Sex cases prompt changes in halfway houses

MANILA, Philippines – Facing sex-for-flight complaints, the Philippine government eyes “institutional changes” in halfway houses for distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Monday, June 24.

The halfway houses, or the Filipino Workers' Resource Centers (FWRCs), supposedly serve as the starting point for the sex-for-flight scheme. OFWs who ran away from abusive employers stay in FWRCs until they get repatriated.

Having met with ambassadors over the weekend, Del Rosario said the government is now considering to assign one “house mother” per halfway house. “We think that's a very good idea, but not all posts have a house mother. So that's one institutional change that we'd like to make,” he said in a press conference.

Del Rosario also stressed: "There should be no fraternization between embassy officials, including attached agencies, directly with their wards."

In the case of formal interviews, he said interviewers should conduct these in the presence of a third person or in a transparent location.

Exploitation bared

The alleged sex-for-flight schemes begin in FWRCs, the OFW rights group Migrante said in a statement. Migrante detailed this scheme following an exposé by Akbayan Rep Walden Bello.

“We don't understand why there is exploitation happening in terms of getting tickets, because the tickets are, in one way or another, guaranteed,” Del Rosario said.

In Monday's press conference, Del Rosario said investigators have confirmed allegations against one labor officer based on the testimonies of 3 witnesses. To confirm other claims, he urged other witnesses to surface. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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