President Rodrigo Duterte has given the go-ahead to investigate Philippine Ambassador to Brazil Marichu Mauro for alleged maltreating a household helper.
In a statement, Senator Christopher Go said the president approved the probe in line with the recommendation of Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
“In light of the gravity of the allegations against the Ambassador, the President has given the green light to proceed with the investigation of the official concerned, as recommended by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs,” Go said in a statement.
Brazilian news outlet Globo News earlier released a CCTV video footage showing Mauro – who has been in the foreign service since 1995 and the Philippine ambassador to Brazil since 2016 – hitting the head and pinching the ear of her Filipina household helper, seen cowering in fear.
Locsin said Mauro had been recalled to explain the alleged maltreatment of her 51-year-old helper which came into light due to videos obtained in her residence in Brazil. She is expected to be in the Philippines by November.
“The President has always been firm -- the protection and promotion of the rights, welfare and well-being of Filipinos overseas is a paramount responsibility of our Government,” Go said.
The former aide of the President said the probe would be carried out consistent with the relevant provisions of the law, particularly the Foreign Service Act of 1991.
According to Section 51 of the Act, 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.
Being Senator and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Labor and Employment Committee, Go reminded the job of an ambassador was to protect the welfare of all Filipinos.
“As the President said, regardless of social status, we Filipinos are all equal. You are all equal in e eyes of the President and in the yes of the law. It is important to ferret out the truth and punish the ambassador if allegations were proven true,” said Go.
He stressed the ambassador had no right to maltreat her helper,” he added.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri had called for a thorough probe on Mauro.
“While watching the video, I was horrified to see the brazenness of our ambassador to Brazil in physically maltreating the embassy service staff. I cannot imagine how people in her position could enact such violence to the very people they are sworn to protect,” said Zubiri.
“How can we demand foreign employers of our OFWs, especially domestic helpers, to respect their rights and not maltreat them, when the very people who are supposed to protect and defend them abroad are the ones abusing them?” he asked.
“This is such a terrible incident and a black eye on our image abroad,” Zubiri stressed..
Sen. Joel Villanueva said the alleged abuse and maltreatment that a Filipino domestic worker suffered was deplorable and conduct unbecoming a diplomatic official who should be watching out for the welfare of their countrymen in a foreign land instead of inflicting harm.
Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, also asked the DFA to begin Mauro’s probe swiftly.
“Our embassies should be taking care of the welfare of our people overseas. How can they trust our embassies if our ambassador is involved in perpetuating the abuse? We strongly condemn this incident, and we ask the DFA leadership to investigate our ambassador to Brazil.”
“There are only about 1,200 Filipinos in Brazil, such a small group, probably closely knit. Let us make sure this incident cannot in anyway encourage maltreatment and any feeling of insecurity among Filipinos in Brazil,” he continued.
He said the incident should also serve notice to the diplomatic service that “as representatives of our country to a foreign land, one is expected to protect the well-being of our people starting with the ones at their own backyards,” Villanueva pointed out.
The lawmaker also urged the DFA to examine existing grievance mechanisms in our posts to ensure that Filipinos have immediate recourse to the capital (DFA Manila) when incidents such as this happen to prevent its recurrence and escalation.
“This incident must give focus on what kind of grievance procedure our Embassies provide our OFWs. The DFA should recheck if there is an active system that actually works in providing protection to OFWs and any case of abuse and maltreatment does not go unchecked,” he said.
The video footage was shown on the Brazilian news channel GloboNews last Sunday and was picked up by international news organizations.
Captured by a security camera, the footage revealed several instances of the victim being physically assaulted by Mauro. The victim, whose identity has been withheld, has since returned to the Philippines.
Foreign Undersecretary Eduardo Malaya said the DFA had issued a show cause order to Mauro as part of a preliminary investigation.
According to Malaya, the DFA itself initiated the complaint without waiting for a private party to come forward “given the wide publicity on this subject and the existence of video footage.”
The DFA recalled Mauro after a Brazilian media outlet published CCTV footage showing her pulling the helper’s hair and ears, and throwing objects at her.
Locsin, Jr. has vowed that the department’s response to the matter would be severe “to the fullest extent of the law.”
Section 51 of the Foreign Service Act states that: “Chiefs of Mission who are commissioned by the President as ambassadors extraordinary and plenipotentiary shall not be investigated by the Board [of Foreign Service Administration] or separated from the service unless there is an express written directive from the President.