Officials accused in sex-for-flight probe face witnesses

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 11 2013 03:34 PM | Updated as of Dec 12 2013 07:41 AM

MANILA - New witnesses in the sex-for-flight cases against some labor and embassy officials in the Middle East emotionally faced off with their alleged tormentors at the House of Representatives committee on OFW affairs.

Before members of Congress and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, five women, who wore disguises, tearfully recalled their experiences in Saudi Arabia.

The first witness, code named May, told the panel that she was sexually abused by policemen in Al Khobar after she sought refuge in the local Gulf Center for OFWs.

The Gulf Center allegedly asked her for money for a plane ticket back to the Philippines after she fled her employer.

When she couldn’t cough up the amount, she was allegedly induced to “part-time work”, a euphemism for prostitution. When she refused, she found work as a helper to a Yemeni employer who raped her.

Another witness, code named “June”, for her part recalled her own tale of abuse where Labor Attache Adam Musa supposedly was deaf to her pleas for help.

A third witness also recalled how she did not get help from Philippine authorities. She said was stranded for four months after she escaped from her employer "dahil papatayin ako sa gutom".

She relied on Assistant Labor Attache Antonio Villafuerte for help but the latter only provided her with empty promises.

"Mabaliw-baliw na ho ako. Single parent ako. Lagi ako nagmamakaawa sa kanya. Nakahanap ako ng NGO sila bumili ticket ko pauwi," the third witness said.

She added that she received a phone call from someone from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) who suggested that she works outside, in a one night stand described to her as "go to heaven".

She also claimed that Villafuerte made and verbal and sexual advances towards her but she just ignored it.

A fourth witness, code named "Angel", said she was raped by her employer. Villafuerte helped her, but what she did not like was the lewd questions he asked that only made her feel violated.

A fifth witness, code named "Michelle", broke into tears as she also told the panel she was a victim.

Those they named, Adam Musa and Antonio Villafuerte, were just across them but the two said nothing and declined media interviews.

De Lima said she prefers that the DOJ take custody of the witnesses as they continue with their probe.

De Lima revealed that the NBI is looking at charges of attempted rape, acts of lasciviousness or crimes against chastity. De lima said they're also looking at the possible connivance of recruitment agencies.

She told legislators that the government is taking an inter-agency task force to probe not just the individual cases of abuse but also, the connivance of recruiters.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) reported that so far it has cancelled the licenses of 51 recruitment agencies for various offenses. Four agencies meanwhile have been suspended with regards to the sex-for-flight investigation.

De Lima reported that the results of a fact finding investigation on the sex-for-flight cases in Kuwait will be submitted December 16.