MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday, June 20, said it has ordered 8 more of its Middle East ambassadors to return to the Philippines to join investigations into the alleged “sex-for-flight” scheme.
This will allow the DFA “to be as thorough as possible in addressing the issue on the alleged sex-related offenses,” said DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez in a press briefing.
These ambassadors will come from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, and Lebanon.
This brings to 11 the number of envoys who have been called home to shed light on the exposé by Akbayan Rep Walden Bello that embassy staff in Kuwait, Damascus, and Jordan allegedly prostitute distressed migrant workers. In the sex-for-flight scheme, suspects allegedly promise to prioritize victims for repatriation in exchange for sexual favors.
On Wednesday, June 19, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said the DFA already ordered the heads of these 3 posts to return to the Philippines. (Watch more in the video below.)
Del Rosario called the alleged sex abuse case “disconcerting,” but questioned the motives of the senior DFA staff whom he suspects of having disclosed the problem to Bello.
Hernandez said that by calling the 11 ambassadors home, the DFA aims to achieve the following:
Encourage victims and witnesses to surface and submit formal complaints and testimonies.
Spread information on the issue better.
Prevent sex-related offenses through orientation programs and gender sensitivity education.
Assess the capability of Philippine posts in dealing with such sex-related issues.
The DFA has established a fact-finding unit to look into the alleged sex abuse cases, the DFA added.
It has also dedicated a hotline for related information or complaints. “Secretary Del Rosario ensures that the shared information will be treated in confidence and those individuals giving the information will be fully protected,” Hernandez said. – Rappler.com