DFA says ‘severe’ response awaits PH envoy over aide's abuse; President’s OK on probe sought

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 28 2020 04:55 PM

MANILA — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Wednesday gave the assurance that the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) response to the case involving the Philippine envoy to Brazil's maltreatment of her Filipino household service staff “will be severe.”

In a statement, Locsin said the DFA would be firm in handing appropriate sanctions and charges against Ambassador Marichu Mauro if the results of the agency’s investigation would “demand as such.”

“The [agency’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. 

“The DFA will be firm in meting out the appropriate sanctions and administrative or criminal charges on Ambassador Mauro if the results of the DFA's investigation will demand as such,” he added.

But the Foreign Affairs chief said the agency would first get authority from the Office of the President to proceed with its investigation, adding that the recall of Mauro enabled the DFA to “conduct an expedient and thorough investigation into the incidents of physical abuse perpetrated by her against her household staff.”

The incidents of abuse were caught on video. 

“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 earlier revealed 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.” 

“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 said.

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. 

Brazilian news channel GloboNews on Sunday 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.

Locsin said the DFA is now reviewing the policy of allowing Filipino diplomats to bring Filipino domestic helpers from the country rather than hiring locally in their foreign posts.

“Let me reiterate the DFA is giving this matter its utmost attention, true to its core mission of protecting the rights and promoting the welfare of overseas Filipino workers,” he said.

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“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, urging the DFA to conduct a "thorough investigation" on the matter.