MANILA, Philippines—A labor official implicated in the so-called sex-for-repatriation controversy has been sanctioned with a four-month suspension for “simple misconduct,” according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said she has ordered the suspension of acting Labor Attaché Mario Antonio after the DOLE’s fact-finding team only found some evidence against him for a “simple misconduct” case.
Baldoz said the team confirmed that Antonio used vulgar and indecent language while talking with distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). She added that the labor official also used an office-issued laptop to view pornographic materials.
“After a thorough investigation, I have ordered the four-month suspension without pay of Mario Antonio effective 15 days upon receipt of the decision,” she said.
However, Baldoz said she will temporarily defer the implementation of her decision until she reviews a plea for reconsideration filed by Antonio.
Antonio was among the labor officials investigated by the labor department for allegedly engaging some OFWs in the Middle East in sexual activities in exchange for their speedy repatriation. Other labor officials who were also probed included Riyadh Adam Musa and Assistant Labor Attaché Antonio Villafuerte.
Last August, Baldoz approved the filing of an administrative case against the three labor officials after the fact-finding team tasked to look into the controversy found prima facie evidence against the officials—not for the sex-for-repatriation allegations but for other infractions, including their “failure to do their duties well.”
She earlier said the team did not find the involvement of any of the DOLE organic personnel in any “sex-for-fly” or “sex-for-hire” activities.
The investigation report said some distressed workers may have been recruited into a prostitution ring, but it did not involve their personnel.
In the cases against the three labor officials, complainants came forward only against Villafuerte. He was accused by three OFWs of sexually molesting and pimping them in exchange for plane tickets. He denied the allegations.
Baldoz said she expects to finish the investigation on Musa and Villafuerte by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Antonio filed a motion for partial reconsideration. He claimed the pornographic materials recovered in his laptop were not his but were downloaded by an unidentified ward.