MANILA, Philippines – “Ghastly and disturbing.”
Vice President Jejomar Binay and senators joined Akbayan Rep Walden Bello in calling on government to investigate the alleged “sex-for-repatriation” scheme involving Philippine embassy officials.
Binay, Presidential Adviser on overseas Filipino workers’ affairs, called on distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to report to his office incidents of sexual abuse.
The Vice President said his office will help ensure that the complaints are immediately acted upon.
“I encourage those who know of any abuse or mistreatment inflicted on our OFWs to report these cases to me so my office could extend them the needed assistance,” Binay said in a press statement on Wednesday, June 18.
“I will make sure that those who take advantage of our OFWs will be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Binay added.
Binay issued the statement a day after Bello disclosed that 3 Philippine embassy staff in Jordan, Kuwait, and Syria allegedly sexually abused and prostituted distressed OFWs in exchange for repatration.
Earlier Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario met with Bello and told reporters he already ordered the 3 alleged sex “predators” to come home and face investigation.
The foreign affairs chief also vowed to lead the probe, saying some of Bello’s information complements reports his department received.
"We have also asked the persons named to come home so that they can also explain their side … The reports, if true, can be considered as criminal," del Rosario said.
Senators Pia Cayetano and Loren Legarda also stressed the need for a thorough investigation and immediate action.
Cayetano is chairperson of the Senate Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations.
“If in fact the allegation of ‘sex for repatriation’ is true, then this is one of the worst cases of exploitation that have befallen our OFW women,” Cayetano said in a statement.
“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,” she added.
Cayetano also called on the government to help the supposed victims file charges in court.
She also stressed that government can avoid these cases by speeding up the repatriation of OFWs.
“The government must step up its efforts to hasten the repatriation of distressed OFWs in order to shield them from hardship and further abuse.”
Legarda, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, warned against “generalizing statements.”
“Most of our Department of Foreign Affairs officials here and abroad are competent and should not be tainted by a few eggs,” she said in a separate statement.
Legarda said the reports highlight the perils Filipinos face in working abroad.
“It’s already hard for Filipinos working abroad to be apart from their families. It is harder when they get abused or duped by their agencies or employers.”
“It is unforgiveable when the people, their fellow countrymen at that, who they expect to help them and provide them protection, are the ones who would subject them to further abuse and suffering,” Legarda said.
The two senators though did not call for a Senate probe into the matter. – Rappler.com