Labor exec in sex-for-flight case cleared

Posted at 04/23/14 2:30 AM

MANILA, Philippines - A former assistant labor attache in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia accused of engaging distressed Filipinas in sex in exchange for a flight home was absolved of three counts of administrative charges of sexual harassment for lack of factual basis.

The complainants did not appear in the hearings and have not submitted testimonies of other witnesses to corroborate their claims against Antonio Villafuerte.

However, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said Villafuerte was found guilty for uttering filthy jokes to one of the three complainants.

“Villafuerte is found guilty of the light offense of sexual harassment for telling smutty jokes and causing embarrassment to the complainant and is hereby meted the penalty of reprimand,” she said.

Villafuerte was warned that a repetition of a similar offense shall be dealt with more severely.

Baldoz said the Department of Labor and Employment's (DOLE) Committee on Decorum and Investigation found Villafuerte liable for sexist jokes when he texted one of the complainants that he already bought “Salungki mo and Salungso” after she requested for new underwear.

Villafuerte admitted sending the messages, but that nothing was malicious with those words since they are common in Filipino when referring to women’s underwear.

Baldoz said the Commission on the Filipino Language considers the term “obscene and lewd” and deemed the act of Villafuerte as a form of sexual harassment.

She agreed with the findings that Villafuerte’s action did not reflect the integrity of a public servant and that he failed to give due courtesy and respect to his ward, she added.

The offense of Villafuerte is classified only as light, punishable with a reprimand at first instance, Baldoz said.

Last year, two separate administrative charges covering four counts of sexual harassment were filed against Villafuerte after three distressed workers accused him of sex-for-flight.

The complainant accused Villafuerte of touching her private parts and of attempted rape. Two others accused him of uttering vulgar words when they sought help from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO).

Baldoz said evidence gathered showed that the alleged acts of unwanted touching and unwelcome phone calls with sexual overtones and verbal abuses did not happen.