De Lima forms inter-agency body to address trafficking of OFWs in Kuwait

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An inter-agency task force will be formed by the Department of Justice to go after the perpetrators of human trafficking of Filipina workers in Kuwait, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Wednesday.

De Lima made the disclosure when she attended the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs probe on the diplomats and labor officials who allegedly committed sexual abuses against distressed Overseas Filipino Workers in the Middle East.

“I am very much inclined to form an inter agency task force, with the Justice department as the lead agency, which will address labor trafficking victimizing our female workers in Kuwait. We have been informed of potential respondents, including officials of the embassy,” de Lima told the House Committee on Overseas Workers panel.

“We have received reports on individuals involved. Given the scope of cases, this exploitation is large scale,” de Lima, a lawyer, added.


De Lima said that she already tasked a group, including the National Bureau of Investigation, which will be a part of the interagency task force to submit their initial findings on the Kuwait trafficking December 16.

The Justice Secretary then trained her guns on the officials of the Foreign Affairs and Labor departments involved in committing abuses against distressed Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

“These cases would not have happened if these officials are doing their job diligently, properly, if they are genuinely there for public service. They are tasked to look after the welfare of our OFWs who have been exploited by their employers, but as it turns out, they join in the exploitation of these OFWs. That is unacceptable,” de Lima, a former Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, argued.

“That adds insult to the injury and compounds the woes of our OFWs,” de Lima added.

On top of the task force, de Lima is also looking at other recourse in making those involved in the human trafficking accountable for their actions, including the possibility of seeking for the cancellation of their passports as what the Justice department had done with the suspects in the P10 billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

The Justice department made the request of cancellation of passport of PDAF scam suspects before the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Based on the Philippine Passport Act, a person’s Philippine passport can be cancelled when: the holder is a fugitive from justice; the holder has been convicted of a criminal offense, provided that the passport may be restored after the sentence is served; when a passport was acquired fraudulently or tampered with.

In addition, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs can cancel a passport in the interest of national security provided that it shall not mean a loss or doubt on the person’s citizenship and that the cancellation would not prevent the issuance of a Travel Document to allow for a safe return journey by a Filipino to the Philippines.

“As we have uncovered, the large scale corruption in the PDAF scam is of national interest and is intimately related to national security. “I can’t say yet if conditions [in Kuwait trafficking]would cover the same ground since we are still waiting for the DFA’s decision on our request for PDAF suspects, but I am always open to exploring all the legal weapons in the search for truth and justice,” de Lima added in closing. LLANESCA T. PANTI

 

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