• Probers tag labor attaché

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    DFA chief Albert del Rosario PHOTO BY EDWIN MULI

    DFA chief Albert del Rosario PHOTO BY EDWIN MULI

    AN assistant labor attaché stationed in Saudi Arabia will be the first Philippine diplomatic official to be investigated in connection with the sexual abuse and harassment of distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who are awaiting repatriation.

    The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Monday identified the official as Antonio Villafuerte, who was accused of attempting to have sex with an OFW named “Michelle.”

    Villafuerte is also accused of pimping “Michelle” to an Egyptian friend.

    Labor Undersecretary Danilo Cruz said Villafuerte has been ordered to immediately come home.

    But Cruz said he was unaware if “Michelle” or any other OFW has filed a formal complaint against Villafuerte.

    Last week, the DOLE fact-finding team expanded its probe to cover Saudi Arabia taking the cue from “Michelle’s” exposè.

    Villafuerte has yet to come home, but the fact-finding team is already scheduled to leave for the Middle East this week to search for more information and to ferret out other possible victims.

    On Monday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario confirmed at least one suspected offender has been identified but stopped short of naming him. Del Rosario said the official has been recalled and “will face investigation once he arrives.”

    He said he was able to confirm “certain allegations” after he talked with three alleged victims on June 21.

    “For the most part, however, until other victims and witnesses come forward, all other allegations including sex rings remain as allegations requiring further investigation,” he told reporters.

    The allegations against the officials range from harassment to abuse of authority to molestation.

    Halfway houses
    Del Rosario also ordered home the ambassadors to Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore following a fact-finding investigation regarding the alleged sexual abuses in countries where the Philippines runs halfway houses for distressed Filipino migrant workers awaiting repatriation.

    There are what are called Filipino Workers’ Resource Centers in the three countries
    Del Rosario held consultations with the envoys from Syria, Jordan and Kuwait, as well as eight other countries in the Middle East and North Africa regarding the allegations.

    “We need to take a good look [at these halfway houses]. We want to make it clear there should be no fraternization between embassy officials, including attached agencies,” and the OFWs taking refuge there, the secretary said.

    The rules and regulations in the halfway houses must be “standardized,” del Rosario said.

    Last week, the Department of Foreign Affairs recalled 13 mission chiefs in the Middle East and North Africa to help investigate allegations of sexual harassment and abuse committed by embassy and labor officials in Syria, Jordan and Kuwait.

    Diplomats from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and Lebanon were also asked to come home.

    The allegations were first hurled by Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello who accused a certain “Kim” from the Philippine augmentation team in Syria, Mario Antonio, assistant labor attache in Jordan, and Blas Marquez, a local hire of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Kuwait, of abusing and pimping Filipinas.

    He said the three offered plane tickets to the Filipinas for their repatriation in exchange for sexual favors.

    During his meeting with the heads of 13 Philippine missions over the weekend, del Rosario said he was able “to collate all possible information that I think will enable us to have justice for the victims and punish the guilty. We will be able to review all the policies and procedures governing our conduct in cases such as these.”

    The heads of the missions have returned to their posts.

    Del Rosario called on the victims of sexual abuse and harassment to come forward and file charges against the officials. Until then, he said, the department will not be able to get a clear picture of the allegations.

    Graft, corruption charges
    Katrina Legarda, a known women’s rights activist who recently conducted a gender sensitivity talk for Foreign Affairs official, earlier recommended the filing of graft and corruption charges against the alleged offenders.

    Del Rosario said the department will consider Legarda’s recommendation.
    Malacañang also vowed to give justice to the victims and punish the guilty.

    “Whatever assistance that will be required to be given them, we will so provide,” Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing also on Monday.

    Lacierda said the DFA and DOLE are in the fact-finding phase of their probes.

    ”Based on the discussions yesterday and the allegations that were raised and all the results of the meeting yesterday, they have forwarded all these findings also to DOLE,” he said.

    Lacierda said they will also check if the officials involved were appointed during the time of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.

    He assured the public that the investigation will be fair and everything will be based on evidence presented.

    With report from Catherine S. Valente

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    11 Comments

    1. Itoy matagal ng nangyaayri dekada ang nakalipas, marami ng maga reklamo noon, wlang nagyayari dhil walng gustong tumistigo khit ang mga biktima ay ayaw mag salita. Pnahon pa ni Pres. Marcos hanggang ngayon parihong problima wlang pag babago. sewertihan na lang yan Makarma din ang may gawa niyan, sana pati na buong pamilya nila MAKARMA. pagdasal na nlng.

    2. Arriel Reyes on

      In fact OFW calls as Bagong Bayani and we are the one delivering economy to our country land thru sending remittances. These people working in EMbassy are the emmisaries of the govt. to look into the OFW conditions.But in reality some of them bringing the OFW in a nightmare and bussiness while they are in custody of Embassy people. Let vigilant and work together to stop this, report any abusive act and punish the embassy people who commits against our fellow OFW. FIGHT OFW

    3. hecklerandkoch on

      AND JUSTICE WILL BE SERVED. KARMA. Patay kang bata ka Antonio Villafuerte tapos na maligayang araw mo sa Saudi, dinamay mo na pati pamilya mo.solution ? harakiri

    4. What will happen next is that their NINONGS (politicians mostly) will save their ass from prosecution.LET’S WAIT AND SEE IF OUR PRESIDENT HAS THE BALLS TO DEAL WITH THIS,HAAAANG THEMMM.

    5. What really going on with this PCOS-Produced administration every time the guilty party are member of their “Tuwid Na Daan” alliance… expect the Yellow and Allied Media publicist to carry out a preventive round of “Yackety-yak” condemnatory publicity to soften up and slows the course of public wrath and later on they (the “Sex-Trade-For-Tickets-suspects”) end up unscathed without criminal convictions

    6. gregorio cacanindin on

      What about economic sabotage? It will take 6-8 weeks to process a dual citizenship application over here in Vancouver, Canada. A person who named Bennette or Beny who’s assigned in this department is acting unprofessional. Doesn’t know how to acknowledge if your application has arrived, no consideration, most of the time you can’t talk to them (want to leave a message – the mail box is full). Even these people are volunteers, they should have the responsibilities to carry out their tasks, we accord them with high respect. Don’t they?

    7. Yes,…there have been a lot of cases that most OFW have been complaining since 1990 of Malpractices our Embassy staff has been involved with specially in Saudi Arabia.
      I worked in King Fahad Hospital -Jeddah in from 1990-1993 & I usually drop by the Old Consulate because I used to have a classmate in high school who was an employee of the Philippine Consulate, & according to her our Consulate in Jeddah don’t care of the problems of the OFW were facing that to the extent of taking advantage of the situations of some of our female OFW who escaped from their cruel employers.
      I am still in Jeddah & if only I can do something please let me know.
      This news that DFA seems to be giving attention to this time has been there for a long long time & I hope all parties involved will be punished.
      There are a lot of OFW females that had been victimized by our Consulate Staffs & so with their friends who are hanging out everyday at the Consulate waiting for a young, old, single, married OFW females running away from their employers & asking mercy from them.
      You certainly know of the present situation our OFW are facing outside the Consulate in Jeddah. Our OFW brothers & sisters & a lot with their kids are staying in tents under the very hot climate & nothing has been done about this. WHY?
      The least that we could do is give them some food & water but we can’t do it 24/7 because we are also working & earning for our Families.
      My heart breaks & so as my pinoy co-workers but we can’t do anything more.

    8. In Malaysia my wife witnessed the same thing what happened in Riyadh, a male officer went out with one of our distressed kabayan, the reason she needs to go with him to buy a ticket. My wife told her not to g, but the distressed kabayan said to my wife she needs to so she could go home.After couple of hours they came back. My wife and some other people (run ways) ask her what happened.She cried and told that they went to a hotel and she was used by the embassy staff. Telling her that if she wants to go home they need to have some agreement which is sex for ticket. The sad thing is the woman was 2 months pregnant at that time.The officer tried also to convince my wife to go with him but I already bought a ticket and had daily follow ups.This happens in 2010.

      The DFA should investigate deeper. I am sure people in the embassy knows their colleagues habits.

    9. already confirmed, then he should be arrested and detained when he arrives, while the case is being proved.