MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) will look into the alleged trafficking and sexual exploitation of Filipino workers in the Middle East.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told the House committee on overseas workers affairs that she would create an inter-agency task force led by the DOJ to conduct the inquiry.
De Lima said a comprehensive investigation is necessary “given that more victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation are being reported.”
“This is initially for fact-finding and eventually for prosecution of those involved,” she added.
She said the task force is patterned after a similar panel led by the National Bureau of Investigation, which is looking into complaints of sexual abuses by Filipino workers against some labor officers posted in Kuwait.
She added that the panel has been able to question the complainants and respondents. The panel is scheduled to submit its report to De Lima on Dec. 16.
The justice secretary pointed out that sex-for-flight cases would be handled by the inter-agency task force.
The House panel chaired by Rep. Walden Bello of party-list group Akbayan turned over to De Lima five former Middle East workers who claimed they were sexually abused or offered to foreigners for sex by labor officers in Saudi Arabia.
During the hearing, foreign affairs and labor officials reported that up to 5,000 Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia want to be repatriated.
They said this is the number affected by the Saudi government’s policy of giving preference to locals in job hiring.
Of this number, director Rey Catapang of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said 910 would be home soon as their exit visas are now being processed.
Asked if the 910 would be home for Christmas, Catapang said, “It’s very hard to say, but we are trying our best to bring them home as soon as possible.”
“We have the money for their repatriation,” he added.
He said the DFA has so far spent $2 million for the repatriation of displaced workers in Saudi Arabia.