A Senate committee on Thursday ordered the government to come up with concrete rules on diplomatic immunity following a dismissed rape case against a member of a Panamanian embassy.
During the Senate committee hearing, Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis said the department only abided provisions of the Vienna Convention when it issued a certification of immunity to the accused Erick Bairnals Shcks, a member of the administrative and technical staff of the Panamanian embassy.
The 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relation states that “a diplomatic agent shall enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving State.”
Senator Vicente Sotto III, however, questioned if the act of rape should be part of the privileges and immunities enjoyed by diplomats.
Sotto initiated the Senate investigation on the case of a 19-year-old Filipina, whom he called Pamela, who was allegedly forced to sniff drugs before she was raped by Bairnals last month.
The senator said the case filed by Pamela against the Panamanian was dismissed after the DFA issued certifications that the suspect has immunity from arrest and detention.
Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the government tried to convince the Panamanian ambassador to the Philippines to waive Bairnals’ diplomatic immunity but to no avail.
“We’re restricted by the provisions of the Vienna Convention. Dito siya dapat panagutin,” De Lima said in an interview after the hearing.
Since the suspect has already left the country and the Philippine government has no jurisdiction in Panama, De Lima said the DFA will request the Panamanian government to investigate and prosecute Bairnals.
The victim Pamela attended the Senate hearing but refused to talk to reporters.
Senator Loren Legarda, Senate committee chair on foreign relations, instructed the DOJ and DFA to submit on Monday a draft of guidelines and procedures to avoid the abuse of diplomatic immunity.
The US State Department renewed its warning about the risks of travel to the Philippines, in particular to the Sulu archipelago, certain regions and cities of Mindanao and the southern Sulu Sea area. In an update on Wednesday of a travel warning it issued Nov. 20, 2014, the State Department said US citizens should continue to defer non-essential travel to the Sulu archipelago due to the high threat of kidnapping of international travelers and violence linked to insurgency and terrorism there. …