#TalkThursday with Walden Bello
MANILA, Philippines - Rappler speaks with Akbayan Rep Walden Bello. Bello is chairman of the House committee on overseas workers' affairs.
On June 18, 2013, Bello disclosed three cases of sexual abuse and prostitution by Philippine embassy staff in various posts in the Middle East. He identified the "predators" who abused distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as:
- Mario Antonio, the assistant labor attaché in Jordan
- Blas Marquez, a local hire or a contractual employee of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Kuwait
- A certain "Kim," who is a member of the Augmentation Team of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) at the embassy in Damascus, Syria
During his press conference, Bello also exposed a "sex-for-flight" scam by predatory embassy officials who promise victims they will be prioritized in repatriation in exchange for sexual favours.
On July 2, with ongoing investigations by the the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Justice Secretary Leila de Lima confirmed 3 other cases involving embassy officials who also allegedly sexually abused OFWs abroad.
In an interview, De Lima said the National Bureau of Investigation had already been investigating the 3 cases prior to Bello's exposé.
On Tuesday, July 30, more than a month after Bello's press conference, Bello's political party Akbayan joined 7 victims in denouncing a "whitewash" by the DFA and DOLE.
Bello blasted the DFA and DOLE for failing to prosecute the suspects or impose disciplinary measures.
Responding to the accusation, DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez clarified that only 2 of the 13 accused individuals come from the DFA. He said one of them has been terminated, while another is under investigation.
The remaining 11 come from DOLE. Hernandez said DOLE is conducting its own investigation.
Akbayan, through its House representatives, Bello and Ibarra Gutierrez, launched a congressional investigation the same day.
On Wednesday, July 31, Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario says investigators are focusing on halfway houses to prevent the alleged sex-for-flight scheme. Del Rosario says, “The common denominator in terms of these harassment cases seems to have been the halfway houses.”
Watch the interview below.