Envoy hit for ‘inaction’ over OFW abuse

Paterno R. Esmaquel II
On the first day of hearings on the sex-for-flight scheme, senators grill a labor attaché for alleged inaction over a sexual harassment case

SEX ABUSE. Grace Victoria Sales (first from right) accuses a labor official's driver of making sexual advances on her. Photo by Arcel Cometa

MANILA, Philippines – It’s his driver who is accused of sexual harassment, but a labor attaché also came under fire Thursday, August 8, for his alleged inaction over the case involving his driver and a migrant worker.

The distressed overseas Filipino worker (OFW), 28-year-old Grace Victoria Sales, said Philippine Labor Attaché to Riyadh Adam Musa failed to act on her complaint against his driver, a certain “Jojo.”

Sales, who earlier went by the pseudonym Josie, accused Jojo of making sexual advances on her.

Senate labor committee chairman Jinggoy Estrada blasted Musa because “he did not go out of his way to address the problem of Josie.”

Estrada, who joined a hearing on the alleged sex-for-flight scheme on Thursday, criticized Musa for using a “conduit,” a certain Edith, to coordinate with Sales on her case.

In an interview with reporters after the hearing, Estrada said: “Bakit hindi siya mismo ang humarap para alamin niya ang problema ni Josie bilang labor attaché? Dahil isa sa mga functions ng labor attaché is to protect and promote the welfare of our overseas Filipino workers. Bakit inuutusan lang niya ang kanyang assistant?

(Why didn’t he himself face Josie to know her problem, as a labor attaché? One of the functions of a labor attaché is to protect and promote the welfare of our overseas Filipino workers. Why did he only ask his assistant to do it?)

Musa, along with other embassy officials, face demands for command responsibility over sexual harassment cases involving embassy personnel.

The most prominent cases involve the alleged sex-for-flight scheme, wherein embassy officials allegedly offer repatriation in exchange for sexual favors.

Monetary settlement

In the face of sexual harassment charges, Sales said Musa even protected Jojo. Sales alleged that instead of punishing Jojo, Musa ended up retaining and promoting him.

She also said Musa, through his staff named Edith, proposed to settle the complaint by paying her 3 times the amount of Jojo’s salary and issuing her an authorization letter to work. She said she consented to this.

Musa, on the other hand, claimed he was never involved in this agreement and settlement. He also said the settlement “will not stop us from continuing the investigation should Josie surface.” He said the problem was, Sales didn’t contact him again.

On his hands-off approach, Musa added “it was intentional on my part not to talk to her anymore.”

Baka sabihin niya, as she alleged, na ako ay siding with my driver. So it was her colleagues in the office who took the initiative of trying to settle their differences,” Musa said. (She might say, as she alleged, that I am siding with my driver. So it was her colleagues in the office who took the initiative of trying to settle their differences.)

The root of the problem, according to government investigators, is the set-up in halfway houses for distressed OFWs.

On Thursday, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz told Rappler that the government is implementing an unprecedented move to prevent the alleged sex-for-flight scheme. That is to appoint more females to staff shelters for distressed OFWs.

READ: To prevent sex for flight, females to staff OFW shelters

The Senate will resume its hearings on the sex-for-flight scheme next Thursday, August 15. – Rappler.com

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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 pat.esmaquel@rappler.com