Hardly surprising: Institutionalised prostitution in the Philippine Government’s Middle Eastern outposts

It’s hardly even surprising that such things have been happening all along for so long. The Philippines’ Overseas Foreign Workers (OFW) export industry is huge — at least 2 million Filipinos residing overseas can be classified as OFWs. The National Statistics Office (NSO) reportedly estimates that more than 52 percent of these are females and that among these female OFWs, “those who were 25 to 34 years of age comprised 51.4 percent.”

Go figure. An industry and bureaucracy that brokers the movement of a sizeable army of 25-34 year-old Filipino females is bound to spawn a bit of red-light entrepreneurship and sleaze. Information providing clues to the full scale of what may be institutionalised prostitution rings across the Philippines’ remote Foreign Affairs outposts in the Middle East, are now flying about following Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello’s revelation of disturbing complaints coming from staff in Amman, Jordan…

Bello, who chairs the House committee on overseas workers’ affairs, on Tuesday said three “predators” from Philippine overseas offices had been the subject of complaints from their coworkers.

Bello named two of the three officials during a press conference, and gave the nickname of the third.

He said two of the officials-one a ranking member of the Philippine Overseas labour Office (Polo) in Amman, Jordan, and the other a local hire of Polo in Kuwait-were allegedly involved in running sex operations in Amman, Jordan, and Kuwait that use Filipino women staying at OFW shelters.

The third official, who he said was a member of the augmentation team of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) staff in the embassy in Damascus, Syria, allegedly engaged in sexual acts with OFWs staying at the embassy’s shelter for distressed workers.


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One of the three officials named by Bello, Acting Labor Attaché Mario Antonio, denies his involvement in these seedy operations. Nonetheless, Antonio describes a landscape within his jurisdiction that virtually begs for a sex industry to flourish

He said there are around 28,000 Filipinos in Jordan, 90 percent of whom work as domestic workers.

Many of these workers were illegally recruited or trafficked and did not follow the proper process of Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

When you have that large a number of young desperate undocumented people running around outside the radar of law enforcement, it will be like fishing off a barrel for sex predators and sleaze entrepeneurs. The glaringly obvious nature of the root causes that underlie these “shocking” revelations about the rampant trade in OFW sleaze allegedly perpetrated by Philippine Government personnel makes the response from the country’s “honourable” legislators rather bemusing. As expected, every politician and her dog is now on the case.

Foremost in amongst these ironic voices is that of Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III who called the accused embassy officials “worse than rapists.” Tsk tsk. Horsey Horsey Tigidig Tigidig, Mr Senator. Then there is Senator Manny Villar’s rather corny “nobody is above the law and those who transgress the law [will] be punished accordingly.” Mmmbut of course, Senator Villar. Filipinos do need to be reminded of this very basic principle ad infinitum as the concept never ever quite sinks in. But when it comes to statements that win the Teaching People How to Suck Eggs trophy, none beats the genius Senator Gringo Honasan who came up with the brainwave: “criminal charges must be filed once an investigation showed that embassy officials were indeed involved in the forced prostitution of female Filipino migrant workers.” Well, actually Mr Gringo, you might want to fall in line and prepare to wait for decades on that one.

All of this testosteronic populist pandering to the issue may have drowned out Princess-Senator Pia Cayetano’s efforts to elbow her way into the verbal diarrhea orgy but her words were just as lame…

She called the officials “predators” who should be “charged, jailed and banned from holding public office.”

…all of which merit an honourable mention along with those issued by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) who for their part “supported the call for an investigation.” Uh, yeah. As an alternative to what exactly, Padres? One, too could almost feel Cayetano holding her tongue and stopping short of issuing an “Off with their heads!” call on the suspects, Game of Thrones style.


Thanks for your “contribution” to the issues ladies, gentlemen, and padres, but, really, there already are institutions in the country that should have as part of their day-to-day operating routine been on the ball with all this so I don’t know if any further “legislation” will help the plight of these hapless OFWs. All these lip services aside (pardon the pun) to the issue of OFW prostitution, one would’ve thought that the hopelessly convoluted and red-tape-infested procedures surrounding the control of the outflux of OFWs from the Philippines will have mitigated the festering of such an appalling trade. But then in much the same way as the Land Transportation Office’s (LTO’s) draconioan licensing process continues to churn out idiotic Filipino drivers, this is really asking too much of the Philippine government.

Ultimately the real deal when it comes to the tales of woes surrounding the “heroes” of the Philippines’ flaccid economy is the basic Law of Supply-and-Demand. Churn out an enormous enough supply and said supply rapidly becomes devalued and eventually commoditised. Suffice to say, Filipinos have become but a commodity in the global market for “services” and the political rhetoric of a bunch of “Senators”. It’s a sad state of affairs for a 21st Century state aspiring to take its place in the upper rungs of the hierarchy of human decency.

[Image courtesy The Verge.]

12 Replies to “Hardly surprising: Institutionalised prostitution in the Philippine Government’s Middle Eastern outposts”

  1. How you treat children and animals ( and OFW’s) is a reflection of a society. The conclusion – barbaric.

    It is as though a) this is an “isolated incident”!, and b) that it is the first time people/lawmakers are aware of such things.

    This incident, and worse, has been going on for many years, and the related social malaise of human trafficking has increased from the philippines in the past 3 years, hence the US will not remove the country from tier 2 watchlist.( announced this week)

    So beyond the mock indignation, the attitude is, life is cheap and filipinos are a commodity to be traded, abused, and exploited, and whilst they remain poor and desperate they will continue to go abroad and prop up a sham economy through remittances, and generally be too fearful of their own government to even complain of abuse.

    It is part if the reason that the middle east in particular employ filipinas, not just a wage issue especially for middle eastern countries but because they know they can use and abuse filipinas with impunity, and with assistance from philippine government agencies.

    Pnoy could be the world’s biggest pimp.

    1. Most of the abusing and pimping is done by Filipinos – let’s face it, we all know what almost all the hundred thousand Filipinas in Japan are actually doing.

    2. HA! this shit has been goin on for decades and you blame one Man? LOLOLOL!!! if ya don’t like the guy,great but blaming him as if he started any of it is irresponsible, in-correct and makes you look the dullard!

  2. Dec 2012 – agence presse france

    ” You find filipina domestic workers who are paid $150-$250 monthly and some are
    not paid at all,” said Mario Antonio, who is in charge of the shelter that currently houses 75 filipina maids
    “This year, we have received at this place more than 952 cases who were seeking our help — 596 were returned to the Philippines.”

    All part of the same problem and clearly every DFA official in jordan is guilty of neglect to allow what is clearly a systemic problem in jordan/middle east.
    I guess tge dfa’s main job is to keep it quiet and close a blind eye to abuse.

    Clearly the dfa officials have been there that long that they now accept it as the norm and are part of the problem.

    and this is a known problem that has been known for years but ignored by the pnoy administration – desperate for remittances, at whatever cost

    1. the above quote is from person in charge of shelter in amman, jordan.
      same place, same problems, no change.

  3. Why do we get insulted when Adam Carolla talks about sex tours? Why did Katherine Ryan talk about Filipino children being “experimented upon?”

    Because there is a problem most Filipinos seem to turn a blind eye to. And the problem won’t go away just by being ignored.

      1. That’s true… wonder what else is up Bello’s sleeve? I wonder if he has addressed the case of RPN 9’s labor union. They asked him to address the mass layoff case ASAP.

  4. Our Embassies now in the Middle East, have become Prostitution Dens. The Philippine Embassy employees, became Pimps. The Ambassadors are Hacienda Luidita Mafia Capos.
    What a country….

  5. so grp is seriously gonna claim that the philippines is the only country in the world where men in power leverage their position to get some poontang?

  6. I am an American living in the Philippiness with my wife and famiy. I will keep it real. When I hear the news that the Filipino activists in Manila were demonstrating by the Manila Embassy a day before Barak Obama’s visit, and part of their complaint is that American troops in the Philippines would only exacerbate the prostitution problem here. If that is the case, then Aquino should enforce Republic Act 1364 against Fiilipinos Mayors collecting large sums of money in prostitution bars in Clark, Angeles, Olangapo and Cebu, bars owned by foreigners and not all are American owned. The one promoting the tourist prostititution and OFW prostitition is the Aquino Administration,. The Americans are definite imperialistic oppressors here and in my country, Puerto Rico, but we have no widespread prostitition problem lile here in the Philippines 116 years after colonization there by the US.

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