To prevent sex for flight, females to staff OFW shelters

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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This unprecedented move can prevent sexual abuses, DOLE says

'SEX-FOR-FLIGHT.' Can the Philippine government stop the sexual exploitation of distressed OFWs?

MANILA, Philippines – In an unprecedented move to prevent the alleged sex-for-flight scheme, the Philippines will appoint more females to staff shelters for distressed migrant workers, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said Thursday, August 8.

Mas naiintindihan nila ang sitwasyon ng kababaihan, lalo na ‘yung mga distressed worker, na hindi naman sila kaagad nag-o-open up,” Baldoz told Rappler after a Senate hearing on the alleged sex-for-flight scheme. (They understand better the situation of women, especially distressed workers who don’t easily open up.)

Baldoz said this can prevent sexual abuses as well.

She noted that DOLE, in a way, took the suggestions of Akbayan Rep Walden Bello, who blew the whistle on the sex-for-flight case. “Nakatulong para maging aware na maging ganito ang set-up,” she said. (It helped to raise awareness about this set-up.)

In an interview on Rappler’s #TalkThursday last August 1, Bello recommended doing away with male labor attachés, assistant labor attachés, and welfare administrators in shelters for distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

READ: Ban male attachés in OFW shelters, solon says

Bello said the sex-for-flight scheme begins in these shelters. (Watch more in the video below.)

DFA’s go-signal

During the Senate hearing, Baldoz said she has deployed 13 female and one male personnel to augment the staff in the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO) in 3 posts tagged in the sex-for-flight scheme.

She said 9 of them will be assigned to Saudi Arabia, 3 to Jordan, and 2 to Kuwait.

“These personnel will be deployed as soon as they are accredited by the Department of Foreign Affairs,” Baldoz said.

She listed other measures she approved in a memorandum dated July 1: 

  • Prohibiting workers in distress from full-time or part-time employment in Philippine embassy or labor offices overseas;
  • Requiring POLO heads to conduct weekly dialogues with Bahay Kalinga wards;
  • Forwarding all requests for repatriation tickets to POLO heads, and requiring receiving agencies to act on these requests within 48 hours.

Last July 31, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said that in their recommendations to the President on preventing the alleged sex-for-flight incidents, probers focused on halfway houses.

READ: Sex-for-flight probers target halfway houses

He noted that the DOLE has direct responsibility over these halfway houses while the DFA is partially responsible. –

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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