OFW to labor exec: Remember me?By Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
A labor official came face to face with three of his alleged victims who confronted him at the Senate on Thursday at a hearing into the sex-for-flight scandal in overseas labor offices.
Antonio Villafuerte, the assistant labor attaché in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was told off by “Michelle,” who dramatically removed the shawl covering her face and accused Villafuerte of attempting to rape her and of sending her lewd text messages.
“Now, Mr. Villauerte, do you remember me? Do you remember what you did to me?” a crying Michelle asked Villafuerte.
Michelle and two other alleged victims of Villafuerte’s recounted before the Senate blue ribbon committee how Villafuerte allegedly made obscene and degrading remarks while interrogating them about their ordeal in the hands of the Saudi employers that they had escaped from.
Michelle also testified that Villafuerte tried to rape her at the Philippine overseas labor office in Riyadh.
“I didn’t know that he had that kind of desire for me,” Michelle told the committee.
“I said, ‘Sir, somebody might see us. Sir, please don’t,’” she recalled as Villafuerte allegedly tried to assault her.
She said she managed to push him away and escape.
Michelle also testified that shortly after she ran away from her employer, she needed new undergarments as she didn’t bring a change of clothes when she escaped.
“I couldn’t ask my companions [in Bahay Kalinga, where runaways are housed] because they also didn’t have any money,” Michelle said.
Michelle said she called Villafuerte to ask where she could get new underwear. Villafuerte reportedly took it upon himself to have some bought for Michelle.
“I already had someone buy two salung-so and six salung-ki. Get them from ma’am Lita,” read the text message that Villafuerte admittedly sent and that Michelle managed to save in her mobile phone.
The terms Villafuerte used for brassieres and panties could be construed as obscene references to a woman’s private parts.
Villafuerte told the committee that he meant no malice when he used those terms and that he used them in conversation with his wife.
“I want to put that text in the proper context. When she asked me to buy underwear for her when I’d yet to even see her, I was also embarrassed. I said I’d yet to see this woman and she was already asking me to buy underwear for her,” Villafuerte said.
He said he told Michelle to approach a coordinator to ask for underwear. Michelle supposedly said there was none available.
“So I said I would just be the one to ask someone to buy some,” Villafuerte said.
“When I sent that text, I only wanted to know if she already got them. I meant nothing malicious,” he said.
Villafuerte denied the allegations of attempted rape and obscene text messages while he was processing the cases of the three OFWs.
“That’s not true, your honor,” Villafuerte said of the allegations against him.
He said he had been very diligent in his job and had helped to meet the needs of OFWs.
Related Story: 3 OFWs face labor exec in ‘sex-for-flight’ scandal