The Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia has been directed to go after the owner of a foreign recruitment firm who allegedly raped a Filipina overseas worker, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said Tuesday, July 6.
In his urgent memorandum to Labor Attaché Fidel Macauyag, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III instructed the POLO to work with authorities there for immediate legal action on the case.
“I will do everything possible to help our OFW [overseas Filipino worker] fight back against her tormentors,” Bello said in a statement.
The OFW, Michelle (not her real name), was allegedly raped by Meshail Mabrook Al Bassani Al Qahtani, owner of Home Comfort Recruitment Office/Home Comfort Manpower Services.
What’s worse, Michelle was also molested by one of her employers, Abdulaziz Ahlas, before she was repatriated recently.
“The rape committed against our OFW may not result to a criminal case being filed in Philippine courts against the owner of the FDA (foreign recruitment agency). This is due to lack of jurisdiction. The crime happened outside of the Philippines and the principle of extra territoriality can’t be applied on the case,” Bello said.
However, Bello noted that DOLE can still deliver a blow to Home Comfort by suspending the FDA’s accreditation with the POLO, which he ordered Macauyag to do.
He also directed Macauyag to coordinate closely with Arab authorities for the filing of criminal cases and prosecution of Al Qahtani and Ahlas.
Bello also tasked POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia to probe Ahlas over violations of POEA rules and impose penalties for the sexual abuse committed against the OFW.
The DOLE chief also told Olalia to sanction the FDA and Qahtani. Likewise, he ordered POEA to build up an administrative case against local company SAMA International Recruitment Agency, which reportedly ignored Michelle’s complaints and her ordeal in Saudi Arabia.
Upon her arrival in the Philippines, Michelle went to the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) where she was given legal assistance in the preparation for her sworn statement.
PAO also conducted forensic tests on the OFW which yielded results indicating sexual abuse and injuries.