By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — The women’s rights advocacy group Gabriela is outraged over the decision of the Aquino government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), to release a previously detained Panamanian who is being accused of raping a Filipina. The group said the DFA essentially allowed the foreigner to escape prosecution under Philippine law.
Gabriela deputy secretary general Joms Salvador said the DFA continues to fail in its duty to defend Philippine nationals and uphold Philippine laws against criminals.
“The DFA took action on the demands of the Panamanian Embassy to protect accused rapist Erick Barnals Shcks from prosecution,” she said.
Gabriela has put its support behind the rape victim Pamela (not her real name), and accused the Aquino administration of “kowtowing to the whims and dictates of every foreign government and their thugs who violate women and children in the Philippines and all over the world.”
Based on reports, the alleged rapist Schks was freed from his detention cell in Camp Crame through a release order issued by Makati RTC judge Honorio Guanlao Jr. at 5:00 p.m. on April 30. The court order came after the DFA suddenly produced a certification that Shcks had diplomatic immunity, reversing its earlier declaration that Shcks was not included in the list of diplomats covered by immunity.
The 19-year-old Filipina filed a rape suit against Shcks before the Makati RTC on April 24. Panamanian ambassador Roberto Carlos Moreno was quick to negotiate for Shcks’ release on the grounds of diplomatic immunity but failed to do so when the DFA denied Schks’ status. The DFA, however, left orders for the Philippine National Police Central Investigative and Detective Group (PNP-CIDG) to give special treatment for Shcks by detaining him in an air-conditioned holding room inside the CIDG compound, which is reserved for women and children victims of violence.
Salvador insisted that the Aquino administration and the DFA should be roundly criticized and sanctions must be made against the officials who aided in Schk’s release from detention. She said the Aquino government condones violations against the rights of Filipino women.
“Aquino slavishly agrees with every economic and military whim of the United States, China and other regional and global superpowers. Now even smaller players like Panama can see fit to throw their weight around and disregard our laws, because they know that Aquino will serve foreigners first and foremost and will ditch our national interests just like that,” Salvador said.
Salvador said the rape victim Pamela sought the help of Gabriela when she realized that the Philippine government was already taking the side of the Panamanian embassy in making a belated declaration that Shcks, who claimed he was a technical specialist for the Panama Maritime Authority, has diplomatic immunity, when on the day of his arrest, the DFA declared that he was not covered by immunity from suit.
Pamela complained to GABRIELA that she was deceived into accompanying the accused who introduced himself as an ordinary seafarer, and then was shocked to see the Panamanian ambassador himself appearing at the CIDG filing papers in attempts to release him.
“The DFA and the president himself must be held accountable for this serious offense against Pamela and other Filipinas who are being sacrificed in the name of subservience to foreign interest,” Salvador said.