There is a groundswell of support building up for the inclusion of civil society representatives to join the government panel tasked with investigating the alleged “sex-for-flight” complaints against certain embassy personnel particularly in Middle East posts.
Susan Ople, President of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, said that a group of civil society leaders and well-known OFW advocates will send a formal letter of request addressed to the Secretaries of Foreign Affairs and Labor and Employment bearing the following recommendations:
1) Include at least 2 NGO representatives and a social worker from the DSWD to sit in the investigative panel;
2) Expand the probe to include all forms of sexual exploitation including sexual harassment by embassy personnel;
3) Regardless of the outcome of the probes, for the government to formulate a more gender-sensitive, professional and developmental approach to shelter management and OFW services.
Former OFW Jun Aguilar of the Filipino Migrant Workers’ Group (FMWG) and Loreto Soriano of LBS Recruitment Solutions join the Ople Center, PEBA, the Philippine Migrant Rights’ Watch, Kabalikat ng mga OFWs, and other groups in calling for the expansion of the current probe.
“We believe that the “sex-for-flight” allegations should lead to a wider probe into the kind of services and assistance that distressed overseas workers particularly the women receive from our embassies and consulate while they seek refuge in welfare centers. For example, upon sharing their stories of abuse and maltreatment, how many were actually offered legal
assistance by our consular officers? We need to also determine how many embassy personnel in various countries actually “dated” or “invited out” these women victims despite the traumatic circumstances that led them to these shelters?,” OFW advocate Jun Aguilar of the Filipino Migrant Workers’ Group said.
Ople who is still in the US as part of the US State Department’s international visitors’ leadership program, said that more OFW victims will likely come out when they see that NGOs are represented in the panel, and that the agenda of the probe is more far-reaching than it is now.
The group of OFW advocates and civil society leaders are also discussing the possibility of having a coalition of NGOs look into the conditions faced by abused women in embassy premises including shelters run by the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration.
“If our request is declined then we would have to discuss amongst ourselves the possibility of having our own inquiry with the representatives of the OVP, DOLE, DFA, DOJ, and DSWD present as observers. The NGO report will be submitted to the heads of these agencies and to the Office of the Vice-President and the Office of the President with an executive summary to be made available to members of media,” Ople said.