Expand anti-sexual harassment law to cover diplomats abroad: Ople

By Marita Moaje

August 31, 2022, 5:37 pm

<p><em>(PNA file photo)</em></p>

(PNA file photo)

MANILA – Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Secretary Susan "Toots" Ople said on Wednesday the anti-sexual harassment law should be expanded to cover all government personnel assigned overseas.

Ople, a known migrant workers advocate, said she handled in the past cases involving diplomatic officials and other government personnel assigned in various embassies and government offices overseas taking advantage of female domestic workers, especially those who have sought refuge in embassy-run shelters.

"May mga instances po noon na nababalitaan namin na nilalabas ng overseas personnel ang wards para makipag-date kaya sa DMW mahigpit po ang aming policy against sexual harassment (There were instances before when we heard that overseas personnel were taking the wards out to go on dates, so we at the DMW, have a very strict policy against sexual harassment)," she said.

Ople made the appeal before the Senate Committee on Migrant Workers Affairs (COMWA) chaired by Senator Raffy Tulfo during the organizational meeting.

"Sana po palawakin po ang coverage ng anti-sexual harassment law para maisama ang lahat ng government employees assigned sa iba't ibang bansa mula sa ambassador hanggang sa mga drivers at local hires (I hope the coverage of the anti-sexual harassment law is expanded to include all government employees assigned to different countries from ambassadors to drivers and local hires)," she said.

Ople cited the case of an ambassador who was charged with sexual harassment by a domestic worker 10 years ago before the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

However, she said the ambassador was not criminally charged for the incident and was able to retire from the service.

Ople said she was informed of the DFA decision only last month and that the ambassador was only required to pay a fine.

"Second-year high school lang ang tinapos nung domestic worker at kinuha siya sa shelter para maging kasambahay nung ambassador kaya clearly very vulnerable ang katayuan niya (The domestic worker only finished second-year high school and was taken from the shelter to be the ambassador's maid, so her status is clearly very vulnerable),” Ople told the committee.

During the meeting, Senator Robinhood Padilla said ambassadors and other diplomatic personnel who sexually harass overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) abroad deserve harsher punishments.

Padilla said in committing the crime, these Philippine diplomats have betrayed their oaths to protect their fellow Filipinos abroad.

He vowed to run after a Philippine Ambassador who escaped punishment for sexually harassing an OFW 10 years ago.

Padilla said the government must run after the said Ambassador since it is hard to accept that diplomat is considered the father of OFWs in other countries and yet he abused the OFW.

"Hindi ko lang mapapalampas na ang ambassador -- you have an oath na proteksyunan mo ang Pilipinas at ang mga tao nito sa harapan ng Diyos, sa harapan ng Konstitusyon, tapos gagawa siya ng ganoon. Di pwede yan (I cannot let this ambassador -- you have an oath to protect the country and the Filipino people before God and the Constitution, and yet you abused her. I cannot let this pass)," Padilla said. (with report from Leonel Abasola/PNA)