MANILA, Philippines — After securing the chairmanship for the committee on overseas workers affairs at the House of Representatives, Akbayan’s Walden Bello on Tuesday said that he would seek the investigation of the alleged sexual exploitation cases on distressed female Filipino workers in the Middle East.
In a phone interview with INQUIRER.net, Bello said that their group had not received word from both the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on their separate inquiries into the alleged involvement of Philippine Embassy and labor officials in the scandal.
“We have not been appraised of developments in the investigation. Although we have constantly asked for updates, we have not received information other than being told that they are already investigating,” he said.
Bello exposed the sexual exploitation cases months ago, prompting the DFA and the DOLE to ask the officials named in these cases to return to the Philippines for an investigation.
But it was not just the “slow pace” of the two departments’ investigation which prompted the Akbayan lawmaker to launch a congressional inquiry.
“We had planned this ever since. This was planned irrespective of their investigation. We said that once Congress opens, we will file a resolution whereby the House would conduct and inquiry. We filed the resolution on July 1 and yesterday I was appointed chairman of the Overseas Workers Affairs Committee,” he said.
“The first order of business for this committee will be that resolution for an inquiry into these cases,” Bello said.
The Akbayan lawmaker said that a congressional inquiry into cases of sexual abuse on OFWs became “even more important” since the DFA and the DOLE’s investigations have been lagging.
He said the investigation would start as soon as he has assembled the panel.
“It might be on the second or fourth week of each month,” Bello said when asked about a possible schedule for the hearings.
Bello said his panel would have to start from scratch as the DFA and the DOLE have not shared what they have so far discussed in their own inquiries.
“We need to investigate. They are not telling us who have been dismissed. They are not giving us updates about the investigation,” he said.
The Akbayan lawmaker said they appreciated the separate inquiries being conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ).