Senate grills labor exec over abused Filipina in Saudi Arabia
MANILA, Philippines—Senators grilled Philippine labor attaché to Saudi Arabia Adam Musa for his alleged failure to protect overseas Filipino workers as Senate opened its inquiry Thursday into the alleged “sex-for-flight” scandal.
Musa went under intense questioning by senators after 28-year-old Grace Victoria Sales told the Senate blue ribbon and labor committees that she had been sexually harassed by the labor attache’s driver, whom she identified as a certain Jojo.
Jojo was an employee of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Saudi.
It was Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce-Enrile who first snapped at Musa while asking the labor attaché if he knew about the attempted rape committed by his driver.
“Why are you there in your post a labor attache?” Enrile asked to which Musa answered, “To ensure the protection and the rights of the OFWs.”
Enrile then asked why Musa was not able to protect Sales, who was also working as a janitress in POLO, when the driver allegedly tried to rape her on August 21, 2012.
The senator also pointed out the labor attaché’s failure to look for Sales, when the latter escaped from POLO after the incident.
Musa said that after learning about the incident, she immediately conducted an internal investigation but could no longer contact Sales.
“I wanted to interview her. I have no access to talk to her,” he said.
Not satisfied by Musa’s answers, Enrile directed his questions to Labor Secreatary Rosalinda Baldoz, who also attended the hearing.
“Is that the norm of conduct that you expect from your labor attachés?” he asked.
“I’m sorry to say this but I think the impression that we’re getting is that your people were remised in the performance of their duties to protect our people,” Enrile added.
Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada also expressed dismay that the labor attaché was not able to protect the victim.
“You knew there was a problem. One of the functions a labor attaché is to promote and protect the general welfare of OFWs. Am I correct? And you did not even go out of your way to look for Josie (The alias used by Sales). Instead, you just instructed your staff named Edith to talk to Ms. Josie,” Estrada said.
Edith Aquino is the administrative assistant in Polo, who was identified by Sales in her testimony as the person who contacted her after she escaped from their office.
It was Aquino, Sales said, who informed her that a disciplinary action would be imposed against the driver and that the latter’s three-month pay would be given to her.
Sales said she was also told that the 10,000 riyal or an equivalent to more than P100,000 that she got came from the labor attaché. But Musa immediately denied this.
“Hindi po galing sa bulsa ko yung pera. Bakit ko po bibigyan ng pera ng ganung halaga? (That money didn’t come from my own pocket. Why would I give her such amount of money?)” he said.
Responding to Estrada’s queries, Musa said he no longer pursued Sales because he was told that she was being assisted by critics of POLO.
Another reason, Musa said, was that it was not easy for them to move around because they were not recognized by the host country.
“Every time we go out of Riyadh, we have to seek the permission of the host government,” he pointed out.
Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the blue ribbon committee, also lost his temper because of what he noted as inconsistencies in Musa’s statements.
“Mr. Musa, mukhang malabo kang kausap ha (It seems that you’ re difficult to deal with). You said that you’re trying to get in touch with Josie (Sale’s alias) but your staff did get in touch with Josie,” Guingona said.
“Tapos nagbigay ng malaking pera tapos sinasabi mo ngayon hindi mo alam kung ano ang napag-usapan? Malabo ka yatang kausap a (A huge money was given and then you’re saying now that you don’t know what happened. You’re really difficult to deal with),” he further said.
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