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Philippines probes 'sex for air tickets' allegation

Officials accused of demanding sex from stranded Middle East workers

Philippines probes 'sex for air tickets' allegation

Stranded Filipina workers in Jordan (Photo courtesy of Migrante) reporter, Manila

June 19, 2013

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The Philippine government has launched an investigation into a reported "sex-for-fly" racket allegedly involving its embassy and labor officials in the Middle East.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz yesterday called for the investigation after claims that stranded Filipina overseas workers were being forced to have sex with embassy and labor officials in exchange for an air ticket home.

"[We] do not condone any inappropriate act of any officials and personnel, most especially if it involves the performance of their official duties," Baldoz said yesterday.

"I am resolved to get to the bottom of any accusation of wrongdoing against our people,” she said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said today he will personally head the investigation and that the accused officials had been recalled as part of the probe.

The scandal came to light during a radio interview when a female worker who was deported from Kuwait accused an embassy official of demanding sexual favors in return for her repatriation.

Walden Bello, chairman of the Philippines’ House Committee on Overseas Workers, yesterday accused three Philippine officials in Jordan, Kuwait and Syria of being involved in the abuse.

Citing “extremely reliable” and “unimpeachable sources” from the Foreign Ministry, Bello named the accused officials as a man called Kim, an embassy official in Syria, assistant labor attaché Mario Antonio based in Jordan, and Blas Marquez from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Kuwait.

Bello said he had discovered some women were being hired out by officials in Kuwait and Jordan for $1,000 per night.

In a radio interview yesterday Antonio dismissed the allegations, saying they were the work of recruitment agencies engaged in illegal activities. He said the agencies were out to tarnish the image of Philippine officials in Jordan.

He denied involvement in the alleged racket, saying he could be a target for the agencies because he had defended the rights of Filipino workers.

Meanwhile, the presidential palace has appealed to alleged victims to help authorities to help in the probe.

"We are encouraging those with information or those who have been victimized by these alleged practices to come forward and file a complaint," said Abigail Valte, President Benigno Aquino's spokesperson.

The Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI) of the country's Catholic bishops today called for the probe to be thorough, and if proved, the officials be brought to justice.

Authorities need to go deeper into the allegations because it has been going on for "a long time [already] and not only in the Middle East," he said.

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