SENATOR Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada wants a labor attaché assigned in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia sacked for failure to protect and promote the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in his area of assignment.
Estrada, in an interview after the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing on the sexual exploitation of OFWs, said that Adam Musa neglected his duty by failing to give attention to the plight of distressed OFWs.
Estrada, who chairs the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resource Development, said that based on the statements given by Musa during the hearing, it is clear that the labor official did not help Grace Victoria Sales, the OFW who claimed to have been sexually abused by Musa’s driver in 2012.
The senator said that he is convinced that the labor attaché did not bother to seriously look into the allegations of Sales and instead tried to protect his driver.
During the hearing, Sales narrated how she was sexually molested by Musa’s driver which she identified only as “kuya Jojo” at the Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC) in Riyadh.
According to her, she sought refuge at the FWRC after she fled the house of her employer who attempted to rape her. She said she was offered a janitorial job by Musa at the FRWC.
Sales decided to leave the FRWC, commonly known as “bahay kalinga,” to escape the sexual advances of Musa’s driver.
Asked if the labor officer tried to personally look for her and act on her case, Sales said that it was only Musa’s staff who contacted her.
Musa claimed that he knew about the misunderstanding between Sales and his driver but he was not aware that she was sexually harassed.
“I know there was misunderstanding. According to her, she was harassed by Jojo. I did not have the opportunity to talk to her,” Musa told the senators.
Sales said she never had a chance to talk to Musa after the incident, and it was his staff Edith Aquino who got in touch with her.
It was Aquino who handed to her 10,000 Saudi riyals (over P110,000) Jojo’s three month salary, as settlement. She said she accepted the money after she was promised that she will be allowed to work legally in the Saudi Arabia and that her abuser will be fired. None of the promises was kept.
Sales was able to go back to the Philippines after an unidentified sponsor agreed to shoulder her plane ticket.
Senator Teofisto Guingona 3rd said that even if the criminal act was done in another country, a case can be filed and tried here based on the Revised Penal Code.
He explained that although the law states that criminal action should be filed in the place where the crime was committed, the law excludes public officials exercising public functions in other countries.
According to him, embassy and labor officials who committed crimes in other countries can be tried in the Philippines. This applies to Musa’s driver.
Guingona, chairman of the Blue Ribbon panel, said that Sales’ abuser will be punished.
“We keep saying that our OFWs are heroes. Well, even our heroes need a little help sometimes. This is our task today,” Guingona said.
In the next hearing, the committee will present the three OFWs who claimed to have been victims of the so-called sex-for-repatriation scheme.
WITH A REPORT FROM ROSALYN D. TUAZON