MANILA, Philippines—Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) would not be so vulnerable to exploitation or abuse, even supposedly by Philippine Embassy officials, if the government has not been so delinquent in protecting and providing for them, according to a party-list lawmaker.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan said the government must step up efforts to repatriate distressed migrant workers to minimize the risks of them falling prey to abuse.
Ilagan issued the statement amid allegations that Philippine Embassy and labor officials in three Middle East countries sexually exploited distressed female Filipino workers under their protection.
“The prostitution of [migrant workers] in distress is an offshoot of the government’s longtime neglect of our Filipino migrant workers. After having escaped from abusive employers, they now fall prey to equally abusive consulate and labor officials. This is double, even multiple exploitation and abuse,” she said.
Ilagan said she was also concerned that as more migrants run away from abusive employers or working conditions and crowd embassy shelters, more workers will turn to “desperate measures.”
“Their lack of employment and financial capability in a foreign land makes them vulnerable to prostitution and abuse,” she said.
“If the process of repatriation moves quickly and the government provides enough funds to help [migrant workers], the workers would not be placed in a vulnerable situation,” she added.
Ilagan said that she supported the investigation of the sexual exploitation allegations and hoped the probe would lead to concrete reforms in the government’s treatment of Filipinos working in other countries.
“Not only should labor officials abroad be prosecuted and made accountable, more importantly this exposé should pave the way for efficient delivery of services to distressed [migrant workers],” she said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs is investigating the allegations of Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello that embassy and labor officials in Syria, Jordan and Kuwait were sexually exploiting distressed female migrant workers under their protection.
Two labor officers allegedly run prostitution rings using female workers staying at the migrants’ shelter in Jordan and Kuwait.
An embassy official in Syria allegedly demands sex from distressed women in the shelter there in exchange for plane tickets to Manila.