BEIRUT

Middle East

Philippines deploys female diplomats amid sex scandal

This handout photo taken on July 1, 2013 and released by Malacanang Photo Bureau (MPB) on July 1 shows Philippine President Benigno Aquino (R), accompanied by Air Force (PAF) Commanding General Lieutenant Geneneral Lauro dela Cruz (L) reviewing troops during the Philippine Air Force anniversary celebration at the former US air base, Clark air base, Pampanga province north of Manila. AFP PHOTO / Ryan Lim / MPB

MANILA: 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.

 

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