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Labor staff sacked, 2 attaches recalled

The Labor Department announced on Tuesday that it has terminated the services of a Philippine Overseas Labor Office staff and recalled two labor attaches linked to the sex-for-repatriation cases in the Middles East. Dismissed was POLO officer Blas Marquez, a local hired office staff in Kuwait, while Jordan assistant labor attach Mario Antonio and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Assistant Labor Attach Antonio Villafuerte were recalled from their posts after the DoLE fact-finding team completed its fact-finding mission abroad. Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said Villafuerte plans to get a private lawyer to defend himself against accusations from three female overseas Filipino workers that he had sexually abused them. The three labor officers were linked to the sex-for-repatriation scam where distressed female OFWs were allegedly given plane tickets to travel back to the Philippines in exchange for sex. The fact-finding team that gathered information and pertinent documents from overseas Filipino workers, Filipino community leaders, and Philippine Embassy officials on the allegations about the sex-for-flight issue, and to validate such information, arrived the other day from Jordan, Baldoz said. The team will recommend to the disciplining authority the filing of a formal charge. Should the recommendation be approved, the DOLE Hearing Panel chaired by Asst. Sec. Gloria Tango, earlier constituted to expedite the proceedings of the case, will receive and evaluate the formal charge including all the supporting documents, statements and evidence. Should the respondents opt for a formal hearing, the Panel was instructed to conduct marathon hearings, Baldoz said in a statement. Under the DOLE Rules on Disposition of Administrative Complaints and Cases issued pursuant to the CSC Revised Rules in Administrative Cases, the Panel has 60 days to conclude its investigation. Within 15 days after the conclusion of the formal investigation, the Panel shall submit its report, recommendation and draft decision to the disciplining authority. The disciplining authority has 30 days from receipt of the formal investigation report to issue the decision, she added. The fact-finding team is composed of Atty. Ophelia Almenario of OWWA, Atty. Rose G. Duquez of the POEA, Atty. Leah T. Fortuna of DOLE and Atty. Edna Yasay, an observer from the DFA. The team left for the Middle East on 28 June. Baldoz said the information-gathering and fact-finding mission in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, the team interviewed several OFWs and Filipino community leaders, including those who may have information and knowledge about the allegations. They also interviewed Philippine Embassy and Philippine Overseas Labor Office officials and employees. They also received oral testimonies, letters, and e-mails related to the issue, and documented these submissions, Baldoz said. She added that the team also gathered information, pursuant to its expanded task, on the operational aspects of the POLO, to provide guidance on the institutional reforms that the DOLE has pursued.
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