Charges set vs embassy staff over ‘sex for flight’

Paterno Esmaquel II
The cases come a year after the alleged 'sex-for-flight' scheme was first exposed

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

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday, June 25, announced it will file cases against a current and a former embassy staff implicated in an alleged sex-for-flight scheme victimizing female Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia.

In a statement, the DOJ said its National Prosecution Service will charge a labor attaché with two counts of abuses against chastity.

It will also file acts of lasciviousness charges against the former driver of another labor attaché.

The DOJ declined to name the persons to be charged as it invoked Section 5 of the Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act of 1998 or Republic Act No. 8505. It states that “the name of and personal circumstances of the offended party and/or the accused, or any other information tending to establish their identities… shall not be disclosed to the public.”

The cases stemmed from cases filed by 4 female overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia, whom the DOJ also refused to name.

This comes a little over a year after Akbayan Representative Walden Bello on June 18, 2013 exposed the sex-for-flight scheme.

Halfway homes reformed

The scheme involves sexually abusing distressed OFWs in exchange for repatriation.

Akbayan said it fears a whitewash by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

The Senate conducted an investigation into the issue, with a victim even unmasking herself for the first time to face her alleged abuser.

While it took the DOJ a year to decide to file cases, the exposé led to changes in shelters for distressed migrant workers.

The Philippines, for one, decided to appoint more females to staff these shelters.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario noted that the DOLE has direct responsibility over these halfway houses, while the DFA is partially responsible. – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.