MANILA, Philippines – Senators on Thursday berated a labor official in Saudi Arabia for using obscene words such as “salungso” to refer to bras and ‘salungki” to refer to panties in a text message to a runaway overseas Filipino worker.
Riyadh-based labor attaché Antonio “Tony” Villafuerte admitted during a joint hearing of the Senate blue ribbon and labor committees that he indeed used those words when he texted the runaway OFW, who sought refuge at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Saudi.
The OFW, a certain “Michelle,” has also accused Villafuerte of allegedly trying to rape her inside the POLO last May 18.
Michelle told the committees that when she sought refuge at POLO’s Bahay Kalinga after learning that she would not work as a beautician as stated in her contract, she had not brought anything even her personal belongings.
So she said she texted Villafuerte, whom she had not met at that time, to buy her underwear.
“Bago po dumating yung underwear po, nagtext po sya (Villafuerte) sa akin. Sabi nya po sa akin, o nandyan na yung salungki at salungso mo,” Michelle said.
She even showed to the committees that text of the labor official.
Villafuerte, who was also at the hearing, confirmed sending the text message to Michelle.
“Yes, your honor,” he said, responding to queries of Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada.
“Gusto ko lang ilagay sa tamang konteksto yang text na yan. Noong nagpabili kasi sya ng underwear nang hindi ko pa sya nakikita, na embarrassed din po ako kasi sabi ko sa sarili ko, hindi ko pa nakikita ang babaeng ito nagpapabili na sa akin ng underwear,” he said.
(I want to put that text in context. When she asked me to buy her underwear when I haven’t met her yet, I was also embarrassed. I told myself, I haven’t seen her yet but she already asked me to buy her underwear)
“Kaya nung tinext ko yan, ang gusto ko lang malaman dun ay kung natanggap na nya yung pinabili ko. Wala na po akong ibig sabihin.)
(So when I texted her, I just wanted to find out if she had received the underwear. I did not mean anything there).
“Kasi yung salungso o salungki yan po ay Tagalog, wala o akong ibang intension. Tinagalog ko lang po. Yun po kasi ang natutunan namin sa Tagalog na subject namin. Yun po yung konteksto,” Villafuerte added.
(Because salungso or salungki is a Tagalog word. I have no other intension.I just translated it to Filipino. That’s what we learned in our Filipino subject. That’s the context).
But Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada did not buy Villafuerte’s explanation.
“Alam mo, ako nag-aral din ng Tagalog. Kahit kailan hindi ko na encounter yung salungso at salungki. Kahit kailan hindi ko natutunan yan e baka ikaw lang ang nag-imbento ng salitang yan,” Estrada said.
(You know, I also studied Tagalog. I haven’t encountered the word salungso or salungki. I haven’t learned those words. Maybe you only made up those words).
Villafuerte’s explanation did not also sit well with Senate President Minority Leader Juan Ponce-Enrile, saying the labor official was just making excuses.
“Bakit hindi mo ginamit underwear, isang termino na hindi malaswa? Alam mo intelehente naman kami dito e. Naiintindihan naming yung mga ganyang Gawain,” said Enrile.
Villafuerte pointed out that his family came from Guiguinto, Bulacan where he learned to use such words commonly used by people there.
“Palusot yun. Madali lang sabihin pero imagine you’re a CPA, you’re a lawyer , you are a well-educated person. Ung kausap mo babae,” said Enrile.
Enrile reminded Villafuerte that as part of a diplomatic service, the labor official was expected to be very courteous in dealing with people.
“She (Michelle) maybe just a domestic helper pero nakita mo na nga hirap na hirap na yung tao e gaganunin mo pa? Wala kang intention pero di ba masakit yun? Sasabihin mo ba sa asawa mo yun: O ibinili kita ng salungki at saka salungso. Sasabihin mo ba sa asawa mo yun?” he asked.
(She maybe just a domestic helper but you can already see that she’s suffering and you still treat her like that? You have no intention but that is hurtful? Will you also tell your wife: ‘I also bought you salungki or salungso.’ Will you tell that to your wife?)
Villafuerte said he had used the terms to his wife.