via Gabriela Women’s Party – 15th Congress, posted on Facebook, 9 May 2012.
Mr. Speaker and dear colleagues, I rise on a question of personal and collective privilege to denounce several cases of rape committed by an elected public official and by a foreign diplomat which if not addressed by this legislature might lead to the building up of a climate of impunity for the crime of rape in this country.
Yesterday, May 7, this representation, together with my colleague Rep. Emmi A. De Jesus of Gabriela Women’s Party, went to the Department of Justice to give moral support and assistance to a pregnant young woman who filed rape charges against Romeo R. Borja, Jr., the Vice Mayor of Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija. “Jasmin”, was a minor when the series of rape happened. She alleges in her complaint that Vice Mayor Borja had raped her six times from June to September 2011.
Jasmin is not the only victim of Vice Mayor Borja, a public official who has sworn to do good to his constituents. A prior victim, Mina, had come forward to denounce him for rape allegedly committed in 2009 while she was in his employ as a domestic servant. She has since given and is now waiting for the resolution of the complaint of Rape and Qualified Sedcution in Cabanatuan City. Mina joined Jasmin yesterday to support her.
Besides these two cases, our GWP chapter in Pantabangan received initial reports that there may be other victims that have remained in the shadows for fear of their lives.
Clearly, we have here a case of a public official who uses his power and influence so he can have his liberties with women and terrorize them into suffering in silence. GWP condemns these acts in the strongest words possible. Rape is a heinous crime. From experience, Gabriela is aware that rapists can and will offer bribes, threaten families, destroy reputation and buy out judges.For us in GWP, there is no other way but to make perpetrators accountable for his crimes lest – if our legal system fails to do so – this one case can lead to the greater evil of our public officials being possessed with the ideology of rape, or of being possessed with the thought that they can rape with impunity in this country.
Another case of an official, who abuses his power, is the case of the rape victim Pamela whose perpetrator is now scot free because of a diplomatic immunity. It was in April 23 of this year when Pamela, a 19-year old Filipina, was invited by a Panamanian national Eric Schicks to his condominium unit to attend a party. Prior to this, Pamela had refused invitations for dates from the latter who had introduced himself as a seafarer. But seeing that the invitation was for a public event, Pamela agreed.
Upon arriving at the condominium, Pamela realized that there was no party and that she appeared to be Schicks’ only guest. After a few drinks Pamela felt dizzy. She lost consciousness. She later found herself naked realizing Schicks was already on top of her. She refused and tried to fight back but she felt weak and helpless.
Following the incident, Pamela filed a complaint against Schicks who was consequently detained at the CIDG, Camp Crame. On April 30, Schicks was set free following a certification issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs which showed that the accused was a technical staff for maritime affairs at the Panama embassy and was thus entitled to diplomatic immunity.
Pamela who felt helpless in the face of such diplomatic processes sought assistance from Gabriela. A dialogue with the Department of Foreign Affairs was arranged last May 3. The dialogue proved frustrating as Undersecretary Seguis claimed the DFA was practically helpless in making Schicks accountable for the crime he committed. Unless the Panamanian government waives the diplomatic immunity accorded to Schicks, he remains practically untouchable.The DFA cited the Vienna Convention, various international protocols covering diplomatic relations and Philippine foreign relations policies. The DFA gives no time frame or alternative. Schicks, who under Philippine laws, is accused to have committed a heinous crime, cannot even be prevented from leaving the country.
Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, this case practically tells us that any government can exempt a citizen from trial and accountability just by according diplomatic immunity to any foreign national who commits a crime in the Philippines. The rape case lodged against Panamanian Eric Schicks will set a dangerous precedent that will expose Filipino women to further violence and abuse.
No different from the Subic Rape case that eventually led to the release of Lance Cpl Daniel Smith despite having been convicted of the crime of rape, we are seeing yet again, another Filipina about to be barred from the justice she so deserves all in the name of foreign policy and diplomatic relations.Mr. Speaker, dear colleagues, we in Gabriela Women’s Party believe there is an urgent need to look into and seek clarification on the Philippine government’s foreign relations policy in the midst of such abuses committed against women in the Philippines.
We cannot have too much hospitality and too much diplomacy all at the expense of Filipino women, all at the expense of justice.