Labor official denies 'prostituting' OFWs
MANILA, Philippines - A labor official denies charges he prostitutes overseas Filipino workers working in Jordan.
Ace Tamayo reports.
Acting labor attaché Mario Antonio faces the media -- accused of prostituting Filipinos who sought shelter in a halfway house in Amman, Jordan for 1000 dollars a night.
MARIO ANTONIO, LABOR ATTACHE, JORDAN: Ako si Mario R. Antonio humaharap sa inyo upang pabulaanan at itanggi ang mga paratang na ipinupukol sa aking pagkatao. Matindi na po ang epekto nito sa aking reputasyon at pamilya. Ginampanan ko ng buong dedikasyon ang aking tungkulin na protektahan ang kapakanan at ipaglaban ang karapatan ng ating mga kababayan. (I am Mario R. Antonio and I am here to refute and deny these allegations hurled at me. This has affected my reputation and my family. I served at my position with full dedication, to protect the welfare and the rights of our countrymen.)
Antonio says he finished his tour of duty in Jordan last June 12.
Antonio is one of three ‘predators’ who allegedly abused OFWs in the Middle East.
The other two are Blas Marquez of the Labor Office in Kuwait and a ‘Kim” in Syria, who was caught in “an intimate act” with a female OFW at an embassy shelter.
Antonio says the allegations may be because of his strict leadership in Jordan.
He told his bosses, labor recruiters were behind the allegations.
ANTONIO: May mga patakaran tayong ipinapatupad sa POLO at sa resource center para sa proteksyon ng mga distressed workers, at ito ay aking mahigpit na ipinapatupad bilang Acting Labor Attache ng POLO. (We have rules we implement in POLO and at our resource center for the protection of distressed workers. I have been strictly implementing these as Acting Labor Attache of POLO.
On Tuesday, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz formed an investigative team to look at the case.
Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Head Carmelita Dimzon says Antonio may or may not be suspended. It will all depend on the outcome of the probe.
Dimzon recalls, Antonio was reliable in his work.
CARMELITA DIMZON, ADMINISTRATOR OWWA: Nung mga taong nakasama ko si Mr Antonio, very dependable siyang welfare officer. Nakakdeliver naman siya basta binigyan ko ng assignment sumusunod yan ng walang question mapa-gabi o mapadaling araw andun kami sa airport sumasalubong sa mga workers. (During the years I worked with Mr. Antonio, he was very dependable as a welfare officer. He can deliver. When I give him an assignment, he follows without question. Whether it be night or day, he’s there in the airport welcoming our workers.)
The accuser, Akbayan Representative Walden Bello says his information comes from department and embassy insiders, affidavits of witnesses, and confidential reports.
WALDEN BELLO, AKBAYAN REPRESENTATIVE: Sexual abuse on our womenfolk perpetrated by their hosts in a foreign country is an awful crime. But there is something more awful, and that is their exploitation by their own compatriots in that strange land.
Bello met with labor officials Thursday describing the meeting as confrontational.
He says Antonio’s defense that illegal recruiters are after him is a lie.
WALDEN BELLO, AKBAYAN REPRESENTATIVE: We wanted to have a presidential investigating committee form kasi there are people na informants naming sa DOLE that are not confident that the DOLE process will be objective.
Antonio says he is ready to face a full investigation. He asks the public to reserve judgment until the case is resolved, all read in a statement in this building, the very same home of officials who vowed to protect the welfare of those allegedly victimized by Antonio. Ace Tamayo, Rappler, Manila.