Philippines deploys female diplomats amid sex scandal

2 July 2013
Mario Antonio
Mario Antonio (L), a Philippine Assistant Labor Attache to Jordan, delivers a statement to the press as Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Adminstrator Carmelita Dimzon (R) looks on in Manila, Philippines, 20 June 2013. Antonio has denied accusations that he is involved in alleged sexual exploitation of overseas Filipino workers in Jordan, and said that he is willing to undergo investigation. A Philippine congressman has called for investigation into reports that certain labor and embassy personnel in Syria, Jordan and Kuwait are allegedly involved in sexual exploitation of overseas Filipino workers. EPA/ROLEX DELA PENA

The Philippines is to deploy female labour officers to the Middle East, an official said Tuesday, amid an enquiry into allegations some of its diplomats in these posts forced distressed Philippine workers there into prostitution.

A total of 13 women officials will be sent soon to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, and also Malaysia, to work with current staff at Philippine embassies there, labour department spokesman Nicon Fameronag told AFP.

They will mainly help Philippine workers who had sought refuge at embassy shelters to escape abuses by their employers, he added.

"The decision to send in women is because there are more women overseas workers who are going to the shelters than men. The shelters are for women, not men," he told AFP.

"They (the women officials) will be able to relate more to women than men."

The planned deployments were announced amid an investigation by the foreign department over allegations that at least two diplomats were forcing Philippine women at the shelters to submit to sex, either with them or other men.

The enquiry was launched last month after a member of parliament told the foreign ministry he had received anonymous complaints by some women who had been in those shelters.

The allegations have triggered a firestorm in the Philippines, which relies heavily on the salary remittances of nearly 10 million citizens -- about a tenth of the population -- who work abroad.

Fameronag denied that the deployment of the women labour officers was a reaction to the scandal, insisting it was part of official efforts to improve embassy services for overseas workers.

Since the allegations broke, the Philippines has recalled home a male labour attache from the Middle East to answer the allegations against him, he said.

However, Fameronag said government investigators have yet to confirm any of the claims.