MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday, June 19, questioned the motive of its senior staff who exposed the alleged “sex-for-flight” scheme in the Middle East, suggesting politics could be behind it.
In a press briefing, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said he maintains an “open-door policy" in his office, after all.
“Any senior officer can come in any time, without appointment. If he were truly concerned about our dealing with this in a transparent, objective way, he should have come to see me,” Del Rosario said, referring to the senior staff.
The DFA official, instead, chose to reveal the case to Akbayan Rep Walden Bello, who disclosed these revelations Tuesday, June 18. “The fact that he went directly to Congressman Bello, I don't know what his motivations are,” Del Rosario said.
He refused to identify the DFA senior staff, but said “I think we know who he is.” He heard "suggestions" it was motivated by internal DFA politics, but didn't elaborate. "I don't want to speculate."
Earlier on Wednesday, Del Rosario said the government has ordered the heads of posts of Kuwait, Damascus, and Jordan "to come home immediately so they can provide us all the necessary information for us to be able to pursue this case." He said they have also asked the persons named to return to the Philippines.
"The reports, if true, can be considered as criminal," Del Rosario said.
Noting that victims haven't filed a formal complaint, he also urged them to come forward. "If this thing does exist, we hope to be able to confront it."
'Hearsay' for now
He added the government will not take the exposé as gospel truth – for now. He said Bello's exposé “is subject to be validated.” “This is hearsay,” he said, appealing to the media "not to sensationalize the incidents."
Bello, chairman of the House committee on overseas workers' affairs, on Tuesday said the information came from department and embassy insiders, affidavits of witnesses, and confidential reports.
Del Rosario said he will lead the investigation into the sex case. “I found this disconcerting,” he said.
Bello said: “Sexual abuse on our womenfolk perpetrated by their hosts in a foreign county is an awful crime. But there is something more awful, and that is their exploitation by their own compatriots in that strange land.”
The Department of Labor and Employment had earlier formed an investigative team to look into the matter. The team is composed of woman lawyers from various offices attached to the DOLE. – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of 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 him at firstname.lastname@example.org.