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Philippine Embassy seeks new witnesses

KUWAIT CITY, Jan 20: The Philippine Embassy in Kuwait posted an advisory on Sunday on its Facebook page in the wake of the human trafficking controversy:

1. The recent media allegations on trafficking at the embassy are of the past. The embassy has acted upon the cases in 2013. Personnel are already recalled to the Philippines. Personnel have been recommended for termination. New witnesses, if any, can come forward.

2. The Phil Embassy KUWAIT Antitrafficking Task Force (investigating Sex for Flight) was formed in June 2013 and was later joined by the DOLE investigating team (or “Kuwait anti-trafficking task force” from the Philippines.)

3. Both groups cooperated in KUWAIT. The Consul General and the former labor attachÈ were members of both task forces.

4. There were no new findings on trafficking or sex for flight after June 2013.

5. Instead, the Embassy Task Force now under the Consul General continues to investigate trafficking and has conducted raids of sex dens and rescues in Jleeb and other parts of KUWAIT, together with Filipino leaders and organizations. Additional witnesses may contact Atty. Dado, Consul General, Task Force Chairman, at 6933-1845.

6. The Filipino employees of the bomb-sniffing dogs company filed a complaint at the office of the former Labor AttachÈ last year, which should have a report. The Embassy will continue to ask for a copy of the report. The former labor office had jurisdiction.

7. The recruitment agents named in the news report do not work with the embassy. They are private companies.

8. All embassy lawyers have been changed.

9. Since the accusations are being revived, the Philippine Embassy Task Force will monitor the course of events. The complainants will be named in court in the interest of due process.  They cannot remain unknown.

10. Again, in the interest of truth and justice, new witnesses if any, are encouraged to appear. As always, the embassy thanks the community for its support! In a related development, Filipinos in Kuwait have been talking these days about the alleged involvement of some Philippine embassy officials and some staff in the human trafficking of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Kuwait after the news came out in the Philippine media that charges will be filed against them in the Philippines.

If the case prospers, this will be the first time that human trafficking charges will be filed against embassy personnel in the Philippine court.

A Kuwait Anti-Trafficking Task Force was formed last year by the Department of Justice in the Philippines and conducted its investigation for three months. The task force has reportedly recommended a preliminary investigation and the subsequent filing of charges of human trafficking and illegal recruitment against 12 people, including officials and staff at the Philippine Embassy and Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Kuwait. According to the task force, 29 women came forward to complain against the embassy officials and their recruiters but in the end only 15 decided to file a case against them. Their complaints ranged from their agencies requiring them to work for long hours; maltreatment from their employers; while one complained she was sexually abused by her employer and his son.

Filipinos in Kuwait have called on the Philippine government to press on with the filing of human trafficking charges against those people involved at the embassy. “We have heard about these allegations involving embassy officials and staff for a long time now. We believe this is the right time to put an end to this. The filing of charges should serve as an eyeopener to those officials as well as to the OFWs here.

The time has come to bring this to the Philippine courts,” stated Pastor Gil Bantugan, the President of the Philippine Professional Organization in Kuwait. “If there’s a strong evidence against them and if proven guilty then they should be punished so other embassy employees and recruiters won’t do it anymore,” pointed out Oliver Diong. “The embassy continues to act on these matters ever since we had a task force last June during the sex-for-flight scandal. We also work with the anti-trafficking task force of the Department of Labor.

Apparently, these allegations are old allegations last year,” explained Dado. On the other hand, the embassy appealed to Filipinos in Kuwait to help authorities in exposing corruption and abuses committed by its personnel. “I have gone on Facebook and the social media and the other media to call on more witnesses if any to come for-ward, not to be afraid, that we are fair and we’re going to maintain confidentiality and no one’s going to be exposed and their statements are part of the evidence to help the prosecution. Apparently, there’s going to be a huge prosecution coming and our Department has been very open and cooperative with these initiatives,” stressed Dado.


By: Michelle Fe Santiago Arab Times Staff

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