expertise and competence (in the matter),” De Lima said.
She said that she asked her staff to review the case, but that it also concluded that Schks had diplomatic immunity.
“So under those circumstances, what could I do? I could not stop him (because) I would then be the one who would be questioned, and it can have repercussions in so far as diplomatic relations with Panama are concerned,” the secretary said.
“I hope (Sotto) would not hastily make such statements. It’s not fair to make,” she added.
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