Acting Labor Attaché Mario Antonio on Thursday vehemently denied he “sells and prostitutes” Filipina migrant workers seeking help from Philippine diplomatic officials in Jordan.
Facing reporters at a press conference organized by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Antonio said he was never the subject of any complaint in Jordan.
“I am here to refute and deny allegations hurled at me,” he said in Filipino.
Antonio said he was surprised when he heard reports that he ran a “prostitution ring” in the Middle East country when he arrived in Manila last June 12 after finishing his tour of duty.
He said he has served with full dedication to protect the welfare and the right of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Jordan.
“I have served as welfare officer with dedication in five overseas posts in the past 30 years of my service in OWWA,” said Antonio, reading from a prepared statement.
He last posting was as acting labor attaché of the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO) in Jordan.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz has order the forming of an investigating team to look into the reported racket of POLO officers in some countries in the Middle East forcing distressed females OFWs to have sex with them in exchange for a plane ticket to the Philippines.
Antonio said he is ready to face an inquiry, and stressed that he will only answer questions related to the allegations in the “proper venue and proper time.”
“I am asking everyone not to judge me outright and wait for the result of the investigation. I hope you respect my right,” he said.
Speculating on why he has been implicated in a sex scandal, Antonio said his “dedication to fight for Filipino workers overseas,” did not make “others happy.”
“So far, there 75 Filipinos who are sheltered by POLO. According to RA 10222, they should be given help and if necessary, help them to return in our country. But we have to follow the law of the Jordan government in giving help to our fellowmen,” Antonio said.
He said there are about 28,000 Filipinos in Jordan, 90 percent of them household service workers.
Most of the Filipinos were illegally recruited and were not documented by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
“Despite their being undocumented, the POLO still gave them protected custody and gave them shelter when needed,” Antonio said.
Antonio is one of three Philippine diplomatic officials Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello accused of sexually abusing and prostituting distressed OFWs.
OWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimzon said the agency and its employees are affected by the allegations against some embassy officials.
She said she has not taken action against Antonio, saying she will wait for the findings of the investigating team.
RITCHIE A. HORARIO