Manila, Philippines— A male assistant labor attaché was charged with attempted rape of a female overseas Filipino worker (OFW) and 3 counts of sexual abuse against three OFWS.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed a complaint before the Department of Justice against the assistant labor attaché working for the Philippine Embassy in the Middle East on Wednesday after the agency completed its fact-finding investigation.
The NBI recommended the indictment against the official whose name was withheld.
Justice Secretary Leila De Lima explained that the NBI final report was labelled ‘confidential’ in recognition of the right to privacy of those involved, and pursuant to Section 5 of Republic Act No. 8505, or the Rape Assistance Act.
“Names or actual identity of the alleged perpetrators and alleged victims are being concealed due to the nature of the offenses recommended to be filed,” De Lima said in a statement.
The Senate investigated last month the sex-for-flight scheme. The labor official was recalled as Riyadh-based assistant labor attaché Antonio “Tony” Villafuerte, named respondent in the NBI complaint, and was accused by the three OFWs of sexually molesting and pimping them in exchange for plane tickets.
Numerous cases of similar sex-for-flight schemes have been reported to the department since June.
In the scheme, officials from Philippine embassies or consulates demand sexual favors from distressed OFWs in exchange for official assistance like the issuance of travel documents, clearances from police and labor courts, or the procurement of plane tickets to return to the Philippines.
3 counts of sexual abuse
The first victim recalled running away from her employer a month earlier and seeking help from Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) of the Overseas Workers Welfare Adminitration (OWWA).
She claimed that she was sexually accosted by the official on May 18 in one of the rooms of the POLO office despite her plead for him to stop.
The account was affirmed by a witness, a male OFW volunteering at the office who was near the room where the incident took place.
“When the assistant (assistant labor attaché) had difficulty getting into her abay (robe-like dress, worn by women in Islamic countries) through the neckline, he then tried to remove her clothes. She was able to escape his advances when she succeeded in pushing him off,” the NBI report bared.
“She explained that she felt helpless against the assistant labor attaché, he being the case officer assigned to her, and in whose hands her return to the Philippines, she believed, depended,” it added.
For this, the diplomat has been charged with attempted rape and one count of abuse against chastity.
On the other hand, the two other victims, after escaping form their abusive employers in the same country, were also housed at the POLO.
They claimed that the official persistently asked them sexually offensive questions. In several instances, the DOLE official asked for a one-night stand in exchange for a ticket to the Philippines. When the complainant refused, he asked instead for a photo of her wearing only underwear.
For this, he has been charged with two more counts of abuses against chastity.
The alleged scheme was bared by Anakbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello, who accused three officials of the Philippine embassy and the labor department in Syria, Jordan, and Kuwait of sexually abusing OFWs in exchange for their repatriation.
A Fourth Complaint
The NBI also recommended filing charges of attempted rape and one count of abuse against chastity against an unidentified driver of a labor attaché assigned to the same embassy.
The driver was accused of attempting to rape an OFW in the POLO office.
The complainant told the labor attaché about the incident, but the official allegedly refused to do anything about it. She further claimed that the attaché even told her that pursuing the case would be useless since it would be sent back to the embassy and referred to him.
The NBI also recommended the filing of administrative charges against the labor attaché who hired the driver.
Furthermore, the case was also referred to Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz “in relation to recommended administrative charges and further probe into other possible labor violations.”
Mary Sarah Inciso Gabornes
ABCom Intern/ Leyte Normal University