IT is assumed that diplomats behave like perfect gentlemen and gentlewomen, using wit and humor to make their guests feel at home, and comporting themselves with grace and dignity at all times.
Among peers, that is what most diplomats would appear to be. A true test of a diplomat is when the doors are closed and he has a domestic worker in front of him. All the academic credentials, framed diplomas on the wall, and years of service in government will pale in comparison to that momentary test of character: How does a seasoned diplomat deal with a simple, humble domestic worker?
The House of Representatives is looking into this matter because of formal complaints filed against some Filipino diplomats in the Middle East for their alleged involvement in human trafficking of household service workers. A Kuwait Anti-Trafficking Task Force headed by State Prosecutor Darlene Pajarito was formed by the Department of Justice primarily to look into these complaints.
According to one of the victims, an embassy official in Kuwait advised her to accept a financial settlement from her female employer even if the latter poured a liquid disinfectant and inserted chili in her private organ. That same official employed a different domestic worker from the embassy shelter to clean his apartment, for wages much less than that prescribed by the Philippine government. The Filipino maid later learned that her previous employer — the one she ran away from — had already paid her outstanding dues to the embassy. Her boss, the embassy official, gave her the money after six months but with a 30 percent deduction for lawyer’s “fees.” Why deduct 30 percent from a maltreated domestic worker’s wages for a Kuwaiti lawyer whose services, under our laws, ought to have been paid by the Philippine government?
The labor department has its own share of cases filed by Filipino domestic workers who felt that their rights were violated by overseas labor personnel tasked with protecting them. In Saudi Arabia, the driver of the labor attaché (already recalled to Manila) allegedly attempted to rape one of the wards of the shelter. A coverup ensued with the labor attaché failing to report the incident immediately to Philippine Ambassador Ezzedin Tago. The labor attaché allegedly sent word to the victim of an attempted rape through his staff to simply settle the case with his driver in exchange for a certain amount.
A Philippine ambassador previously assigned to Kuwait is now facing sexual harassment charges based on a complaint filed by his very own domestic worker, whom he hired from the embassy shelter. That sexual harassment case filed with the Department of Foreign Affairs has been dragging on for more than a year to the great disadvantage of the complainant who does not have the means and clout that the ambassador has.
When diplomats behave in such a manner then they deserve to be exposed and sanctioned for it by their peers. When diplomats betray the very essence of public service, which is to help the most vulnerable sectors of society, then they are not fit to serve anywhere.
Diplomats must always be on their best behavior as representatives of their countries, as dignitaries of the highest order. This is true of any diplomat, wherever he or she is stationed in the world.
A domestic worker must feel safest in the company of diplomats, whose mastery of foreign relations provide a keener grasp of human behavior. That this is not always true is a genuine cause of concern.
There ought to be a better way to address complaints of Filipino overseas workers against the diplomats sent to protect and serve them. Coddling errant diplomats is not the answer; their arrogance and inflated egos should not infect the bigger bureaucracy made up of real gentlemen and gentlewomen.