OFW victims recount ordeal against POLO officer
MANILA - Face to face with the person they accused of harassing them, three former overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Saudi Arabia told the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee of the ordeal each of them went through at a shelter there where they were supposed to be protected.
Michelle, Angel, and Analiza, who covered their faces with cloth at the start of Thursday's hearing, shed tears as they recalled how Riyadh-based labor attaché Antonio Villafuerte allegedly abused them.
At one point, Michelle revealed her face to confront Villafuerte.
"Ngayon, Mr. Villafuerte, naaalala mo pa ba ako? Ang ginawa n'yo sa akin, naaalala n'yo pa po ba?" a tearful Michelle said.
Michelle, who stayed at the OFW shelter Bahay Kalinga in Riyadh after escaping from her abusive employers, accused Villafuerte of attempting to rape her at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Riyadh.
"Hindi po totoo 'yan," Villafuerte replied when asked by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada about the allegation.
Michelle recounted an incident when Villafuerte cornered her in a room, touched her sensitive parts, and kissed her until she managed to push him away. She also said Villafuerte tried to convince her to go with her former employer, a certain Ibrahim, in exchange for a ticket back to the Philippines.
When she was still new at Bahay Kalinga, Villafuerte allegedly texted Michelle sexually suggestive Filipino words "salungki" and "salungsu" when she asked if she could get some underwear at the shelter because she had none at that time.
"'Yan po ay Tagalog … 'Yan po ang natutunan namin sa Tagalog na subject namin," said Villafuerte.
"Ako nag-aral din ng Tagalog eh," Estrada replied. "Kahit kailan hindi ko na-encounter ang 'salungsu.' Kahit kailan hindi ko natutunan 'yon. Baka ikaw lang ang nag-imbento ng salita."
Angel and Analiza, meanwhile, told the committee how Villafuerte asked them offensive questions when they asked help from his office.
Angel had just escaped from the house of an employer who raped her when Villafuerte rescued her. Still reeling from what she went through, Angel was shocked when Villafuerte allegedly asked her if she was really raped, if it felt good, and if her employer's penis was big.
"Hindi ko po inasahan na ang itatanong niya po sa akin ay sobrang kabastusan. Hindi niya po alam na nasasaktan na po ako, nababastos. Masyado niya pong minaliit ang pagkatao ko," said Angel, crying.
In another instance, Villafuerte asked Analiza if her employer touched her and if she would like him to touch her. Villafuerte denied all the allegations.
"Marami rin po akong napagsilbihang OFW na puwede rin nating ipatawag kung mamarapatin," he said.
Senators, however, are convinced that he is guilty of everything he is accused of. "Klaro, maliwanag, there is abuse of authority, abuse of women, and abuse sa ating mga kababayan," Blue Ribbon committee chair Sen. TG Guingona told reporters after the hearing.
Another hearing is scheduled next week to shed more light on the accusations against Villafuerte and labor attaché Adam Musa, whom senators chided at a previous hearing for failing to protect an OFW who experienced sexual harassment.