Senator Chiz Escudero said the government should extend all assistance to a young Filipina who has accused Panamanian diplomat Erick Schck of rape, in accordance with the provisions of Republic Act 8505, or the Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act of 1998.
Escudero made the statement in light of the Senate approval of a motion seeking investigation of the Department of Foreign Affairs in connection with the dropping of rape charges filed by the victim against a member of Panama’s diplomatic mission here.
“I don’t consider Schk to be covered by diplomatic immunity. That is clear under the Vienna Convention. But while this is still being debated upon, I urge the victim to proceed to seek for damages by filing a civil case in court to include actual, moral and exemplary damages,” Escudero said.
Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, said this action is allowed and should be done considering that the victim will be filing the case as a private complainant.
“The defense of diplomatic immunity may extend to even civil and administrative cases but there are practices as well where courts deny immunity in a civil case,” Escudero explained.
Escudero cited the case of former International Monetary Fund (IMF) Chief Dominic Strauss-Kahn, who was accused of sexual assault by a hotel maid in May 2011. A New York judge denied his petition for diplomatic immunity from civil suits on grounds that the IMF head was not on official business at the time the alleged assault took place.
“Amidst this controversy, the Panamanian government, as a manifestation of good faith, should opt to prosecute its erring diplomat. This is so because they are claiming exclusive jurisdiction over the said official,” the senator said.
In return, Escudero added, the Philippine government should declare the diplomat persona non grata without explanation.
“I always say this: Our fellow Filipinos working abroad have been at the receiving end of ill treatment from their employers. There is only so much that the government can do to extend assistance and protection for them. Should this also be the case here in our very own land? I don’t think it should ever be,” Escudero said.