MANILA, Philippines — Akbayan Representative Walden Bello has asked the Department of Justice to take a look at the allegations of sexual exploitation of overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East by Philippine officials, to ensure that the victims would get the justice they have been seeking.
Bello, in a statement, said he met with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Monday and she expressed concern that the experiences of OFWs might not only be a case of sexual exploitation but one of trafficking too.
The justice secretary, he said, would wait for the results of the investigations of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment. Based on the results, the DOJ would come up with recommendations to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, he said.
“And if it is indeed a case of trafficking, they will investigate not only our embassies, but will coordinate with the national government agencies in the countries mentioned to investigate the bigger half of the problem which happens outside the premises of our embassies,” he said.
He said the ordeal of the OFWs in the Middle East, allegedly at the hands of predatory Philippine officials, was “riddled with layers of injustice.”
He earlier bared allegations that Philippine labor overseas officials had been prostituting distressed OFWs in the Middle East, or had been telling them to exchange in the sex trade to earn money for their flight home.
“Abused and distressed migrant workers appealing for help, sold by the people whose mandate is to protect them, to the highest bidder. This is not a simple case of dereliction of duty that will be solved by administrative sanctions,” he said.
“More and more women are coming out with their stories, and they are asking for justice. And this is why we brought the issue to the DOJ,” he added.
Bello further said the DOJ could help resolve the root causes of the issue.
“The DOJ is best equipped to get to the root of the problem and bring the perpetrators of abuse to account. Only then will we be able to say that we have ensured the dignity and welfare of Filipinos who leave the country in search of a better life for their families,” he said.