MANILA (Mabuhay) — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Tuesday said the fact-finding mission has completed its work of probing alleged sexual abuses against overseas Filipino workers in some Philippine posts and may recommend formal charges.
In a news release, the DOLE said the fact-finding team tasked to gather information and documents on the sex abuse scandal arrived from Jordan on Monday afternoon.
“The fact-finding team directed to gather information and pertinent documents from overseas Filipino workers, Filipino community leaders, and Philippine Embassy officials on the allegations about the ‘sex-for-flight’ issue, and to validate such information, arrived yesterday afternoon from Jordan,” the DOLE said.
While the DOLE gave no further details about the mission’s findings, it indicated the team “will recommend to the disciplining authority the filing of a formal charge.”
“Should the recommendation be approved, the DOLE Hearing Panel chaired by Assistant Secretary Gloria Tango, earlier constituted to expedite the proceedings of the case, will receive and evaluate the formal charge including all the supporting documents, statements and evidence. Should the respondent(s) opt for a formal hearing, the Panel was instructed to conduct marathon hearings,” it said.
The team included:
lawyer Ophelia Almenario of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration
lawyer Rose Duquez of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration
lawyer Leah Fortuna of DOLE
lawyer Edna Yasay, an observer from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The team left for the Middle East on June 28.
During their information-gathering and fact-finding mission in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, the team interviewed OFWs and Filipino community leaders, including those who may have information and knowledge about the allegations.
The team also interviewed Philippine Embassy and Philippine Overseas Labor Office officials and employees and got oral testimonies, letters, and e-mails related to the issue, and documented these submissions.
“The team also gathered information, pursuant to its expanded task, on the operational aspects of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, to provide guidance on the institutional reforms that the DOLE should pursue,” the DOLE said.
At this stage, the DOLE said the team will evaluate the information, documents, and testimonies it gathered and will require the subjects of complaints “to submit their sworn comment or counter-affidavit.”
“On the basis of the submissions and documents gathered, the team will determine if a prima facie case exist against our personnel for any wrongdoing that they may have committed at the Post,” the DOLE said.
60 days for panel to conclude probe
The DOLE said its rules on disposition of administrative complaints and cases give the panel 60 days to conclude its investigation.
“Within 15 days after the conclusion of the formal investigation, the panel shall submit its report, recommendation and draft decision to the disciplining authority. The disciplining authority has 30 days from receipt of the formal investigation report to issue the decision,” it said.
Meanwhile, the DOLE said the additional personnel tasked to augment the present staffing complement in Riyadh, Jeddah, Kuwait and Jordan are to be deployed by the end of July, or “immediately after the issuance of the accreditation document by their host government
The Department of Justice earlier cited three more alleged “sex-for-flight” cases of female OFWs, including one who was reported to have committed suicide but was allegedly raped by an embassy staff in Dubai.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello revealed this to her in a closed door meeting on Monday.
These three new cases are on top of the three cases being investigated by the departments of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Bello in June claimed that three victims of sexual molestation in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Syria have come to him for help.
He alleged that the perpetrators of these acts are key officials posted in Filipino resource centers.
Quoting Bello, De Lima said that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is already investigating the sexual exploitation of victims whom she declined to name.
Assistant labor attache to Saudi Arabia Antonio Villafuerte, one of those tagged in the alleged sexual exploitation of OFWs, earlier said he was willing to participate in the investigation on the issue. (MNS)