Slap on wrist won’t stop abuse of OFWs–Bello
MANILA, Philippines—The “inadequate” penalty the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) meted out to an overseas Philippine labor official for his attempt to cover up a sex abuse case in Saudi Arabia would do little to stop the abuses committed by Filipino officials abroad against their countrymen, fears Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello.
Bello on Thursday said he was disappointed by the one-month suspension without pay the DOLE assessed Riyadh assistant labor attaché Adam Musa for his role in covering up the attempted rape of a female Filipino worker by his driver.
The worker, who had run away from her employer and sought refuge in the Philippine Overseas Labor Office shelter in Al-Khobar, testified that the driver, Jose Casicas, tried to rape her. She also accused Musa in a Senate hearing of offering her 10,000 Saudi riyals for her silence and documents that would legalize her stay in Saudi Arabia.
Musa, in turn, told the Senate that all he knew was that the worker and his driver had a misunderstanding, and that he did not get a chance to talk to the worker since she ran away after the alleged rape attempt.
Following an investigation, the DOLE found Musa liable for simple neglect of duty.
This did not sit well with Bello, chair of the House committee on overseas workers affairs, who said the penalty was a slap on the wrist. He called the ruling inadequate and disappointing.
“This is not a case of the DOLE disciplining its officials,” Bello said in a statement. “This is a case of the DOLE acting like a criminal Mafia protecting its people.”
He said he hoped the Department of Justice would pursue criminal charges against the officials tagged in the abuse of female overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Bello said Philippine labor officials should be held to a high standard.
“OFWs expect and deserve labor officials with the highest moral integrity and who will look out for their interests. Apparently, DOLE doesn’t see eye to eye with our migrant workers,” he said.
He said the light penalty was hardly a deterrent to abuse by Filipino officials.
“This sets a disastrous precedent for future cases of abuse. Because of this decision, the bad apples in our diplomatic posts will take it as a go-signal to commit more abuses against our migrant workers, given that whatever crime they commit will be taken lightly by our government,” he said.
The workers, on the other hand, might become reluctant to speak up about any abuse, the lawmaker said.
“We cannot discount the possibility this will create a climate of fear among our OFWs and deter them from speaking out against violations committed by Filipino officials,” Bello said.
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