Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza today urged the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs to waive former UN envoy Lauro Baja’s diplomatic immunity to give due course to the trafficking, forced labor and slavery cases filed by domestic worker Marichu Baoanan in the US courts.
Baja, with his wife Norma and daughter Maria Elizabeth, filed a motion in the Southern District Court of New York to dismiss Baoanan’s complaint, invoking diplomatic immunity against criminal, civil and administrative cases under the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the treaties under the United Nations Charter.
“In the interest of truth and out of delicadeza, the DFA should waive the Bajas’ immunities to ferret out the facts and arguments on the case. Ambassadors and foreign service officers accused or charged of trafficking and enslaving Filipina domestic workers should not hide behind the cloak of blanket and indiscriminate immunity,” said Maza.
Maza cited Article 31 of the Vienna Convention, which provides immunity for diplomatic agents from the receiving State’s criminal jurisdiction except in cases related to actions regarding any professional or commercial activity exercised by the diplomatic agent outside his official functions, among the three provisions on exemptions.
“Even under the international treaty, Baoanan’s allegations of trafficking and slavery against the Bajas fall under a commercial activity that exploits the poor and vulnerable for personal profit or gain,” Maza said.
The Gabriela solon also noted a Philippine Supreme Court decision in 2000 which cautioned and ruled against the DFA when it granted full diplomatic immunity to an employee of the Asian Development Bank, an act which the Court said was a violation of the rights to due process both of the accused and the prosecution.#