Another step to protect OFWs

By: Susan V. Ople

Filipino Embassy officials and personnel can be criminally tried in the Philippines for acts against chastity committed abroad against overseas Filipino workers who have sought their help and are reliant on the embassy to bring them home.

This is the gist of a recent announcement issued by the Department of Justice in relation to sex-for-flight cases filed by at least four OFWs, against an assistant labor attaché. Also implicated in a separate case is the driver of another labor attaché for acts of lasciviousness against an OFW who was temporarily hired as a janitress of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Saudi Arabia.

On June 25, 2014, the National Prosecution Service (NPS) of the Department of Justice (DoJ) recommended that an assistant labor attaché previously assigned to the Philippine Embassy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia be charged with two counts of abuse against chastity in a local court.

The case stemmed from complaints of four overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) regarding the lewd behavior and vulgar language of said labor official. Though the justice department did not disclose the labor official’s name, those who followed closely the Senate hearings on the sex-for-flight case would immediately know who he is.

What is striking about the DoJ’s recommendation is the prosecutor’s finding that a crime committed by embassy personnel against an OFW can still be tried in the Philippines even if the incident took place overseas.

Allow me to quote from the DoJ’s announcement regarding its recommendation:

“In resolving the first case, Assistant State Prosecutor Natilaine T. Salvilla applied Article 2 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) which mandates the enforceability of our criminal laws even outside the jurisdiction of the Philippines, against those who, while being officers or employees, should commit an offense in the exercise of their functions.”

“The NPS related Article 2 to Article 245(1) of the Revised Penal Code which defines abuses against chastity as any public officer who shall solicit or make immoral or indecent advances to a woman interested in matters pending before such officer for decision, or with respect to which he is required to submit a report or consult with a superior officer.”

“On the basis of these relevant laws, the Assistant State Prosecutor maintained that since Respondent Labor Attaché was the case officer of Complainants B and C his recommendation was vital for the repatriation of the complainants. In other words, any sexual molestation or solicitation committed by Respondent Labor Attaché against the complainants in relation to their repatriation is considered an offense in the exercise of his functions.”

A Filipino domestic worker who has sought refuge in the Philippine Embassy’s halfway house deserves respect, compassion and understanding for the ordeal that she may have gone through, as a woman in dire need of help.

Labor and embassy officials who fail to see the irony in the re-victimization of abused women in government-funded shelters and offices overseas do not deserve to stay a single day more in public office. The DoJ through its prosecutors has fired a warning shot with the issuance of these recommendations, and woe to him or her who chooses to ignore this warning.

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