MANILA, Philippines - Suspected Panamanian rapist Erick Bairnals Shcks is still in the country, according to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
In a chance interview this morning, De Lima said the Bureau of Immigration (BI) has reported that Shcks has not left the country following his release from police detention after securing a certification from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that he is covered by diplomatic immunity.
"Yes, nandito pa. Walang report na nakaalis," she said.
The justice chief said inter-state courtesy is expected in the case, and that the Philippine government expects the Panamanian embassy to see to it that Shcks does not leave Philippine shores.
"I would assume na nag-uusap yung DFA natin and yung embassy nila (Panama). Inter-state courtesy would demand that they (Panamanian officials) should deal with us in good faith and, therefore, they should not sanction any attempt [by Shcks] to evade our processes here in the Philippines," De Lima said.
Shcks, 33, a technical officer of the Panama Maritime Authority, was released from police custody on Monday upon orders of Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 57 Judge Honorio Guanlao upon receipt of the DFA certification.
The 19-year-old alleged victim claimed that the rape occurred around 11 p.m. in Shcks' place last April 23. She claimed the Panamanian national made her sniff marijuana, and then raped her.
Operatives of the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) nabbed Shcks at a fast food chain outlet in Makati City after the alleged crime was reported by the Filipina the day after.
De Lima stressed that since the alleged crime is a grave offense, a waiver may be made by the Panamanian government in order for Shcks to squarely face the charges under Philippine laws.
"Let's consider the fact that it's a grave offense... rape is a grave offense, hindi lang physical injuries or theft or other minor offenses... therefore, it's important that we give justice to the victim if and when it is proven that indeed rape was committed," she said.
"I'm sure there is such a doctrine or a principle that diplomatic immunity can always be waived subject to certain agreements, subject to certain conditions... under existing principles of international law," she added.
De Lima has directed the National Prosecution Service (NPS) to look into the circumstances behind the DFA's submission of its first certification to the RTC that stated that while Shcks enjoined "certain diplomatic privileges," immunity from criminal suit was not among them. The second certification, meantime, stated that he has diplomatic immunity.
"Yan nga ang gusto kong tingnan... titingnan namin kung ano yung basehan ng unang statement... na hindi covered," she said.
De Lima is now mulling on ordering a Lookout Bulletin to monitor if Shcks should attempt to leave via airports and seaports, even as she admitted there is no legal basis to hold the Panamanian national in the country.