‘Sex for fly’ scandal tip of iceberg, says solon

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Tent City: Stranded OFWs in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (Photo by: Ellen Tordesillas)

The sex for fly scandal involving officials in different diplomatic posts of the country in the Middle East is just the tip of the iceberg and must be seen in the context of the crackdown being done against undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), particularly in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said yesterday.

“Undocumented OFWs especially in Saudi Arabia are getting desperate, especially with the resumption of crackdown efforts on July 3. Around six thousand have set up Tent Cities in Jeddah and Riyadh so that they can be helped by the embassies but the opposite is happening,” Colmenares said.

“Aside from sexual favors, migrants are being asked to pay for their own tickets and use the ‘back door’ procedure,” the solon added.

“What’s needed here is an independent comprehensive probe on all the Philippine missions in the Middle East and the immediate repatriation of our countrymen in the Tent Cities. The Department of Justice (DoJ) can spearhead the investigation and migrant groups and legislators can be part of the team,” he said.

Colmenares stressed the immediate repatriation of undocumented migrants is crucial before the Saudi government again embarks on a martial law-style crackdown. “If the Aquino government cannot immediately repatriate them then the least we can do is to ask for an extension until all of them are back in the Philippines,” said the Bayan Muna lawmaker.

“The situation of our undocumented countrymen in Saudi is indeed very difficult with the Saudi government threatening them with prison and bodily harm, and the Philippine embassy trying to disperse the Tent Cities by reportedly blockading food and water for women and children,” said Colmenares said.

Worse, the solon said “our own officials are doubly exploiting our Filipino women.”

“Justice must immediately be served,” said Colmenares.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said 13 heads of posts based in the Middle East and North Africa were “consulted” regarding the sex-for-fly scandal involving officials.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the joint investigations being held by the DFA and the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) centered on allegations of sexual abuses perpetrated against distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) by some government personnel posted in Jordan, Kuwait, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Del Rosario said consultations with 13 Heads of Posts (HOPs) based in the Middle East and North Africa from June 22 to 23 were held.

The consultations are aimed at gathering more information on the alleged inappropriate and criminal behavior of certain personnel for the purpose of validating the allegations which could lead to the application of punitive measures as well as to identify preventive and corrective measures, Del Rosario said.

“During the discussions, the participants shared their knowledge and insights on present circumstances leading to an assessment of the publicized allegations. This resulted in several recommendations that the DFA will take up with other concerned government agencies, including identification of immediate measures such as the termination of local hires and the recall of individuals for investigation,” he said.

In the longer term, the recommendations will include a review of the existing rules and standard operating procedures governing the overall management of the Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC), capacity-building for Foreign Service Posts to effectively handle sex-related offenses, improving the capacity for intelligence-gathering, strengthening and tightening of inter-agency cooperation and effective implementation of the One-Country Team Approach.

A major association of land-based overseas employment service providers in the country also strongly reacted to the current situation of overseas Filipino workers who have been victimized by foreign empoloyers particularly those who claimed to be victims of sex for flight.

The victims plight according to Philippine Association of Service Exporters Inc. (PASEI) is regrettable and should be looked into more deeply by the concerned government agencies to prevent its repetition in the future.

According to Victor Fernandez their 600 active recruitment agencies lament and regret strongly the situation of anyone especially an OCW in distress who was peddled in forced labor or convinced to render intimate favor or to perform “sex-for-flight” scheme in order to liberate oneself from his/her current predicament overseas.

“We commiserate with these OCWs in distress especially those who had requested for government assistance in one way or another but were not extended any form of help.”

Without being judgmental, PASEI calls for calm and discernment in handling this so-called ‘sex-for-fly incident.

The group said it is not saying the claim should be ignored because the group want it to be investigated and its perpetrators punished.

However, Fernandez said that giving too much publicity and sensationalism to the issue, bordering almost on the erotic, is not doing anyone nor the country any good and can even cast a label on the contract workers that all female OFWs, can or may be traded for sex.

Without indisputable evidence on anyone suspected of perpetuating this so called “sex-for-fly”, PASEI appeals for level-headed and impartial treatment of this investigation before passing immediate condemnation on anyone and for the sake of all Female OFWs worldwide who may be targeted for indecent proposals. Alvin Murcia. The Daily Tribune