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THE embassy officials who were linked to the alleged sexual abuse of female overseas Filipino workers have been told to return and face investigation.

Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario said he will personally head the investigating panel.

Shortly after meeting at the Batasan Complex with Akbayan Rep.Walden Bello who exposed the alleged scandal, Del Rosario said that he immediately ordered all the officials based in the embassies in three Middle East countries,   to return to the country and answer the charges against them.

“They have been asked to board the plane as soon as possible. It is not actually a recall but we asked them to come home and face the investigation.

“If the reports are true, it could be considered as criminal, at the very least there are violations of our code of conduct and they are subject to disciplinary measures. We have asked the heads of posts of Kuwait, Damascus, Amman, Jordan to come home immediately so they could provide us all the necessary information for us to be able to solve this case, and we also asked the persons named to come home so that they explain their side,” Del Rosario added.

Del Rosario was prompted to call concerned officials following the disclosure of Bello that three government officials in embassies in the Middle East were allegedly involved in sexual abuse, prostitution and human trafficking.

He identified them as a certain Mr. Kim, based in Damascus, Syria; Assistant Labor Attache Mario Antonio in Amman, Jordan and Blas Marquez, an officer of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Kuwait.

The DFA head said he intended to finish the investigation in one week.

Del Rosario appealed to the alleged victims to make a formal complaint.

Will face music

One of those accused in the reported sex scandal wants to clear his name.

Mario Antonio, the office-in-charge of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Amman, Jordan, denied the allegations and said he is willing to face the investigation.

Antonio will be giving a press briefing at 10 a.m. at the fourth floor of the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration Center at F.B. Harrison in Pasay City.

Antonio was a former OWWA officer under Overseas Workers Welfare Administration chief Carmelita Dimzon. He frequently welcomed arriving distressed OFWs at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport until he was posted to Jordan.

So far, no formal complaint from alleged victims has been received by the DFA, OWWA and other government agencies tasked to look after the welfare of Filipino workers abroad.

Dimzon yesterday said a fact-finding team has been created to investigate the government officials allegedly involved in the alleged “sex-for-flight” scheme assigned in the Middle East.

Under the scheme, embassy and labor officials allegedly offer a return ticket to the Philippines to runaway Filipina workers in exchange for sex.

At least three senators have sought the investigation of the reported involvement of some Filipino envoys in “sex for flight” scandal wherein concerned embassy officials allegedly demanded sexual favors from distressed female OFWs in the Middle East in exchange for repatriation.

Sen.Loren Legarda said: “This (matter) should not be tolerated, should be investigated, should be meted the full force of the law, if true.”

“But we should be careful in generalizing statements because most of our DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) officials here and abroad are competent and should not be tainted by a few bad eggs,” Legarda replied in a text message.

Sen.Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said that if reports were true, those envoys involved in sex favors are “worse than rapists” because the women are made to suffer in silence. “The acts should not only be condemned, the perpetrators should be thrown in jail and the keys thrown away forever. It’s not only embarrassing, it’s also demeaning for our country,” he said.

Sen.Pia Cayetano has asked the government to conduct a deeper investigation into the reported sexual abuse of distressed women OFWs in Philippine overseas offices. She also called on concerned agencies to hold the alleged perpetrators accountable for the so-called “sex-for-repatriation” scheme.

“If in fact the allegation of ‘sex for repatriation’ is true, then this is one of the worst cases of exploitation that have befallen our OFW women,” said Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations. 

File raps  — Binay

Vice President Jejomar C. Binay urged Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to file complaints against embassy staff who have committed acts of abuse, negligence or illegal recruitment.

Binay, Presidential Adviser on overseas Filipino workers’ affairs (OFW), vowed his office will see to it that the reports will be given due action immediately.

“I encourage those who know of any abuse or mistreatment inflicted on our OFWs to report these cases to me so my office could extend them the needed assistance,” the Vice President said.

Binay was responding to allegations that three labor officials in Syria, Jordan and Kuwait sexually abused distressed female OFWs in exchange for free flights back to the Philippines.

“The Aquino administration cares for our OFWs and as OFW adviser, I will make sure that our government will keep them safe from any form of  abuse or exploitation,” he said.

“I will also make sure that those who take advantage of our OFWs will be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” he added.

In 2012, the Office of the Vice President acted on 1,325 requests for assistance from OFWs and their families.

These requests ranged from repatriation, assistance on salary and benefits claims, legal assistance for detained OFWs, and grievances against recruiters and agents.

Meanwhile, Binay led the launch of the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG) OFW Center which is envisioned to be a one-stop shop for OFW-related services and transactions.

The center will serve as a venue for Pre-departure Orientation Seminars (PDOS) and Financial Literacy briefings, as well as the issuance of the Overseas Employment Certificates (OECs) for returning OFWs. With Bernadette E. Tamayo, Itchie G. Cabayan

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