Does report point the finger of guilt?
Korea Herald https://www.koreaherald.co.kr/AnalysisFeature/index.asp
July 7, 2007
Does report point the finger of guilt?
A press release just obtained by The Korea Herald has accused the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs of a cover up, and claims to have eyewitness accounts of an incident of shoplifting by the ambassador of the Philippines to Korea , Susan O. Castrence.
The embassy here in Seoul has emphatically denied the accusations, describing them as hearsay.
The report, released by Kasammako, an alliance of Filipino migrant workers and published on the Migrant Workers Television website, has accused the Foreign Ministry in Manila of "covering up" a November 2006 shoplifting incident involving the ambassador.
The embassy has dismissed the charges of shoplifting, and while they admit the ambassador was in fact stopped and her handbag searched, say it was all "a horrible mistake."
Kasammako claims to have received direct information from individuals concerned in the incident, including security officers who were on duty at the Post Exchange store at the U.S. Army Yongsan garrison on Nov. 28, the day of the alleged incident.
"The security officers recount that a security camera clearly shows Ambassador Castrence took the stolen items," the statement reads. It goes on to say that the wife of a senior U.S. officer in charge of the commissary facilities confirmed the details of the incident.
According to Mark Padlan, a journalist and Kasammako executive committee member who is currently in Manila , the manager of the PX, knowing that Castrence is a diplomat, approached her in a bid to resolve the matter discreetly so as to avoid any embarrassment.
"In response," the press release said, "Castrence told the manager she wanted to smoke a cigarette first before they talk. In the act of taking and lighting the cigarette out of her bag, she dropped the stolen items and kicked them back inside the PX shop. She then tried to deny any wrongdoing."
The embassy confirmed that the ambassador is a smoker but said these allegations are now "really going over the top."
Ambassador Castrence told The Korea Herald, "I was actually the one who volunteered to let them search my bag." She added that she had bought an ice cream at the counter near the check-out and wanted to go outside and eat it because it was beginning to melt.
Kasammako said they wanted to challenge the Department of Foreign Affairs to admit the truth about the matter. They have called on the DFA to explain why they are "spending so much time and effort to cover up and coddle Ambassador Castrence, while the rights and conditions of both documented and undocumented migrants have not been addressed since Castrence took up the post."
By Chris Gelken and Robert Neff
Philippine Embassy statement on Page 4 - Ed.
Philippine Embassy statement
Following is a statement from the Philippines Embassy in Seoul on the report "When honesty is the best policy" published by The Korea Herald on 5 July 2007. - Ed.
The Embassy wishes to make the following statement regarding the story that appeared in The Korea Herald on 5 July 2007, entitled "When Honesty Is The Best Policy."
A retraction of the 19 June report was not demanded from the newspaper. Instead, the publication of the Embassy's letter clarifying the issue and emailed on the same day was requested. However, the newspaper did not print it.
While the Ambassador is unable to speak on behalf of the USFK, she was under the impression that the case was already closed after she explained her side, since no one from the USFK has contacted her after November 2006.
The Ambassador maintains that the reporter should have approached her, being the one the reporter alluded to. Consul Juan Dayang was not a privy to the incident and therefore not in a position to discuss the issue. When the reporter called him, Dayang thought the subject was about RP-ROK relations. But when told about the rumored incident, Dayang said he decided not to dignify a rumor.
In the Ambassador's previous statement released on 28 June, she clarified that after making a comparison with the stocks available at the PX, she returned her karaoke chip (not a karaoke machine as reported), to her bag after finding out that no new chips with children's songs were available.
To set the record straight, the Embassy wishes to cite the following points contained in the original article of 19 June which were also explained to the reporters but were not mentioned in the follow-up story:
"USFK military police officers reportedly went to the Philippine Embassy and showed video evidence."
This did not happen.
A staff of the Embassy "was reportedly told that Philippine Embassy officers and dependents with Hartell House memberships were prohibited from renewal because of a shoplifting incident."
Upon verification, the Embassy was informed that the non-renewal of membership was actually a new policy adopted by the Hartell House that extended to all nationalities, not only to the Philippines .
"Sources suggest Romulo's (unofficial) two-day visit was to discuss, among other things, the shoplifting incident and smooth over relations with General Bell ... It had previously been reported ... that Romulo would visit North Korea from June 19 to 21, but mention of his short stop in Seoul was made only after his arrival."
The Secretary's visit was official and part of a three-leg Northeast Asia trip to promote the Philippine hosting of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, Post-Ministerial Conference and ASEAN Regional Forum. During his official visit, he met his counterpart from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade where he also discussed regional and bilateral issues. Available online at http://www.dfa.gov.ph/archive/speech/romulo/2007/ps031.htm, his departure statement was released to the media on his departure date of 15 June 2007. A photo release of the meeting dated 16 June 2007 was also uploaded at the website at http://www.dfa.gov.ph/news/pr/pr2007/jun/photo/ph235.pdf.
An official communication requesting the meeting was sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade as early as 30 May 2007.
"During his visit here, Romulo met with Deputy Chief of Staff UNC/USFK Stephen Sargeant."
No meeting was held between the Secretary and the former Deputy Chief of Staff. The Embassy did arrange a meeting on 15 June 2007 to discuss developments in the Korean peninsula but had to cancel because of last-minute changes in the Secretary's schedule. Similarly, the wreath-laying ceremony slated at the War Memorial on 16 June was called off. As a nation that sent soldiers to help South Korea during the Korean War, the Philippines attatches importance to its relationship with the UN Command.
This statement was reproduced as a courtesy to the Philippines Embassy. In the embassy's initial statement of June 19 in response to the original article (that we declined to publish) the embassy asserted "the published allegation is unfounded." -- Ed.
KASAMMAKO KOREA <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
KATIPUNAN NG MGA SAMAHAN NG MIGRANTENG MANGGAGAWA SA KOREA
( Alliance of Filipino Migrants’ Communities and Organizations in Korea )
Seoul Korea Emai: email@example.com,
June 28, 2007
For reference: Mark Paldan, member KASAMMAKO Executive Committee (09272147030)
OFW group hits DFA for “covering up” ex-envoy Castrence’s shoplifting in Korea
Contarary to a recent DFA statement denying that ex-envoy Susan Castrence is the diplomat caught shopflifting in a Korean duty-free shop – an alliance of Filipino migrant organizations in Korea charge that the top-ranking diplomat is indeed the former Ambassador Castrence. Amb. Castrence was appointed to Korea approximately three years ago by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
KASAMMAKO or Katipunan ng mga Samahan ng Migranteng Manggagawa sa Korea say their members received direct information from the duty-free Security Officers on duty that day. The security officers recount that a security camera clearly shows then Amb. Castrence took the stolen items. Lilly, the wife of the US military General and the manger of the PX shop confirms this is what actually happened.
According to Mark Padlan, a KASAMMAKO Executive Committee
member who is currently in Manila , the manager of the PX (Post Exchange) shopping center, knowing that Castrence is a diplomat, approached her (after they caught Castrence shoplifting on the videotape) in a bid to resolve the matter discreeetly, so as to avoid any embarrassment.
In response, Castrence told the manager she wanted to smoke a cigarette first before they talk. In the act of taking and lighting the cigarette out of her bag, she dropped the stolen items and kicked them back inside the PX Shop. She then tried to deny any wrongdoing.
“We challenge the DFA to admit the truth in this issue. Amb. Castrence’s actions caused enough embarassment to the Filipino community in Korea . By actively trying to cover-up for her, the DFA furthers the image the Philippines is a nation of thieves under Arroyo,” added Padlan, noting the outstanding perception that Arroyo “stole” her way into Malacanang through massive fraud and corruption in the 2004 Presidential elections.
“Dahil isinugo ni Arroyo na Emissary si Castrense, hinidi nakapagtataka na magnanakaw din ito dahil mismong ang amo niya ay magnanakaw
din ng boto ng mga Pilipino noong lumabas ang Hello Garci controversy at ng OWWA fund. Dapat silang panagutin at parusahan”, he added.
Abused OFWs in Korea
“Instead of addressing the long standing issues of migrants in Korea who face massive and intensive crackdown to undocumented migrants, deaths, and labor related cases, the DFA and Arroyo government focuses on saving Castrence's ass,” said Padlan.
KASAMMAKO states that undocumented migrants in Korea not only suffer from the atmosphere of fear as many are hospitalized after receiving beatings, broken bones and injuries caused by the arresting immigration officers. Much more, the problems and exploitation to migrants under the Employment Permit system continue to escalate.
“Why is DFA under Arroyo, spending so much time and effort covering-up and coddling the likes of Ambassador Castrence? The rights and conditions of the documented and undocumented migrants are already not properly addressed since Castrence took the post years ago. Instead she capitalized the suffering of the migrants by increasing the fees collected from them. In fact since her appointment, the Passport fee was raised from standard 50 US$ to 80,000 Korean won ( 83 US $),” said Padlan.
“It’s unbearable that while the Arroyo regime gloats over millions of OFW dollar remittances from Korea, she and her runningdogs at DFA can’t find the time or money to address the plight of OFWs unjustly on death row, in prison or stranded overseas,” he added.
Both GMA and Castrance are criminally liable for gross neglect of OFW and stealing. And should be punished.
“Despite all these attempts to silence conceal this Ms Arroyo and Ambassador Castrences’ wrongdoings, we migrants and families will remain vigilant against all forms of fraud and neglect,” concluded Padlan.
KASAMMAKO is a member organization of Migrante International, a progressive alliance of groups composed of OFWs and their families. #
RP Diplomat alleged to have shoplifted from USFK
Korea Herald (The Nation's No.1 English Newspaper) www.koreaherald.co.kr
June 19, 2007
(sources from Korea said that the Diplomat is the Philippine Ambassador to Korea )
Sources inside the U.S. Provost Office (military police) have revealed to The Korea Herald that a highly placed foreign diplomat was recently caught on camera shoplifting at the Yongsan Military base PX (Post Exchange) shopping center.
Identifying the suspect only as coming from the Philippines , the source said military police were considering what action to take, if any, in the theft of a karaoke machine and a bottle of Gucci perfume.
The alleged offense took place last November but has only recently been revealed.
USFK military police officers reportedly went to the Philippine Embassy and showed video evidence to the suspect, who denied any wrongdoing.
Shoplifting is a problem that plagues not only the Army and Air Force Exchange Services facilities in Korea , but AAFES exchanges throughout the world. AAFES, which operates the PX and commissary facilities on U.S. bases has taken measures to combat this threat.
"Sophisticated anti-shoplifting measures" such as upgraded cameras and Electronic Article Surveillance systems have lowered the incidence of shoplifting by 12 percent. According to the Association for the United States Army (AUSA), in 2005, there were 8,537 cases of shoplifting worth $848,293 of merchandise, but in 2006 there were only 7,542 cases worth $898,851. The increase in cost was attributed to the increase in the price of items often shoplifted, such as cosmetics, electronics and sporting goods.
In an article published by AUSA, AAFES' director of loss prevention Col. Jorge Garza explained, "Shoplifting at the exchange results in a reduced return on investment to our primary shareholders - the entire military community. In my mind, it is the same as taking money directly from the pockets of military families."
General Burwell B. Bell, the commander of the United Nations Command and USFK, is reportedly extremely concerned with the shoplifting incident involving the diplomat. Selected foreign diplomatic personnel are granted access to the PX and commissary on a case-by-case basis by USFK authorities.
According to sources who spoke to The Korea Herald on condition of anonymity, the diplomat has tried to resolve the issue with General Bell quietly but he continues to persist in trying to receive satisfaction from the Philippine government.
Allegedly there have already been repercussions due to the incident. Last month, when a member of the Philippine Embassy applied to renew his membership/post pass at Hartell House, his request was denied, and he was reportedly told that Philippine Embassy officers and dependents with Hartell House memberships were prohibited from renewal because of a shoplifting incident. Second Secretary Juan Dayang did not address the denial of membership renewals and skirted the issue by claiming he was going to lunch at Hartell House on the day of the interview.
The June 15 arrival of Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Alberto Gatmaitan Romulo, on an unofficial visit to Seoul , has caused some speculation as to the true nature of his visit. Sources suggest Romulo's two-day visit was to discuss, among other things, the shoplifting incident and smooth over relations with General Bell. During his visit here, Romulo met with Deputy Chief of Staff UNC/USFK Stephen Sargeant.
Second Secretary Juan Dayang admitted on June 14, that a high ranking Philippine official, who he refused to identify, was arriving in Seoul , but said it was unrelated to the alleged incident. Phone calls to the offices of General Bell and Deputy Chief Sargeant, Colonel Childress of USFK public affairs, and Bill Mower, U.S. Embassy public affairs, revealed the confusion over who was in charge of issuing a statement and all denied knowledge of the visit, the shoplifting incident, and ended their statements with "no further comment."
But according to a phone conversation on June 18, with USFK public affairs officer, Kim Young-kyu: Romulo's visit with Deputy Chief Sargeant was to discuss U.S. matters including the sending of Philippine liaison officers to the UNC in Seoul .
Sources have told The Korea Herald that it would be normal protocol for the head of the UNC, General Bell, to meet personally with high level visiting dignitaries, especially if the reported purpose of their visit was to discuss issues related to the UNC.
However, USFK spokesman Kim said there was nothing unusual and Deputy Chief Sargeant was considered the most appropriate person to meet with the visiting foreign minister.
Romulo also met with Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon during his unofficial visit before departing for Beijing on Saturday evening. The foreign ministry gave no indication of the topics discussed. It had previously been reported in the Philippine media that Romulo would visit North Korea from June 19 to 21, but mention of his short stop in Seoul was made only after his arrival.
By Robert D. Neff
(Katipunan ng mga Samahan ng Migranteng Manggagawa sa Korea )
Alliance of Filipino Migrants' Associations in Korea