Sunday, July 27, 2008

Philippine Gov’t Hit for ‘Callous Neglect’ of OFW Rape Victim in Japan

From the Inquirer:

By Abigail Kwok

July 24th, 2008

The government has “callously neglected” a Filipina who was allegedly raped by a US soldier in Okinawa, Japan “at a time when she needed help the most,” the Philippine mission that went there said Thursday.

Gabriela Representative Liza Maza, a member of the contingent, said on Thursday that Honorary Consul Ako Alarcon of the Philippine Consulate in Okinawa failed to provide legal counsel for “Hazel” during the investigation to determine if there was probable cause for the case.

She also blamed the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for not providing Hazel with enough assistance.

Maza said that Hazel was a “victim of human trafficking and that the Philippine government had been sorely remiss in providing her adequate and proper assistance.”

“Hazel was on her own during the whole process of investigation given that she has no knowledge of the legal system in Japan, does not speak nor understand the local language, and that she hardly knows anyone because she just arrived in Japan three days before the rape happened,” said Maza.

The team, composed of representatives from the Gabriela Women's Party and Migrante, also obtained a copy of medico-legal records that supposedly proved that Hazel was raped.

“We saw the medical records of Hazel. Hazel vividly accounted to us what transpired the night she was raped. And coming from the perspective of a women's organization which has handled many cases of violence against women, we are fully convinced that Hazel was indeed raped,” said Lana Linaban, Gabriela deputy secretary general.

Last July 15, the mission team, and Melly, Hazel's mother, left for Okinawa to investigate the incident.

Upon arrival, the team consulted with Father Rommel Cruz, legal guardian of Hazel, and met with Okinawa officials.

Maza urged both the Philippine and Japanese governments to conduct their own investigations on the incident saying “Wherever the US soldiers commit crime, sovereign countries should have the sovereign right to prosecute.”

She said that the Philippine Consulate in Okinawa should focus on protecting Filipinas who were vulnerable for human trafficking.

“Hazel is one of the many Filipina victims of human trafficking for the rest and recreation needs of US soldiers...this scenario makes women, especially Filipinas working as entertainers, in Okinawa vulnerable to abuse,” Maza said.

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