April 25, 2014
A non-government organization that assists distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) urged the Senate blue ribbon and labor committees to release its committee report on the sex-for-flight hearings in light of the decision of the labor department to reprimand one of those allegedly involved in sexual harassment of OFWs.
“The OFW sector is very much interested to know whether the Senate committees that conducted the hearings on sex-for-flight cases agree with the decision of the Department of Labor and Employment because several OFWs have expressed dismay over the extremely light sanctions issued by the department,” the Blas F. Ople Policy Center said, in its statement. The Center said it had also objected to the one-month suspension meted to Labor Attache Adam Musa who was accused of covering up an attempted rape committed by his driver against an OFW staying in a shelter for runaway maids in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.
The Policy Center named after former labor and foreign affairs secretary Blas F. Ople, cautioned the labor department against trivializing acts of sexual harassment involving its officers and OFW-clients.
“We are quite concerned that the decision to simply reprimand Assistant Labor Attache Antonio Villafuerte despite his vulgar behavior towards the three OFW complainants would send the wrong signals on how other nationals and embassy personnel should treat our OFWs,” Susan Ople, head of the Ople Center, explained.
The pro-OFW NGO said that by releasing its joint findings, the Senate blue ribbon and labor committees can help elevate the public discourse regarding policy issues connected to allegations of sexual harassment committed by embassy personnel against overseas Filipino workers.
It was during one of the Senate hearings that Villafuerte admitted to sending a text message to an OFW bearing the alias “Michelle” wherein he used the words “salungki” and “salungso” to refer to lady’s underwear. He said that those words are often used in the province of Bulacan, where he has friends. This has been rebutted by the Komisyon ng Wika which said that no such words exist in the Filipino language.
“Michelle” also described an incident in Villafuerte’s office where he attempted to kiss her against her will while another OFW bearing the alias “Angel” reported to the Senate the sexually malicious and offensive questions that Villafuerte allegedly asked her upon learning that she was raped by her Arab employer.