DFA orders embassy staff to come home

MANILA, Philippines - Foreign affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario has ordered the 3 alleged sex "predators" abusing overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East to "board the plane the soonest possible time," come home, and face investigation.

Del Rosario himself will lead the probe, saying he has also ordered the heads of the diplomatic posts in Kuwait and Damascus, Jordan, to come home.

He made this assurance to Akbayan Rep Walden Bello, who was the one who exposed them, during a meeting on Wednesday, June 19, at Bello's office in the House of Represenatatives.

"We have asked the heads of posts of Kuwait, of Damascus, of Jordan to come home immediately so that they can provide us all the necessary information for us to be able to pursue this case," Del Rosario told reporters after his meeting with Bello.

"We have also asked the persons named to come home so that they can also explain their side.... They have been asked to board the plane the soonest possible time," he added.

It's very disconcerting... The reports, if true, can be considered as criminal. At the very least, they are violations of our Code of Conduct and subject to disciplinary measures," he added.

Bello said on Tuesday, June 18, that Philippine embassy staff in these posts are sexually abusing and prostituting distressed OFWs. (Watch Bello's press conference here: Embassy staff prostituting OFWs - Bello)

Branding them as "predators," Bello identified the officials as: Mario Antonio, the assistant labor attaché in Jordan; Blas Marquez, a local hire or a contractual employee of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Kuwait; a certain "Kim," who is a member of the Augmentation Team of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) at the embassy in Damascus, Syria.

"Sexual abuse on our womenfolk perpetrated by their hosts in a foreign country is an awful crime. But there is something more awful, and that is their exploitation by their own compatriots in that strange land," Bello said in a press conference.

Del Rosario said some of Bello's information "complements" reports that the department has received, although some pieces of information are not consistent. He did not elaborate.

"In some instances, no. That is why we have to clarify," Del Rosario said. "Our information, unfortunately, is very limited. It is not as comprehensive as what the good congressman has," he added.

Del Rosario said the challenge is for the alleged victims to come forward.  "Unfortunately, we have a situation where there are no formal complainants. We're looking to see if we can source these people who are suspected of having been the victims and persuade them to file complaints," he said.

Bello said he is happy that Del Rosario himself is on top of the probe. - Rappler.com