Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri proposed on Friday the allocation of an additional budget for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to install closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in all Philippine embassies and diplomatic residences.
Zubiri said this is to prevent the repeat of abuse in embassies abroad, such as the reported maltreatment of a Filipina household worker by a Philippine ambassador in Brazil.
“Sa tingin ko, lagyan ng CCTV lahat ng tahanan, of course except the bathrooms and the bedrooms, lahat ng common places and areas of the embassy para sa ganoon ay makita natin itong pangyayari (I think we should put CCTVs in all diplomatic residences, of course except the bathrooms and the bedrooms, all common places and areas of the embassies so that we can see what actually happens there),” the Senate leader said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
“Online naman ang mga CCTV ngayon (CCTVs are connected online, anyway), it’s all in the cloud. If they make a mistake they can no longer erase it,” he added.
In an interview with Senate reporters later, Zubiri said he is mulling suggesting to his colleagues an allocation of P300 million to P500 million to initiate such a CCTV program in the DFA.
He said the CCTVs could also aid in securing the embassies and likewise be a deterrent to other unscrupulous and criminal activities. He cited reports of alleged request for “special favors” from overseas Filipino workers in exchange of visas.
“Para makita po ang pagtrabaho nila, kung lumabag man sila sa batas, mahuhuli po iyan (So that we can monitor how they work, and if they violate laws, we can catch them). This will be a great deterrent,” he said.
Zubiri thanked the Philippine embassy personnel who reported and shared the CCTV footages of the maltreatment to Brazilian media.
“Kung walang CCTV footage, it will be a he-said-she-said, magkakaroon talaga ng ayusan, ng settlement kasi it’s hard to prove lalo na sa walang kapangyarihan…Napakahirap kalabanin ng ganitong klaseng tao. These CCTV footages really made it easier for us to enforce the law and punish those who are guilty,” he said.
The DFA immediately recalled Philippine Ambassador to Brazil Marichu Mauro for her alleged abuse of a household helper inside her diplomatic residence. The maltreatment was caught on video in at least four instances, and made headlines in Brazil.
On Thursday, President Duterte gave the go-signal to investigate Mauro.
Zubiri said Mauro’s actions “should not go unpunished”, saying the envoy violated the Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees; Article 266 of the Revised Penal Code for causing physical injuries and maltreatment; and the RA No. 10361 or the Kasambahay Act which penalizes abuse and harassment on domestic workers.
He also vowed to block the Mauro’s confirmation in the Commission on Appointments should she be appointed anew as a Philippine ambassador.
The Filipina household worker, a resident of South Cotabato, arrived in the country last October 26, Zubiri said. He said he also spoke to her child and committed assistance to her family.