Duterte OKs probe into envoy caught on video hurting household helper
Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - October 29, 2020 - 1:30pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 3:15 p.m.) — President Rodrigo Duterte has given the Department of Foreign Affairs the go signal to proceed with its probe into the country's recently-recalled envoy to Brazil who has been accused of mistreating her household staff. 

Malacañang confirmed this after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Wednesday said his department was ready to conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the allegations against Ambassador Marichu Mauro but was waiting on permission from the Office of the President. 

"Pinayagan na po ng presidente ang DFA na imbestigahan ang dating Philippine Ambassador to Brazil na si Marichu Mauro (The DFA has been given permission by the president to investigate the former Philippine Ambassador to Brazil Marichu Mauro)," Roque said during a virtual briefing aired from Panglao, Bohol on Thursday. 

He further explained that Locsin needed Duterte's approval before pursuing the probe because Mauro is a presidential appointee. 

When asked to comment on whether Mauro is still the official ambassador to Brazil, DFA Executive Director for Strategic Communications Ivy Banzon-Abalos said that "[Mauro's] status is also part of the investigation." 

"What may be useful to remember is that it is the president after all that is the appointing authority," Banzon-Abalos added. Roque during his virtual briefing twice referred to Mauro as the former ambassador to Brazil. 

Lacson: It was my office that sent footage of Mauro to DFA

Sen. Ping Lacson, who chairs the Commission on Appointments Committee on Foreign Affairs, on Wednesday told reporters that it was his office that submitted a copy of the footage which shows Mauro mistreating her staff to the DFA. 

"The [footage] first came out in Brazil. Members of my staff were able to secure advance copies of the video footage. It was sent to the DFA and that triggered the recall order issued to the ambassador," Lacson said partially in Filipino. 

A report from Brazil's GloboNews identifies the victim as a 51-year-old Filipino who worked in the ambassador's official residence behind the embassy's main building. The CCTV footage recorded from the diplomatic residence was used as evidence in a complaint against Mauro in late August, the report said.

Locsin promises 'severe' response to alleged incidents of abuse

Locsin, who now seems to have the president's blessing, promised a "severe" response into the alleged incidents of abuse perpetrated by Mauro.

"The DFA will be firm in meting out the appropriate sanctions and administrative or criminal charges on Ambassador Mauro if the results of the DFA's investigation will demand as such," he said on Twitter Wednesday.

"Rest assured, the DFA's response on this matter will be severe to the fullest extent of the law especially when it involves a high-ranking DFA official setting an example to ensure that matters like these will never be tolerated," he added. 

According to the country's top diplomat, the foreign affairs department is also reviewing its current policy, which allows Filipino diplomats to take Filipino domestic helpers from the Philippines instead of hiring them locally in their respective posts.

Locsin on Monday announced that Mauro was recalled but is not yet back in the country as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the DFA. Meanwhile, the agency said her former household staff left Brazil on October 21 and is back in the Philippines.

Labor coalition calls for immediate dismissal, hits DOLE's 'silence' on issue

Although Mauro's status as Ambassador to Brazil is currently unclear, labor coalition Pagkakaisa ng Uring Manggagawa (PAGGAWA) on Thursday called for her dismissal from the diplomatic service.

"At a time when millions of Filipino workers here and abroad are suffering from rampant employer abuse and a pandemic-induced economic crisis, the actions of Ms. Mauro become doubly insulting," lawyer Ernesto Arellano, National Confederation of Labor (NCL) president, said. 

"PAGGAWA demands nothing less than the immediate dismissal of Ms. Mauro not just from foreign service, but also from government service," Arellano added. 

Association of Genuine Labor Organizations (AGLO) Vice President Eduardo Laurencio added that the video evidence against the recalled envoy "is clear and should be enough for dismissal."

He added the DFA's investigation must identify all those complicit in the abuse either by condoning "such disgusting behavior or turning a blind eye (to it)." 

"All involved directly or indirectly involved in the abuse must also reprimanded and punished commensurately," Laurencio said. 

While PAGGAWA said it welcomed the DFA's immediate recall of Mauro from Brazil, it questioned the Department of Labor and Employment's silence on the issue. 

"What does the DOLE have to say about all of this? Secretary Bello, and by extension the entire Duterte administration, must demonstrate that they do not tolerate this kind of behavior towards workers, especially from public servants," Leody De Guzman, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino chairman and coalition spokesperson, said. 

"The DOLE must join organized labor's call for the immediate dismissal of Ambassador Mauro," De Guzman added. 

Kilusan ng Manggagawang Makabayan (KMM-Katipunan) President Nathanial Clores, meanwhile, called Mauro's case "an appalling irony" given that the "perpetrator is the same person that's supposed to protect our workers overseas." 

"How can we expect to defend our Bagong Bayanis when our own foreign attaché is no different from an abusive foreign employer?" Clores said. 

Overseas Filipino workers, oft-called the country's modern day heroes, have been hit hard by the pandemic. As of last week, the DFA has logged 223,294 migrant workers whose return home the agency has facilitated after they were forced back by the coronavirus pandemic. 

RELATED: DFA says it repatriated over 7,000 Filipinos last week 

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