Senate to have own sex-for-flight probe

Ayee Macaraig

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Sen Bongbong Marcos calls on the Senate to probe OWWA's use of the emergency repatriation fund

EXPLAIN USE. Sen Bongbong Marcos files a resolution calling on the Senate to probe the OWWA's use of the emergency repatriation fund following reports on the sex-for-flight scheme. File photo by Senate PRIB, Cesar Tomambo

MANILA, Philippines – After the sex-for-flight scheme sparked investigations by different departments, the Senate also wants to have its own probe into the issue.

Sen Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr filed a resolution calling on the Senate to investigate the disbursement and use of the emergency repatriation fund under the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

In the resolution he filed on Thursday, July 11, Marcos said the Senate should look into the effectiveness of the emergency repatriation fund in addressing the needs of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Marcos said under the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act, government is mandated to shoulder the plane tickets of distressed OFWs for repatriation.

He cited Section 15 of the law that states, “The OWWA shall undertake the repatriation of workers in cases of war, epidemic, disaster or calamities and other similar events without prejudice to reimbursement by the responsible principal agency. However, in cases where the principal or recruitment cannot be identified, all costs attendant to repatriation shall be borne by the OWWA.”

Marcos said the section also provides for the creation and establishment of the emergency repatriation fund under OWWA’s control, initially consisting of P100 million.

“We need to know how this fund was or is being disbursed. The people handling this should explain and we have to hear from them to know what happened,” Marcos said.

The 16th Congress opens on July 22. 

Multi-agency efforts

In June, Akbayan Rep Walden Bello exposed the scheme, saying embassy and labor officials in the Middle East allegedly promised victims they will be prioritized in repatriation in exchange for sexual favors.

Bello said these officials supposedly ran prostitution rings in Jordan and Kuwait, and sold at least one female OFW for sex in Syria.

The Senate probe will come after the Department of Foreign Affairs began its own investigation, recalling envoys back to the Philippines to shed light on the allegations.

The Labor Department also submitted a report to President Benigno Aquino III detailing the measures the agency took since the scheme was made public, and recommendations for the government to avoid similar incidents.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the National Bureau of Investigation has been probing similar cases even before Bello’s expose.

Aquino ordered the labor and justice departments to work together in filing cases against officials abusing the distressed OFWs.

Victims have come forward and executed affidavits to confirm the scheme.

The issue sparked widespread outrage and condemnation. Senators Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda and Jinggoy Estrada have urged the government to conduct a thorough investigation and take immediate action.

They pointed out that the government should avoid similar cases by speeding up the repatriation of OFWs.

“When those who are tasked to protect our women are the very ones who perpetuate such a ghastly and disturbing act, then these predators should be charged, jailed and banned from holding public office,” Cayetano said. – 

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