It’s all about power and fear.
Several impoverished, abused cheated and beaten Filipino female workers taking shelter in Middle Eastern Philippine embassies have been allegedly sexually assaulted and prostituted by some corrupt and depraved embassy officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), according to Walden Bello, the sociologist-turned-congressman, in a press conference in Manila recently. He named two of the officials and gave the nickname of a third. Yet many more have been involved in this despicable and criminal activity and dozens of young women have been violated.
They are vulnerable, lonely, and isolated in a foreign country, victims of physical and sexual abuse by their foreign employers. They escaped and ran for help and shelter to the Philippine embassies in Jordan, Syria and Kuwait. These young women, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), are totally dependent on Embassy officials when they take them in to the shelter with promises that the Philippine Government would protect and repatriate them.
Instead of being helped many of them were subjected to humiliating and shameful sexual exploitation by corrupt and depraved officials themselves. Not only were they forced to perform sexual acts with some officials but they were sold into sexual slavery in the city from which the embassy officials earned a lot of money.
Rep. Bello told a news conference that his source is a high official of the DFA and he named names. The young victims were too scared and helpless to resist the power of the government officials. Just imagine what most likely went on in the embassy shelters to coerce and threaten them into submission and docility. They likely received threats of dire punishment if they told anyone about it.
Imagine it might have happened like this to a fictional young woman named Rosa.
Embassy Official in a closed embassy room: ” Rosa, I will help you get home to the Philippines, you can earn some money, just lets have a little fun first.”
Rosa tries to resist: ”No. No, please don’t touch me, leave me alone, that’s what the evil employer did to me: he raped me, don’t, don’t.”
Official, pulling an angry stern face: “You are here under my power , if you don’t do as I say, I will send you back out to your employer and the authorities, you will be on the street without documents or passport, do you understand? You will be arrested and jailed.”
Rosa: ”Please sir, don’t do that. I want to go home. I have not seen my family for years. I have nothing; no money, no job, no food. I have been cheated, robbed and raped. Please don’t cancel my air ticket.”
She was by now crying and howling, tears streaming down her face but the official seemed to be aroused by her distress and moved to sexually exploit her.
Most of the Embassy employees had to know about it, but remained silent or worse may have been involved, too. Why did they not blow the whistle and come to the rescue of the women? Their silence can only be understood as approval, or they were silenced by threats and fear. A culture of fear of higher authority can overpower the moral values of even the strongest and most spiritual person. Courage and belief in human dignity and rights and know how to get help is what is needed.
The young women are silent also; fear has a paralyzing power to subjugate and render people unable to resist or speak against the exploiter or abuser. Some government authority figures have an arrogant sense of superiority that they tend to trivialize sexual crimes.
The worst part of all this is that the suffering victims are treated as if they are an enemy, a hostile, ungrateful beneficiary out to hurt the man. We can imagine an arrogant rapist official scolding his abused victim.
”You are an ungrateful brat, no better than a prostitute. You should feel honored that I, an important official and your superior, would lower myself to have sex with the likes of you, an impoverished non-person. You should be grateful for the help we have you here instead of protesting and complaining.”
Such depravity and criminality leaves the normal person breathless, angry and bewildered. But for those in positions of power and ascendency—whether it be government, church or in the family—the abuse of power by threats of dire punishment against the weak and helpless creates deeply held fear.
The poor know the rich and powerful can murder and rape with impunity. For the powerful it seems an entitlement, a privilege of power. The senior Philippine embassy officials in Jordan, Syria and Kuwait have been recalled to answer the complaints. Not before their time.