Labor official denies 'prostituting' OFWs
MANILA, Philippines – Acting labor attaché and welfare officer, Mario R. Antonio denied on Wednesday, June 20, allegations that he “sells and prostitutes” overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Jordan.
In a press conference, Antonio said he is submitting himself to full investigation but will only answer questions related to the allegations in the “proper venue and proper time.”
"Humaharap po ako sa inyo upang pabulaanan at itanggi ang mga paratang na ipinupukol sa aking pagkatao," he said. (I am here to refute and deny these allegations hurled at me.)
“I am asking for everyone to reserve their judgment against me and just wait for the result of the investigation. I hope you respect my right,” Antonio added.
Antonio is one of the 3 "predators" accused by Akbayan Rep Walden Bello who have been sexually abusing and prostituting distressed overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the Middle East.
Antonio said he has not yet received any complaint against him or his operation at the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO) in Jordan. Antonio said he just heard about the news about him operating a “prostitution ring” when he arrived in Manila last June 12 after finishing his “tour of duty.”
“I have honestly served as welfare officer for the past 5 years I worked overseas and the past 10 years I served in OWWA,” Antonio said.
“I helped in evacuating distressed Filipino workers during the Gulf War, earthquake in Taiwan Lebanon Crisis, Libya unrest, and many more,” Antonio added.
Antonio said that during his last post as acting labor attaché for the POLO in Jordan, he “served with full dedication to protect the welfare and the right” of OFWs there.
Antonio disclosed that because of his “dedication to fight for Filipino workers overseas,” there “could be others who are not happy” with what he has been doing.
“So far, there 75 Filipinos who are sheltered by POLO. According to RA 10222, they should be given help and if necessary, help them to return in our country. But we have to follow the law of the Jordan government in giving help to our fellowmen,” Antonio said.
Antonio said there are around 28,000 Filipinos in Jordan with 90% working as household service workers. He added most of these numbers have been illegally recruited or trafficked and did not follow the proper process of POEA.
“Despite them being undocumented, the POLO has still given them protected custody and gave them shelter when needed,” Antonio said.
On Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario has ordered the alleged sex "predators" to "board the plane the soonest possible time," come home, and face investigation.
"We have asked the heads of posts of Kuwait, of Damascus, of Jordan to come home immediately so that they can provide us all the necessary information for us to be able to pursue this case," Del Rosario told reporters after his meeting with Bello.
Antonio went straight to the Department of Foreign Affairs on Thursday afternoon after reading his statement to the media.
In a report, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said she has already issued Administrative Order No. 239 forming an investigating team to "get to the bottom" of the sex-for-fly activities by POLO officers in Kuwait.
In a text message, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Administrator Hans Cacdac confirmed that they are part of the 3-person investigating committee formed by Baldoz.
“We shall look into the allegations made by Rep. Bello,” Cacdac said. – Rappler.com