Sex cases prompt changes in halfway houses
MANILA, Philippines – Facing sex-for-flight complaints, the Philippine government eyes “institutional changes” in halfway houses for distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Monday, June 24.
The halfway houses, or the Filipino Workers' Resource Centers (FWRCs), supposedly serve as the starting point for the sex-for-flight scheme. OFWs who ran away from abusive employers stay in FWRCs until they get repatriated.
Having met with ambassadors over the weekend, Del Rosario said the government is now considering to assign one “house mother” per halfway house. “We think that's a very good idea, but not all posts have a house mother. So that's one institutional change that we'd like to make,” he said in a press conference.
Del Rosario also stressed: "There should be no fraternization between embassy officials, including attached agencies, directly with their wards."
In the case of formal interviews, he said interviewers should conduct these in the presence of a third person or in a transparent location.
The alleged sex-for-flight schemes begin in FWRCs, the OFW rights group Migrante said in a statement. Migrante detailed this scheme following an exposé by Akbayan Rep Walden Bello.
Migrante provided this step-by-step description:
The embassy and labor official will ask a runaway OFW at the Bahay Kalinga or FWRC if she has money to pay for her own airplane tickets, payment for penalties for being an absconder, and payment to her sponsor-employer who usually asks for a reimbursement of her deployment cost.
Seven out of 10 of the OFW wards will say they have no money. Then the official, who is an alleged member of the syndicate operating inside the PH embassy/labor offices in the Middle East, will discreetly talk to the OFW ward to offer an “indecent proposal” from a prospective “client” in exchange for cash.
In the evening, the OFW ward will be fetched by either the driver or any local-hire staff of embassy and labor officials who are part of the syndicate.
The amount, per information from the OFW ward as victims of “sex-for-flight” modus operandi, ranges from 500 riyal to 1,000 riyal. Some very desperate OFW wards accept as low as 100 to 300 riyal.
“We don't understand why there is exploitation happening in terms of getting tickets, because the tickets are, in one way or another, guaranteed,” Del Rosario said.
In Monday's press conference, Del Rosario said investigators have confirmed allegations against one labor officer based on the testimonies of 3 witnesses. To confirm other claims, he urged other witnesses to surface. – Rappler.com