Sotto hits release of Panamanian rape suspect

Posted at 05/04/12 1:22 AM

MANILA, Philippines - A senator wants the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) investigated and certain officials sacked for letting a Panamanian national accused of raping a Filipina go scot-free because of diplomatic immunity.

An angry Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said he will file a resolution asking the DFA officials who issued a certification that rape suspect Erick Shcks is covered by immunity to resign, or for President Aquino to fire them.

He will also call on the Senate foreign relations committee to investigate the matter.

DFA immunity certification

The certification by the DFA Privileges and Immunity Division was released on April 27, two days after the agency issued a first certification saying that Shcks has no immunity.

"Ang rape, heinous crime. Ang ibig bang sabihin, kapag diplomat ka at may diplomatic immunity ka, kahit sinong Filipina puwede mong rape-in?" Sotto told reporters in a briefing on Thursday.

Sotto argued that even on the basis of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Shcks is not covered by diplomatic immunity because the crime was committed outside his official functions.

On the other hand, only heads of diplomatic missions are covered by absolute immunity from criminal, civil, and administrative suits.

Schcks is a technical agent of the Panama Maritime Authority.

Is rape an official function?

“Kasama ba sa official function niya ang rape?” Sotto said.

According to reports, the suspect invited the 19-year-old victim to his place on April 23 after befriending her days earlier. He allegedly made her sniff marijuana before raping her.

Schks, however, was released from police custody after the DFA issued the certification.

Aside from filing the resolution and calling for an investigation, Sotto plans to call on the Commission on Appointments to hold the confirmation of all DFA appointees until the agency holds its officials who issued the certification accountable.

Too much hospitality?

"Sumosobra ang hospitality natin. Payag tayong rape-in ang kababayan natin? Aba, hindi na hospitality 'yon. Katangahan na 'yon," he said.

In another incident, the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the Philippines was accused of sexually harassing two Filipinas. Sotto noted that because the ambassador is a top diplomat, he is covered by absolute immunity.

He thus wants the government to revisit the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations on granting immunity to diplomats. He believes international conventions must not be superior to local laws.

"Kung hindi, aabusuhin na lang tayo nang aabusuhin," Sotto said.