Sex-for-flight probers target halfway houses

Paterno R. Esmaquel II
DOLE has 'direct responsibility' over this, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario says

MANILA, Philippines – Probers focused on halfway houses in their recommendations to the President on preventing the alleged sex-for-flight scheme, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Wednesday, July 31.

Del Rosario noted the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has direct responsibility over these halfway houses, while the DFA, too, is partially responsible.

“We made an observation that the common denominator in terms of these harassment cases, seems to have been the halfway houses that are being maintained by the embassy and that are controlled by the DOLE,” Del Rosario said in a press briefing.

He said their recommendations to the President, in particular, involve “tightening” the practices, policies, and procedures in halfway houses “to be able to minimize untoward incidents like this.”

“But we believe that essentially, that would be the role of DOLE.” 

Del Rosario, however, said he is “not running away from the fact” that all embassies run on a one-country team approach. In such a system, he said, an ambassador “has overall responsibility.”

“In essence, we want to tighten that up as well, to make sure there is effective oversight of these halfway houses through the DOLE officials,” he added.

'GOVERNMENT INACTION.' Sex-for-flight victims Michelle (2nd from left) and April (3rd from left) say government should punish their abusers. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II

‘Institutional changes’

In June, Del Rosario already said the Philippine government eyes “institutional changes” in halfway houses for distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East.

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.

The Senate and the House of Representatives will soon investigate the sex-for-flight scheme.

On Tuesday, June 30, the group Akbayan, which blew the whistle on the case, said it fears a whitewash on the part of the Philippine government.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, for her part, assured the public that the Palace will act on the probers’ recommendations. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email