DOLE says accused labor official has clean record
MANILA, Philippines – Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said assistant labor attaché Antonio Villafuerte has no prior record of abusing Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) abroad.
In an interview, Baldoz said this is the first time that she has heard of a "sex-for-flight" scandal involving Villafuerte. She added Villafuerte even lives with his wife and children in Riyadh.
“Very recently lang siya sa Riyadh but he was once assigned for two years sa Kaohsiung in Taiwan. Wala naman siyang problema doon,” Baldoz said.
(Antonio was assigned in Riyadh very recently but he was once assigned for two years in Kaohsiung, Taiwan and he did not have any problems there.)
Villafuerte was linked by 3 repatriated OFWs to an alleged “sex-for-flight” syndicate based in the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Akbayan Rep Walden Bello exposed the sex-for-flight scheme in the Middle East last week and said embassy officials there allegedly promise victims they will be prioritized in repatriation in exchange for sexual favors.
Baldoz added that Villafuerte passed their screening process. “His record of service here is 28 years. [Villafuerte] started as an administrative service staff handling supplies and then he moved up in the Bureau of Labor Relations and then conciliator of the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) then on detail for two years in Kaohsiung and then [in Riyadh],” Baldoz said. (Baldoz once headed the NCMB.)
Baldoz said Villafuerte had already received the recall letter for him to report back to the country. Villafuerte is arriving in Manila on Thursday night, June 27.
According to Baldoz, Villafuerte would still need to get a copy of the 3 complaints before he can make a written statement on the allegations.
Baldoz disclosed she plans to designate Assistant Secretary Gloria A. Tango to head the investigating team that will look into the allegations against Villafuerte, adding they have two months to complete the probe.
Female labor officers
Baldoz also ordered the deployment of more female labor officers in the Middle East amid the "sex-for-flight" scandal.
Baldoz said that aside from assigning a female officer to manage the operation of the Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC), the department will also appoint a female action officer to handle cases involving female overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
“I already instructed Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator [Carmelita] Dimzon because these are welfare cases and she said she can forward it to me anytime,” Baldoz said.
Baldoz added that DOLE would prioritize Riyadh since it has the most number of OFWs abroad. She said DOLE will also look into the possibility of providing female officers in different Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO) in the Middle East.
Baldoz added that female labor attachés or welfare officers from Europe will also likely be deployed in the Middle East or in Asia.
“Our plan is to utilize the resources and the people in the Middle East and other Asian countries that have a high concentration of OFWs,” Baldoz said. – Rappler.com