OFW group vows to hold accountable erring, abusive officials

Migrante Partylist today vowed to hold accountable erring and negligent officials who have abused their position to violate rights of overseas Filipino workers, especially those in distress.

The group made the statement following reports involving an official from the Assistance to Nationals Unit of the Philippine embassy in Kuwait who allegedly brokered a settlement between a distressed OFW and her foreign employer and then pocketed the money intended for the OFW. The Assistance to Nationals Unit is under the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs (OUMWA) of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

“This is definitely not the first time that we have encountered such complaints. What is bothersome is that more and more higher officials are getting involved. In fact, we have formal complaints filed before the DFA still pending action,” said Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante Partylist chairperson.

Bragas-Regalado said that aside from corruption cases, some embassy officials are also involved in cover-ups, connivance with abusive foreign employers and agencies and other “backdoor transactions”.

She cited the case of Grace Victoria Sales, a domestic worker in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, who was raped by the driver of Labor Attache Adam Musa. LaBatt Musa allegedly bribed the victim to keep quiet.

According to Migrante’s sources, Sales escaped her employer who was molesting her and sought the help of the POLO in Al Khobar on August 2012. She was initially grateful because Musa accommodated her and employed her as a janitress. However, when she told Musa that she was raped by his driver, a certain Jojo, Musa gave her 10,000 Saudi riyals in exchange for her silence.

Sales then sought the help of Samahang llokano Global Alumni Council (SIGAC), a network of Migrante Partylist in Saudi. In turn, SIGAC submitted a complaint to Musa but no action was employed. Jojo, the driver, continues to work for Musa to this day. Worse, Musa and the driver allegedly tried to diffuse the complaint by spreading rumors that the victim is a prostitute.

Bragas-Regalado also cited the cases filed by at least 100 OFWs in Saudi against Ambassador Ezzadin Tago and Welfare Officer Albert Valenciano for criminal neglect, connivance with foreign employers, misrepresentation and other anomalous transactions. “The Saudi OFWs filed a complaint demanding the recall of Tago and Valenciano to the DFA, DOLE, Office of the President and Office of the Vice President but until now no action has taken place.”

She said that the DOLE sent a fact-finding mission to Saudi last November but no reports have been made as to the status of their investigation with regard the said complaint. “In other cases, officials who have received complaints are merely deployed to other posts but no actions or sanctions are imposed.”

“We salute OFWs who are courageous enough to formally submit and make public their complaints against these officials. We call on other OFW victims to come forward and make their voices heard. We will not stop campaigning until these officials are held accountable for their abuses,” Bragas-Regalado said. ###