Honor or Immunity?

Article excerpt

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate demanded yesterday that the rights of a young Filipina allegedly raped by a Panamanian, who was given diplomatic immunity by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), must not be sacrificed just to maintain good Philippine relations with Panama. This was the sentiment of Senate leaders led by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile after Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III delivered a scathing privilege speech decrying the speed with which the DFA had given three conflicting positions on the diplomatic immunity of Erick Schcks Bairnals, the Panamanian, and the fast dismissal by the Makati Regional Trial Court of the rape complaint against Bairnals last April 30. In his privilege speech, Sotto questioned the release of, and the immunity accorded to the Panamian. "This is about the crime of rape. It is not a small matter. Are we so helpless or too kind to foreigners in grievous matters such as these?" Sotto asked. "They say that diplomats enjoy certain privileges and immunities. Ang rape ba ay isang (Is rape a) privilege to enjoy? Ano pa ba ang mga crimes na kasama sa mga privileges and immunities na ito?" he asked further. For his part, Enrile said, "I don't even know Panama has an embassy in Manila. What is the importance of Panama to the Republic of the Philippines? Why do we value our relations to that country to the extent of sacrificing the rights of a humble (19-year-old) Filipina?" Sotto's privilege speech was referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chaired by Sen. Loren Legarda who said that Philippine laws and international agreements on human rights should take precedence over international agreements on diplomatic immunity. Enrile, Sotto, and Legarda are in agreement that Bairnals, a technical officer of the Panama Maritime Authority, does not enjoy immunity. …