Sotto wants DFA to explain release of Panamanian national accused of rape

May 3, 2012 10:29 pm 

MANILA, May 3 (PN) – Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III said on Thursday that he will file a Senate resolution asking the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to explain two conflicting certifications that led to the release of a Panamanian national who was accused of raping a 19-year-old Filipino woman.

”I will file a resolution either within the day or tomorrow (Friday). It is important that we have to tackle this issue immediately,” Sotto, who called a press conference on Thursday afternoon upon learning of the dismissal of the case, said.

Sotto believed that Erick Schcks Bairnals, a technical officer of the Panama Maritime Authority which is under the Panamanian embassy, is not covered by the diplomatic immunity “because he committed a heinous crime.”

”Under Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a diplomatic agent shall enjoy immunity from its civil and administrative jurisdiction except outside his official functions,” Sotto explained.

Reports said that on April 23, Bairnals invited a 19-year-old girl over to his place after befriending her a few days earlier. The complainant told investigators that the suspect made her sniff marijuana, rendering her almost unconscious and then raped her.

”Was staying inside a bar an official function? Was forcing a 19-year-old girl to take illegal drug his official function? The DFA officials should answer these questions,” the senator said.

Two days after the incident, the DFA director for security Felix de Leon Jr. issued a certification to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) saying Bairnals has no diplomatic immunity, but on April 27, the DFA privileges and immunity division issued another certification stating that the Panamanian national is covered by diplomatic immunity.

”Is the second certification allowing the release of the Panamanian national merely an afterthought? Who among the DFA officials is authorized to officially issue certifications? Which of the two certifications should be given credence?,” Sotto inquired.

Sotto said he will deliver a privilege speech at the resumption of the Senate plenary session on Monday if the DFA could not provide concrete answers on why Bairnals has been given an immunity that led also to the dismissal of the case filed against him in court.

”Rape is a heinous crime. Does it mean that if you’re a diplomat and has diplomatic immunity, you can rape a Filipina? It’s too much that we are allowing our sovereignty to be abused,” the visibly irked lawmaker said.

The victim’s lawyers, DJ Jimenez and Fernan Castro who also attended the press conference, said they requested the Department of Justice (DOJ) to issue a watch list order (WLO) against Bairnals. They said they will also file a motion of reconsideration from the court.

Sotto said the DFA should have exhausted all possible remedies before issuing a certification allowing the release of the Panamanian national.

The senator said for Bairnals to be prosecuted in the Philippines, the DFA should request that the Panama government waive the immunity of Bairnals or declare him persona non grata and then seek for his extradition once the diplomat has left the country.

”The DFA should now act on this. They should protect our countrymen,” Sotto said. (PNA) scs/jfm

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