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He said, she said: Who’s telling the truth on the Panamanian envoy rape issue?

In the morning of April 24, a 19-year-old Filipina filed a complaint before the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) accusing Panamanian national Erick Bairnals Shcks, a 35-year-old technical officer of the Panama Maritime Authority, of raping her during a ‘date’ in Makati City the night before.

According to reports, Pamela (not her real name) claimed she met Shcks, a holder of a diplomatic passport, at a book fair in Makati City a few days earlier. The two then went out on a ‘date’ on the evening of April 23 and ended up at Shcks’ condo unit for a night cap.

Pamela said Shcks drugged her with a marijuana-like substance, rendering her almost unconscious, and then raped her.

Shcks was subsequently apprehended by the authorities and then detained in CIDG on April 24 but was released on April 30 following the declaration of his immunity from arrest and detention as cited in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Shcks left the country last May 11 and was declared persona non grata by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) upon submission of the resolution from the Panama Government not to waive his immunity and to leave the Philippines within 24 hours.

The Panamanian rape suspect’s departure drew the ire of Senators Loren Legarda and Vicente Sotto III, who believed that Shcks’s should not have been allowed to go scot-free. The DOJ said that Shcks may be tried for the alleged rape once the Panamanian government waives his diplomatic immunity.

Her Word Against His

As with all other rape cases, there are always two sides to a story.

In the statement she filed to CIDG, Pamela claimed she was only 19 years old.  Shcks, who released a press statement a week after he left the country, disputed this. He said Pamela told him she was 21 years old and single.

In her version of the incident, Pamela said she and Shcks first met at a book fair. And after a few days, they agreed to go out on a date on April 23rd. She said they had dinner and some drinks somewhere in Makati Avenue. After that, Shcks supposedly coerced her to go with him to his apartment in Salcedo Village.

Pamela added that Shcks forcibly kissed her while they were on the elevator up to his unit. “I was then fearful when he suddenly embraced me facing each other. While I tried to set myself free, I was unable to do so, given how tightly he held me,” she stated in the complaint she filed before the Women and Children Protection Division of CIDG.

Once inside the Panamanian’s apartment, Pamela claimed that she saw some papers on his bed that had green tobacco.  Pamela said that she inquired what it was, and Shcks allegedly answered that it was marijuana. She added that Shcks forced her to sniff the drug which consequently rendered her unconscious. Thereafter, the rape happened.

Shcks, of course, has his own tale to tell.

In a written statement, he vehemently denied raping the Filipina. He recounted that it was Pamela who invited him for dinner the night the alleged rape incident occurred. According to the envoy, they went to a bar in Makati Avenue to grab a few drinks and there at the bar, Pamela kissed and hugged him in front of the members of the staff, and that one of the bar crew even took a picture of them together.

Shcks added that he then invited Pamela to go to his apartment past 10 p.m. and she said yes. “I never forced or coerced her to come with me to my place and spend the night with me to have sex,” he said.

Shcks further said that, “In the room, we continued talking and listening to music as the night went on, we began to engage in sexual intercourse which she shared with me willingly and with passion.”

The Panamanian also mentioned that after having sex and some conversation over a medical condition Pamela had, she told him that she needed to leave. He added that he even asked her to spend the night with him and just go home in the morning, but Pamela said her grandmother was looking for her. Shcks also stated that after supposedly calling her grandmother using his phone, Pamela immediately said goodbye to him then left.

The Panamanian backed his claims with a copy of CCTV footage and image grabs of him and Pamela inside the Le Triomphe building where he resides.

The video and photos showed him and Pamela walking into the lobby of the building and riding in the elevator on their way up to his unit. In one of the photos, he and the alleged victim could be seen kissing. The other photos showed the woman after the alleged rape, going down in the elevator on her way to the lobby where she waited for several minutes as she asked the concierge to call a cab for her.

Shcks also said that the security camera showed that there were no signs of her being damaged physically as a rape victim should be. “She was calm. She was not drugged or did not seem to have come from an unconscious state as she claimed to have been,” Shcks added.

Was it really a Date Rape?

Based on statistics culled by the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC), a nonprofit organization in the United States that advocates victims’ rights, 77 percent of rapes are committed by “non-strangers” or people whom the victims know.

In this case, it was clear that Pamela knows Shcks. They apparently had met a few times prior to the alleged rate incident.

The NCVC website defines Date Rape as a sexual assault by an individual with whom the victim has a “dating” relationship and the sexual assault occurs in the context of this relationship. Many of these rapes are violent, and all are coercive in nature.

Pamela claims she was ‘coerced and drugged by Shcks’. In the words of her lawyer, Atty. DJ Jimenez, his client is a clear victim of date rape.

Jimenez said his client was attracted to Shcks because “he appeared to be intellectually engaging.” But despite voluntarily going with him on a date, it “is not license to have sex.”

“She was deceived to go to his condominium and was prevented from going out. This is a case of date rape… she didn’t allow him to have sex with her,” Pamela’s legal counsel added.

Who’s Telling the Truth?

It is easy to take sides in this issue. Senators Tito Sotto and Loren Legarda, and Gabriela were up in arms defending Pamela. The Senate has conducted a probe on Shcks’ departure. They even called for a review of the technicalities of the 1961 pact that cover Shcks’ case.

It is also understandable why most of us Filipinos felt slighted when Shcks was sent back to Panama scot-free by virtue of his diplomatic immunity as stipulated under the decades-old Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Here, we see an expatriate accused of sexually molesting a 19-year-old Filipina who bravely came forward to tell the world her sad plight. As a woman, I feel bad every time I come across issues of violence against women, particularly rape cases. But while I my heart goes out to rape victims, I am quite not convinced that Pamela is one.

Sure, it’s true that my stand was somehow tainted by what I saw on the CCTV footage. And yes, I also acknowledge that the kissing and the apparent intimacy seen on the video between Pamela and Shcks could not disprove rape.

For I agree that even when a woman is caught in the heat of passion, when she suddenly changed her mind and refused to go on, she could not be forced to carry on with the act—otherwise, it would qualify as rape.

But let me put it this way. If Pamela was indeed raped, she could have gone straight to the police station to report the crime the moment she was set free by Shcks. But what did we see in the video? A picture of a lady who calmly walked out of a man’s pad, went straight to the concierge and patiently waited for a cab to take her home.

If she was daunted as she claimed to be, I’m sorry, but she’s one fine actress for hiding her fright.

Now, why did Shcks leave in haste when he could have stayed and defended himself staunchly to prove his innocence?

He was sent home. And perhaps, he really wanted an easy way out; he didn’t want to be held accountable for something he maintains he didn’t do.

We could go on and on dissecting this case, dishing out our respective opinions, but really now, how do we know who’s telling the truth?

Lessons Learned

One, we really need to go over that 1961 pact. What if something akin to this happens in the future? Are we still going to let envoys accused of crimes, any crime, go unscathed just because they’re immune to charges?

Two, we must educate our young women that dating, while supposed to be fun and could lead to something meaningful, could also go awry.

While we don’t know for sure if rape indeed transpired in the case above, let me say this. Date rape happens. It’s hideous but it’s real. It can happen to anyone. So ladies, please be wary of going out with men you hardly know.

For chrissake, if you’re hanging out with a stranger, you might as well keep these in mind:

  • Go out in a group or on a double date;
  • Pay your own way so the guy doesn’t get the wrong idea about you ‘owing’ him anything (but remember – even if he does pay, you NEVER owe him sex);
  • Make sure you know how you can get home;
  • Take a mobile phone with you;
  • Be careful about inviting him into your house or going to his (most date rapes happen in the home)

As women, it pays to keep our guards up all the time.

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