The Department of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday vowed to prosecute to the “fullest extent of the law” the Philippine ambassador to Brazil for the alleged maltreatment of a Filipino household helper to serve as an example that the DFA will not tolerate misbehavior among its people.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the DFA will be firm in meting out the appropriate sanctions and administrative or criminal charges against Ambassador Marichu Mauro if the investigation would show that he should be held liable for maltreating her household helper.
“The DFA’s response on this matter will be severe to the fullest extent of the law especially when it involves a high-ranking DFA official setting an example to ensure that matters like these will never be tolerated,” Locsin said, in his Twitter post.
Locsin added that the DFA would be firm in handing appropriate sanctions and charges against the ambassador “if the results of the agency’s investigation would “demand as such.”
“Under my leadership, the DFA will not tolerate in any way whatsoever actions by any of its ranking officers or staff that go against our primary mandate, which is the promotion and protection of the welfare of all overseas Filipinos,” he added.
The maltreatment was first reported by Brazilian news channel GloboNews on Sunday, which released CCTV videos showing Mauro berating and laying her hands on her helper multiple times, pulling her ear and slapping her, among others, inside the diplomatic residence in Brazil.
Mauro, the country’s envoy to Brazil since 2018, was immediately recalled after the report on the incident.
“The recall of Philippine Ambassador to Brazil March Mauro will enable the DFA to conduct an expedient and thorough investigation into the incidents of physical abuse perpetrated by her against her household staff as shown in the CCTV footage recently aired by a Brazilian news outfit,” the DFA chief said.
However, Locsin said that the DFA will still get a mandate from the Office of the President before proceeding with its investigation.
“But first the DFA will get authority from the Office of the President to proceed as a young lawyer reminded us all or it will be an exercise in futility,” he said.
Section 51 of Republic Act No. 7157 or the Philippine Foreign Service Act of 1991 states that “the chiefs of mission who are commissioned by the President as ambassadors extraordinary and plenipotentiary shall not be investigated by the Board or separated from the Service unless there is an express written directive from the President.”
Locsin also said that he would hire the “best guy” to investigate the circumstances surrounding the maltreatment, saying that the person is “the very best in the business” to do the probe.
He also described the person as “relentless.”
He also reiterated that President Rodrigo Duterte has been clear since the beginning of his term about protecting the rights of every overseas Filipino worker.
“All our diplomats are held to an even higher standard by virtue of their profession’s mandate, not least to be the face of our compassionate country and sworn commitment to public service.”
At least two senators have said they were “outraged” upon seeing videos of the ambassador assaulting her Filipina helper, as they urged the DFA to conduct a “thorough investigation” on the matter.
If prima facie evidence is established by the fact-finding team, the case will be heard by a hearing panel constituted by the Board of Foreign Service Administration.
According to Locsin, the incident has prompted the DFA to review the policy of allowing Filipino diplomats to take with them Filipino househelpers from the Philippines instead of hiring them locally in their foreign posts.
“Let me reiterate the Department of Foreign Affairs is giving this matter its utmost attention, true to its core mission of protecting the rights and promoting the welfare of overseas Filipino workers,” the country’s top diplomat warned.
“All our diplomats are held to an even higher standard by virtue of their profession’s mandate, not least to be the face of our compassionate country, and sworn commitment to public service,” Locsin said.
As this developed, the Blas F. Ople Policy Center has offered to provide legal and livelihood assistance to the abused household helper of Ambassador Mauro.
The Ople Policy Center, a non-profit organization that assists overseas Filipino workers who are victims of exploitation and human trafficking, said the aggrieved household helper can contact mobile number 09618114288 and look for case handler Jenny Sespene or she can message Susan Ople via Facebook: www.facebook.com/susan.ople.
“We just want her to know that our organization is willing to help her get through this, legally and even financially, because we know how difficult it is to be caught in a situation wherein you need to defend yourself against a person of authority, which in this case is no less than a Philippine ambassador,” said Ople, president of the policy center.
Ople, who previously served as labor undersecretary, added that it would always be the personal decision of the abused worker whether to pursue a case, both criminally and administratively, against her employer.
The Ople Center previously came to the aid of a domestic worker in Kuwait who suffered sexual harassment at the hands of an incumbent ambassador.
“Under the previous administration, that administrative case dragged on for more than two years. We hope and pray that this does not happen under the Duterte Administration considering how vocal Foreign Affairs Secretary Locsin is when it comes to migrant workers’ rights,” Ople said.
Ople said that it would be difficult for Ambassador Mauro to refute what was clearly featured in a news report of a Brazilian network.
“The question remains: had that video not come out in the news, how much longer would the domestic worker have suffered? And in the middle of a global pandemic where the entire department has been working tirelessly and at great risk to their lives to repatriate thousands of OFWs, how could the ambassador even think of harming her own staff?” she said.
Ople, who was recently appointed to the UN Trust Fund to Help Victims of Human Trafficking as one of the Board of Trustees member, said that the ambassador should remember that she represents the Philippine flag, and that flag is well known throughout the world for being the voice of foreign domestic workers.