Reports of Philippine embassy personnel posted in the Middle East either raping or selling distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) into prostitution are a cause for alarm, but only if they are proven to be true.
The OFWs are mostly domestic helpers who escaped their employers for various valid reasons, including being raped or sexually harassed, maltreated, beaten or deprived of the agreed upon compensation.
To subject them to further abuse is tantamount to rubbing salt on their wounds. And for Philippine embassy personnel to be the ones to commit such grave offenses is unthinkable.
While we agree that any person should be presumed innocent unless and until he is proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt, we also believe in the adage that where there is smoke there is fire.
Reports of abusive embassy personnel have been rampant for the longest time. Recently, a video of one seemingly inebriated diplomat shouting and cursing at a visitor to a consulate office went viral. He was subsequently recalled and asked to explain his unprofessional conduct.
The offense of that diplomat pales in comparison to what three embassy personnel are accused of committing in Syria, Kuwait and Jordan.
One reportedly engaged in forced sex with several OFWs stranded in Syria. Two others are said to have sold female OFWs to male customers in Kuwait and Jordan, at $1,000 a night.
If true, their actions are beyond cruel.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment must get to the bottom of the reports. The DFA and DOLE must do more than merely wait for victims to step forward. Because of the embarrassing nature of the crime committed against their persons, the OFWs cannot be expected to identify themselves and recount their ordeal, fearing public humiliation.
The victims may simply be happy to be home, and put their traumatic experiences behind them.
This is wrong on multiple counts. To allow the perpetrators of the crimes to get away scot-free would be to allow them to victimize more OFWs in the future.
The DFA and DOLE should, therefore, reach out to possible victims, and convince them to do their part to send the erring embassy personnel where they belong—behind bars.