Why Won't The Foreign Office Help?
British man facing jail over his ‘adultery’ with a Filipino woman asks: ‘Why won’t the Foreign Office help us?’
By ANDREW DRUMMOND –
Last updated at 00:23am on 24th February 2008
When David Scott fell in love with a beautiful Filipino woman, he embraced the opportunity to escape his humdrum existence as a machine operator in Swindon and begin a new life in an exotic land.
But within weeks of leaving his friends and family to join his girlfriend in her native country, his dream of happiness has vanished – to be replaced by a nightmare he could never have anticipated.
After fathering a child with Cynthia Delfino, whose separation from her estranged husband was not complete, the 35-year-old became an unwitting victim of the Philippines’ harsh legal system.
He and 29-year-old Cynthia were charged with adultery and thrown into a rat-infested prison for four days.
Terrified: David and Cynthia must pay her estranged husband Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£7,000 but have no money
And despite David having spent his life-savings trying to ensure freedom for the couple and their newborn baby, they have now had to go into hiding as the country’s police search for them.
Picture: Andrew Chant
If they are caught, David faces seven years in jail and having his daughter taken away from him permanently.
‘I can’t believe this has happened to me,’ he said at his hideaway in a squalid suburb of the Philippines capital Manila, after almost two months on the run.
‘I have done nothing wrong and yet I have found myself in this horrendous situation. I am begging the British Government to help.’
David’s ordeal began when Cynthia became pregnant with his child before she had officially separated. Adultery is illegal in the Philippines, where it can incur a seven-year jail sentence.
Now, just weeks after the birth of baby Janina, Cynthia’s estranged husband – who is considered the child’s legal father in the Philippines – is determined to see the pair imprisoned if they do not pay him Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£7,000 compensation.
If they are jailed, he will be the one bringing up their baby daughter, a prospect David says breaks his heart. Now only cash, which David and Cynthia do not have, or diplomatic pressure, can save them from jail. However, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office say they cannot interfere with Philippine law.
David said: ‘Nobody is going to take my daughter away from me. It will be over my dead body. Under British law my daughter is mine. Why can’t the Foreign Office help?’
Cynthia, a psychology graduate from Manila’s Colegio de San Juan de Letran, met David over the internet in November 2006.
At the time, she had been separated from her husband, Noriel Delfino, for a year and was working as a supervisor at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi.
David, then living in Swindon, was working on a contract for the Ministry of Defence, cutting armour for use on military vehicles in Iraq.
They began talking on the website Camfrog.com and soon realised their attraction for one another.
‘We used a webcam, so I knew how beautiful she was, and from the start we were direct and honest with each other,’ said David.
‘We would spend hours talking about every subject under the sun – we just clicked.’ Cynthia said: ‘I was honest with David. I said I was married and had two children, a boy and a girl, but was separated from my husband and we were going through a marriage annulment. Divorce is illegal in the Philippines.
‘My husband had ordered me to go to work in the Middle East and every month I sent back just about all my salary, 20,000 pesos (Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£300), to pay for him and the children.
‘But he never told me what he did with the money and it was clear our marriage was not going to work.
‘We talked about annulling our marriage and he even sent me an email saying he wanted the annulment to get done as soon as possible.’
The couple’s first face-to-face meeting took place last February at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International airport, as she flew in from the Middle East and David flew in from London. ‘Shortly after I met Cynthia, I knew our relationship was going to work,’ said David.
Hiding: David, Cynthia and newborn Janina outside Manila
Picture: Andrew Chant
‘We had a wonderful time in the mountains of Luzon near an extinct volcano at a place called Laguna, but after six weeks I had to rush home when I heard my father was dying.
‘But we had already agreed we would both save our money to pay for the annulment and plan our own marriage. Then, out of the blue, Cynthia rang crying to say she was pregnant. I said: ‘Why are you crying? That is great news.’
‘I was as happy as the happiest expectant dad. I told her to get on with the annulment.’
Cynthia said: ‘My husband agreed on the grounds of ‘psychological incapacity’, the only grounds for annulment in the Philippines. He even said he wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible.’
But then in September at a matrimonial court in Manila, where Cynthia was due to give evidence, lawyers from her husband suddenly withdrew from the case.
‘They were preparing charges against me,’ said Cynthia.
Unknown to the couple, Noriel had discovered a photograph of Cynthia and David they had posted on a website similar to Facebook.
Enraged, he then began proceedings to have them arrested for adultery.
David said: ‘I rushed out in November with all my savings to be with Cynthia for the last part of her pregnancy.
‘Everything seemed to be going wrong but I wanted to be there with my wife when my baby was born.
‘Our real nightmare began on December 30 when police and immigration officials raided the house I had rented in the suburb of Caloocan. It was about 10pm and there were all these people outside shouting.
‘There were local police, immigration officials and officers of the National Bureau of Investigation, their version of the FBI. We were taken along to the local police station and thrown into a cell. They said they were charging us with adultery and Cynthia’s husband was demanding Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£7,000 in compensation.
‘The cell was not big enough to lie down in, so we sat there hunched for three nights and four days.
‘It was crawling with cockroaches and other insects, stank of urine and there was my girlfriend eight months pregnant and in great discomfort.
‘They wanted to separate us, so we had to pay 500 pesos, about Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£8, each night to different officers to allow us to be together.
‘Every night, though, a different policeman would take it in turns outside our cell flicking the light on and off. We pretended to be asleep.
‘They took us out during the day to question Cynthia and get my details and fingerprints. They let us wash from a bucket; Cynthia’s relatives brought us soap and toothpaste.
‘Eventually, on the fourth day, a lawyer came on the recommendation of the British Embassy, who got us bail.
‘The bail was about 12,000 pesos each – Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£150. But we had to pay 100,000 pesos, Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£1,250, to somebody under the table to actually get the bail.’
The couple were ordered to appear in court on April 12 to hear their fate.
Since then, they have been on the run, fearing that Cynthia’s husband was trying to get their bail revoked.
They have moved from shack to rented room in the squalor of suburban Manila as they desperately try to find a solution to their problems.
David’s savings have long since run out and the couple are now surviving on charity from friends and family.
Yesterday, David’s distraught mother sent her son Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£100, without which he says they would not be able to afford food.
He said: ‘We have changed our address twice. I rarely go out. I am the only European here, so if I go out, I stand out like a sore thumb.
‘I sit and watch from the window. We have received messages that the police are looking for us, so I am always looking out of the window.’
When their daughter was born, the couple’s difficult circumstances clouded what was supposed to be a joyful occasion.
‘We could not go to one of the big hospitals as they pass on their records quickly to the authorities. Instead, we had to go to a small clinic where Cynthia was the only in-patient.
‘It was a harrowing time. Janina was born two weeks early by caesarean section on January 17 and weighed just over 6lb.
‘She had an irregular heartbeat which caused us days of worrying. In addition, Cynthia lost so much blood after the operation that she had to have a transfusion. Thankfully, due to the generosity and kindness of some very good-hearted Filipino people, we have been looked after very well since Janina’s birth and she is now doing just fine.
‘But all our money has gone, to lawyers, to police, to hospital bills and on living expenses. My mum rang me today to say she has just sent me Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£100.
‘That’s so unfair. It’s me who should be looking after my mum. She is 62 and disabled and gets very little in the way of pension. She has been scraping round friends and relatives.
‘I hope one day I can tell my daughter Janina of this nightmare, of what her mum and I went through. But if the full course of Philippines law is followed, Cynthia and I will be in jail and Delfino will have my daughter.
‘We have begged the embassy for help. I thought the child of a British father had the right to British citizenship. But the embassy official allocated to my case is Filipino and just quotes Filipino law at me, saying it’s not my child.’
At this point Cynthia began to cry, saying: ‘Sometimes I just want to give up fighting.
‘I feel so depressed. Let them take me to jail. I have done nothing to be ashamed of. I love David and our daughter.’
David’s mother Ann has received a letter from Anne Snelgrove, Labour MPfor South Swindon who has promised her ‘full support’.
The MP said: ‘The Nationality Directorate says that the child will automatically have British nationality if David is named on the birth certificate as the child’s father.’
But she added: ‘Until this case is settled in the Philippines under their law, there is little we can do to progress the matter.’
By that time David and Cynthia expect to be in jail.
Philippines lawyer and women’s and children’s rights activist Katrina Legarda warned: ‘I have to tell you the worst first. David Scott is in great danger if he stays here. The fact that he has a baby proves the adultery.
‘The baby is not legally his. A child born in a marriage is considered legitimate to the marriage only.
‘Legally the baby belongs to her Filipino husband. Frankly put, he does not have a child. He should go home.’
Ms Legarda continued: ‘As it stands, it seems the only way out is for David to pay the husband. No matter how bad the husband might be, even if the couple are separated, the law still applies.
‘I know this sounds unfair but this is the law and whenever we try to change it there is an outcry from the religious groups.
‘This should not really be happening. We tried over 20 years ago to introduce a divorce law, but those who supported it were condemned in the pulpits of Catholic churches all over the country as people who would go to Hell.
‘For David and Cynthia, and others like them, it is a very sad situation.’
A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘We are aware of the case and are providing consular assistance to Mr Scott and his family, but cannot comment further due to data protection.’