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DOLE expands probe of sex-for-flight scandal

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Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz: Probe beyond sex-for-repatriation allegations. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The fact-finding team created by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to look into the alleged sex-for-flight scheme at several Philippine diplomatic outposts in the Middle East is expanding its investigation to cover other irregularities reported in Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (Polo) in the region.

Lawyer Leah Fortuna, probe team leader, said they had a big job ahead of them after Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz instructed them not to limit their investigation to the sex-for-repatriation allegations.

“We will look into several other issues reported to us, including irregularities in operational policy matters,” Fortuna told reporters.

Bottom line: Reforms

“The bottom line is, at the end of the process, whether somebody will be charged or not, whether the allegations are true or not, there should be reforms,” she said.

Reports had surfaced that some distressed OFWs staying at the welfare centers or halfway houses awaiting repatriation were being made to do part-time jobs, like working as waiters in hotels, apparently by some labor officers.

But other labor officials explained that OFWs at the centers were not allowed to take part-time jobs because this exposed them to risks and they were not covered by employment contracts.

As of Thursday, the DOLE fact-finding team was preparing to depart for the Middle East on Saturday to gather more testimonial and documentary evidence.

The three-member team would be in Kuwait until July 3, then proceed to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, until July 9 and then on to Jordan before returning home on July 13.

“We’re now doing a final meeting and finishing touches on the documents or the information that we need to take note of for validation at those posts,” Fortuna said, adding that the documents included the affidavits of the three OFWs who had accused Riyadh-based assistant labor attaché Antonio Villafuerte of sexually molesting them and pimping them in exchange for plane tickets home.

Villafuerte is scheduled to arrive in Manila on Friday.

OFW watchdog Migrante International on Thursday called on the Philippine government to urgently act on complaints from stranded OFWs in Riyadh who had complained of alleged harassment and threats by Villafuerte.

Harassment in Riyadh

According to Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairman, they received reports from Migrante-Riyadh that Villafuerte, upon learning of the reports linking him to the sex-for-flight scheme, allegedly proceeded to harass OFWs at the Bahay Kalinga halfway house in Riyadh.

On June 24, Villafuerte reportedly went to Bahay Kalinga and forced the women OFWs to sign affidavits refuting the allegations against him, Martinez said in a statement.

“They were forced to sign under duress. The women OFWs are desperate to return home before the July 3 deadline. They know fully well that no one can leave Bahay Kalinga without a request from Villafuerte,” he said.

Meanwhile, Philippine envoys in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong had been summoned to the home office on Friday to help the Department of Foreign Affairs gather more information on cases of sexual abuse in migrant workers’ shelters and draw up measures to prevent such incidents from happening again.

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  • pentamaster

    good job! kahit papaano meron tayung pag babago.

  • albert13

    wala na bang ibang picture ni baldoz ang inquirer. sawa na ako sa kakatingin sa photo ng ensaymada pag may irereport ang inquirer tungkol sa labor at kay baldoz. i will sue inquirer in the commission of human rights for subjecting readers into this kind of torture and suffering.

  • wawa2172

    Villafuerte should be fired if the allegation is true. The envoy however should be given his time in court to refute all the charges. In the meantime DFA should relieved the man for speedy investigation on the issue para di ma ka pang harass nang witnesses. Having three witnesses and victims would be difficult for Villafuerte to defend himself but he could still explain his innocence until proven otherwise. Pasalamat na lang si Villafuerte that he will be investigated in the country of carabao dahil maaring may palusot pa siya lalo na sa kakampi sa gobyerno. If he will be triedn and found guilty under the camel law tiyak putol ulo niya and swerti kung sa itaas at hindi sa in between legs.

    • marionics

      wala na. laos na itong isyung ito next week.

    • Cano Manuel

      He plays a major role in the sex-trade, and so it is not a win-win situation for both Villafuerte and the local authority if Villafuerte is arrested in Riyadh.

      I have met this guy and he has not a single sincerity in helping his “kababayans”. He is a rat pestering the Filipino society. I would like to see him behind bars.

  • johnlordphilip

    It’s always good to hope for something better for our country. To see all these bad things getting corrected, the HOPES are UP.

  • Cano Manuel

    I would like to get a hand of those affidavits so I could get the names of the stranded OFW’s. I would give it a benefit of the doubt and would rather have the “signee” state their stories face to face. If the data gathered from the “signee” do not match those in the affidavit, then something is really fishy.

    Villafuerte, having gathered affidavits before his return only proves his guilt all the more, because by so doing he is indeed preventing the stranded OFW’s from testifying in person to conceal the truth. Those involved in the cover up process should also be relieved from work and tried and if found guilty of being an accomplice should be slapped with criminal charges, and those who have knowledge of the issue but did not report them to the authority should be jailed, as well.

    • marionics

      i don’t know about that. if you wanted to prove your innocence wouldn’t you get your own witnesses?

  • disqusted0fu

    Just like all investigations happening in this administration, we are unlikely to see its outcome. issues usually stop as soon as investigation begins. That is more often than not the last step taken. After that we will not hear anything from the investigation anymore until the issue just dies on its own while the crime itself continues.

  • Ramses

    DFA had made a serious mistake in handling this sex-for-flight scandal. It did not put Antonio Villafuerte on immediate administrative leave after he had been implicated. This could have prevented him from using his position to intimidate potential witnesses and cover up his trails.

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