Press Release
July 26, 2013


Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada urges the Senate to investigate the "sex-for-flight" scheme by some unscrupulous embassy and labor officials and has victimized distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) into prostitution and sexual exploitation in exchange for their repatriation.

The proposal by Sen. Estrada, who served as concurrent Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development and Congressional Oversight Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs during the 15th Congress, was contained in Proposed Senate Resolution No. 97.

The proposed resolution was filed last Tuesday.

"It is incumbent upon the Senate to scrutinize and address this issue with the end in view of reviewing and strengthening our labor laws not only to give justice to the recent victims but also to prevent other OFWs from falling prey into the hands of the perpetrators of such or other similar schemes," the resolution reads.

Sen. Estrada is looking into instituting mechanisms and guidelines to ensure that officers and staff manning the OFW welfare centers and shelter houses will be competent to protect and advance the welfare of the migrant workers, and understand the concerns and plight of the OFWs.

Last month, Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello exposed some Philippine Embassy and labor officials in various posts in the Middle East engaged in sexually abusing and prostituting female OFWs who are housed in halfway houses for migrant workers. These officials supposedly promise victims that they will be prioritized in repatriation in exchange for sexual favors.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) have conducted separate investigation on the matter.

Jinggoy is also interested in knowing why there is a recurring problem of overstaying of distressed OFWs in OFW houses, primarily due to alleged lack of funds for repatriation hence the resort to illegal and corrupt practices, such as the "sex-for-flight" scheme.

Sen. Estrada who visited numerous Filipino welfare houses around Middle East in the past few years in his capacity as labor committee chair, witnessed hundreds of Filipinas who were victims of maltreatment and illegal recruitment were temporarily staying Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) while waiting for their repatriation or transfer of employment.

Republic Act 8042, or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, provides that "The repatriation of the worker and the transport of his personal belongings shall be the primary responsibility of the agency which recruited or deployed the worker overseas."

Moreover, in cases where the principal or recruitment agency cannot be identified, all costs attendant to repatriation shall be borne by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). An initial 100 million peso-emergency repatriation fund was established to repatriate OFWs in cases of war, epidemic, disasters and the like.

RA 10022, a law strengthening RA 8042, also mandates that agency-hired workers shall be covered by a compulsory insurance policy which shall cover repatriation cost of the worker when his/her employment is terminated without any valid cause.

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