The Filipino diplomat at the heart of allegations distressed migrant workers were sexually exploited at the country’s Riyadh mission had publicly denied any role in the scandal.
Three unnamed Filipino females, who were staying at temporary shelters in the Saudi capital, all claim that they were molested and asked to perform sexual favours in return for repatriation and plane tickets back to their home country.
Antonio Villafuerte, an assistant labour attaché at the Filipino Embassy in the Saudi capital, was reportedly recalled to Manila to face an inquiry over the allegations.
However, he has now publicly denied the accusations. “My advocacy in life is to render assistance to those who are in need of our services. With regard to the allegations against me, I will answer them at the right time and place,” Villafuerte told Arab News.
“I believe that within my short service at the Philippine Overseas Labour Office in Riyadh, I have rendered my duties in a proper manner and believe that there are some people who are willing to come forward to bring out the truth,” he added.
Last week, the chair of the Philippines government’s committee on overseas workers’ affairs Walden Bello claimed that Filipino officials in embassies in Jordan, Kuwait and Syria had formed prostitution rings that involved distressed overseas workers. He claimed that wealthy businessmen in these countries were paying embassies up to $1,000 per night for sexual services from stranded Filipinos.
“The bottom line here is abusive embassy and consulate officials are taking advantage of the desperation of overseas Filipino workers. The further exploitation of the exploited,” said Garry Martinez, chairman of Migrante International, a group that lobbies on behalf of Filipino migrants.
“This is not an isolated matter that has nothing to do with the overall condition of stranded OFWs seeking immediate repatriation from the PH government in light of the crackdowns.”
Martinez said that the ‘sex-for-ticket’ scandal highlighted the plight of distressed overseas Filipino workers, of which he claimed only 200 had been repatriated since the start of the month.
“[President Benigno Aquino’s] administration and concerned government agencies should put the issue in this context and not simply sensationalise or use the issue to divert government accountability in the slow repatriation of stranded [overseas workers] in light of the crackdowns,” Martinez added.