MANILA, Philippines—The Riyadh-based assistant labor attaché accused of victimizing three overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in a “sex-for-repatriation” scheme faces dismissal as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has formed a new committee to conduct a preliminary hearing to determine if he can be charged with an administrative offense.
With the three complainants having come forward to accuse official Antonio Villafuerte, the preliminary investigation can already begin even if the fact-finding body has yet to complete its task, said Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz.
Villafuerte, who has been with the DOLE for 28 years, has been recalled and is set to arrive in Manila on Thursday. He is expected to face the special committee next week.
“With three affidavits already submitted and Villafuerte being asked to submit his (counter-affidavit), they can already begin assessing the merits of the case,” Baldoz told reporters.
Baldoz said the new committee, to be headed by DOLE assistant secretary Gloria Tango, will begin processing the complaints filed against Villafuerte after he submits his counter-affidavit. It will study the possible filing of administrative cases.
According to Labor Undersecretary Rebecca Chato, possible sanctions for administrative cases range from suspension to termination from the service, or termination with perpetual disqualification.
Baldoz stressed that the committee is different from the fact-finding team that is set to leave for Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia on Saturday to gather more testimonial and documentary evidence at those posts.
Prevent similar cases
“There are people in the posts who may shed light and provide additional information… we might as well get statements so we can get the whole picture… My other concern is what reforms could be introduced to prevent similar cases in the future,” she said.
“Other than applying the law using the [pieces of] evidence gathered by the investigation team, I’m more interested to also study the case and find out what the causes were and if there are reforms that need to be introduced,” Baldoz said.
These reforms will include the different aspects of managing overseas Filipino workers and the deployment of female labor and welfare officers in the various diplomatic posts in the Middle East.
Baldoz said she has already instructed Overseas Workers Welfare Administration head Carmelita Dimzon to conduct an inventory and prepare a list of women officers who will run the welfare centers in order to protect distressed and runaway OFWs in halfway houses in the Middle East.
Three OFWs last week accused Villafuerte of sexually molesting them and pimping them in exchange for tickets home.
Aside from Villafuerte, the DOE fact-finding team is investigating Blas Marquez, a local hire from Kuwait and Mario Antonio, welfare officer and acting labor attaché for Jordan, who were previously implicated by Akbayan party-list representative Walden Bello as allegedly involved in a sex ring operation.
Baldoz said no complainant against Antonio and Marquez have come forward yet.—With Tarra Quismundo