THIRTEEN officials from the Departments of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Labor on Tuesday were tagged in various harassment cases against Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) during the investigation on the “sex-for-flight” scheme involving Philippine officials in the Middle East.
Of the 13 officials, 11 are from the DOLE while two are working at the DFA. However, DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez did not say which embassies the 13 were posted in.
One of the two DFA officials tagged has been relieved since he was a local hire in the Philippine Embassy in Damascus while the other one was recalled and is undergoing investigation.
Hernandez said that although the sex abuse allegations were not proven, there were other forms of harassment that cropped up during the fact-finding probe conducted by DFA.
The DFA has invited Philippine ambassadors from countries in the Middle East to shed light on the allegations of sexual abuse.
Meanwhile, Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello said only four of the 13 officials were fired from their jobs.
Those terminated were Mohammad Abdul Majid of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office-Qatar, Victor Godoy of Overseas Workers Welfare Administration-Jordan, Jose Casicas of POLO-Saudi Arabia and Alfredo Labrador of Philippine Embassy in Syria.
Majid, who worked as an interpreter, was terminated in December 2011 for collecting money from OFWs for tickets which were already paid for by sponsors and recruitment agencies. Majid was also ordered to return the money he collected.
Godoy lost his job as a driver in April 2013 for verbally abusing OFWs who refused his sexual overtures. He has yet to face investigation.
Like Godoy, Casicas worked as a driver and was terminated in June 2013 because of sexual assault and attempted rape allegations.
Another driver, Labrador, was also fired because of multiple complaints of sexual harassment.
The employees and officials who are yet to be fired include Nasser Macarimbang of POLO-Qatar (offensive manner of questioning of an alleged victims of sexual abuse), Qatar Welfare Officer Sitti Jaafar (bringing home OFWs to her residence), Camaloden Guro of Syria Augmentation Team (fraternizing with OFWs and inappropriate behavior such as kissing, hugging during a New Year’s Eve function), Antonio Villafuerte of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh (sexual harassment, molestation), POLO-Riyadh Interpreter Bashir Ayub, Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC)-Riyadh Manager Richard Seneres, Mario Antonio of the Philippine Embassy in Syria who was accused of running prostitution rings in his postings in Tokyo, Lebanon and Jordan, Blas Marquez and FWRC-Kuwait volunteer Jose Gratil.
Bello and fellow lawmaker Barry Gutierrez also said the victims of the alleged sexual abuses are readying possible trafficking and prostitution charges against embassy and labor officials.
Bello and Gutierrez made the disclosure alongside the victims of the abuse who were identified as Michele, April and four others who wore masks to conceal their identities.
The Akbayan lawmakers were referring to the case of Kim Guru, Mario Antonio and Blas Marquez who were identified by their colleagues as those prostituting OFWs, if not abusing them sexually. These people are stationed in Syria, Jordan and Kuwait, respectively.
The DFA has identified 13 measures to address the sexual abuses perpetrated by people from its ranks, but such action plan is yet to be implemented.
“It is clear that they committed grave abuse of misconduct because they are government officials who are supposed to protect the OFWs. We are looking at trafficking charges because they acted as pimps for the OFWs in the shelter who are already there to escape abuses in the first place. There should be criminal prosecution here,” Gutierrez said in a press conference.
The distressed OFWs sought assistance from Akbayan.
“There is basis for trial because they committed these in the course of their duties. For trafficking charges, our courts would have extra-territorial jurisdiction in accordance with our laws,” Gutierrez added.
Gutierrez’s claims were echoed by Michele who was particularly adamant in filing charges against a certain Antonio Villafuerte who serves as the Assistant Labor Attaché in the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
“Administrative charges are not enough. There should be a criminal case against him. The government officials should stop defending him and believe us because we are the ones telling the truth,” Michele said.