‘Villafuerte raped me’

6
Angel20130627

‘Angel,’ ‘Annaliza’ and ‘Michelle’ appear at a press conference in Taguig City on
Wednesday. Senator-elect Cynthia Villar gave them funds so they can go back to their home provinces. PHOTO BY RENE DILAN

ONE of the three female migrant workers who claimed they were victimized by Filipino embassy officials while awaiting repatriation in the Middle East described on Wednesday how Antonio Villafuerte, the assistant labor attachè in Riyadh, raped her in his office.

A black veil covered the face of the worker, identified only as “Michelle,” when she appeared at a press conference in Taguig City. Her two companions, “Annaliza,” 38, and “Angel,” 28, were also cloaked to protect their identities.

The 39-year-old Michelle said she had gone to see Villafuerte at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Riyadh on May 19 to follow up her case.

“He asked me to bring his bag to the office upstairs. He asked me to open the aircon and when he followed, that’s the time that he molested me,” Michelle said.


To back up her claim, Michelle said she will present a witness who also stayed at the Bahay Kalinga in Riyadh when the incident happened.

Annaliza and Angel also said they were also victims of Villafuerte.

The three migrant workers said they are ready to confront the labor official once he returns to Manila. Villafuerte had been recalled by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to be investigated.

He is expected in Manila on Thursday night.

“We are ready to face him and we will not back down,” said Michelle in Filipino.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the preliminary investigation of Villafuerte will begin as soon as possible.

Baldoz said the fact-finding team looking into the case can start its probe because three complaints have been filed against the POLO official. She said Villafuerte will be asked to submit his counter-affidavit so that the team “can already begin assessing” the case.

“Once he arrives from Riyadh, they can go ahead with it. At least we can get the ball rolling already,” she said.

Baldoz said sitting in the panel will be representatives from the DOLE employees association, legal service and the chief of the human resource department.

If probable cause is established, Villafuerte will face criminal and administrative charges. He may also be suspended or terminated from the service, according to DOLE Undersecretary Rebecca Chato.

Senator-elect Cynthia Villar on Wednesday handed financial and livelihood assistance to the three workers.

The assistance, which came from the Villar Foundation, will enable the three women to go back to their provinces and start a small business.

“This is in line with our livelihood program. They can put up a sari-sari store with groceries. It is up to them to do their best for their small business to grow,” Villar said.

She vowed to file a resolution urging the Senate to launch its own inquiry into the incident.

She noted that she has more reasons to push for the creation of the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW) because of the ordeal suffered by the women workers.

“We should ensure that our OFWs are always protected since they are our modern heroes, and we draw a lifeline from the remittances they send to their families in the country,” she said.

Sen. Manny Villar, who originally proposed the establishment of the OFW department, said an agency devoted solely for OFWs would ensure that Filipino migrant workers are safe from abuse, exploitation by cruel employers and abusive officials and during armed conflicts.

Villar said that although the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) are involved in OFW matters, these agencies have other mandates that also need attention.

A department dedicated to Filipino migrant workers would simplify and harmonize efforts to look after them when there is a crisis and secure their welfare and rights, he said.

There are at least 10 million OFWs, and Villar said their number is large enough to justify the establishment of a dedicated department for them.

The establishment of a department for OFWs, however, could raise serious issues as well as possible conflict with other existing government agencies like the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

One of the core functions of the POEA besides issuing licenses to overseas recruitment and manning companies is to protect migrant workers and provide them repatriation assistance.

The OWWA, an attached agency of the DOLE, on the other hand, is the lead agency tasked to protect and promote the welfare and well-being of OFWs and their dependents.

The DOLE investigating team will fly to Kuwait on Saturday to look for more leads. The team is headed by Leah Fortuna of the Office of the Secretary, with Ophelia Almenario from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and Rosemarie Duquez from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) as members.

From Kuwait, they will proceed to Riyadh and their last stop will be Jordan where they will stay until July 13.

“My instruction is keep the investigating team away from any media exposure at this time. They have to concentrate on their task which is gathering information and evidences, both documentary and testimonial,” Baldoz said.

She added that the administrative aspect of the case could be over after a month.

She also revealed that they are considering deploying more female welfare officers in Filipino Workers Resource Centers (FWRC) in the Middle East to attend to distressed OFWs and serve as “action officers” in cases filed by workers.

“We have to prioritize Riyadh and the different POLOs in the Middle East. This is one of the immediate actions we believe is necessary even without the conclusion of this investigation,” Baldoz said.

But she clarified that the female officers will augment labor offices in Middle East and will not replace the present POLO officials.

Vice President Jejomar Binay said administrative and criminal cases will be filed in the Philippines against labor and embassy staff if the sexual abuse or maltreatment of OFWs happened inside the Philippine embassy compound.

Binay said the embassy is considered an extension of Philippine territory. If the offense was committed outside the embassy grounds, then the host country has jurisdiction and the Philippine government is duty-bound to extend legal help to the complainants.

Share.
loading...
Loading...

Please follow our commenting guidelines.

6 Comments

  1. Isabel Katugon on

    “I don’t why this Villafuerte aside from sexual abuse complaints with witnesses still free.”– Being accused does not mean being guilty!

  2. Abraham C. Banares on

    I am a legal OFW since 1982, a veterinarian and poultry specialist who worked in Africa until now. I was a direct hire OFW, because most of the OFW that passed through a recruiting agency, maybe not all will spend a fortune before they can travel, then by the time they worked with their employer, aside form being maltreated, their agreed salary was not given worst their salary were not paid. this is an open secret!!. To be an OFW, whether you called us unsung or modern heroes, we thank you for recognizing us. I will be just giving you my experience to be shared to others and would be OFW. First, be sure you are qualified for the work you are applying for so that by the time you arrived and start working, you will not be downgraded by the employer. Register with your Pilipino Community and Philippine embassy as soon as possible upon arrival. Now, to start is about ones qualification and all the necessary documents, visa, etc, etc. There were so many lope holes, where even the recruiting agency,POEA, OWA, and other related Agency can exploit the innocent applicant, then more or less you know what will be the next!!! The solution for this is to help the would be OFW the requirements, if qualified, to process all the documents without so much problem. Our Philippine Embassy, and other staff were always good but of course sometimes, even in a family there is a black sheep. This happened to me, early part of 2010, when I want to renew my passport in Philippine Embassy in Kenya. I filled the renewal form completely and enclosed 100usd bill for payment which what I knew was 60usd. Usually if the Embassy is not of same country where you are based, we send our application to any Pinoy who is going there or send by courier. My renewable application for the new passport was being hijack by our staff there named Delia, despite of so much begging, and even send our Marketing manager there ( with letter of authorization from me), with appointments was ignored. This matter even reached the attention of our consul there until January the following year, 2011. I got my renewed passport but without a changed of $40.00. There were so many complaints I also learned that other OFW’s and other Pinoys were treated like that by that particular Embassy staff. Another incident also happened to me early 2003, when I changed my employer, so I have to process all my travel documents again. I followed all the procedures and other requirements, but for the medical examination, there were so many lope holes. I have undergone so many unnecessarily tests, even stress test just to collect more money from the applicants, worst even to send the result to POEA was a problem. Above experience of mind was mild compared to others. Now, if only there is good employment opportunity in our country, less number of our people will work abroad. More or less most of us knew how difficult to stay away from family, working environment, culture gap, etc etc. Instead of making New Deparment for OFW’s, why don’t the government agencies concerned be harmonized first and be sure is for the welfare of the OFW’s to reduce their sufferings.

  3. Dismissal from their messiest ambassadorial post is not enough to compensate the intense physical sufferings and mental anguish of their poor victims. What would be more appropriate retribution is to castrate them and send to prison completely naked?

  4. Rosauro Feliciano on

    As an active OFW myself since 1974, I am not in favor for the creation of a department for overseas Filipino workers because it will only persistently and endlessly encouraging our people to provide services to other countries where we can do such services to our own people. For what I know the creation of the overseas employment development board (OEDB) was only a temporary solution to ease unemployment problem; however, it became a milking cow for our government to prevent economic crisis. It became a source of abuse of some of our employment agencies. I have been witnessing the hardships of our women who work more than eight hours daily doing house hold chores including washing cars early in the morning. Maltreatment at the hands of employers is an open knowledge that no one of us can deny. We must end to this so called Modern Heroes as this is a fallacy of the highest order. We must create jobs for our people by amending some provisions in our constitution so we can be at par with our neighboring countries in terms of encouraging foreign investments. We must end this sending our women to work as maids so we can walk on and in the streets of our host countries with our head high and be much proud as being Filipinos. This is the reason why I did not pledge allegiance to other country because I love the country of my birth. So please forget about this idea of creating a department for us OFWs; please I beg. Of course I am just a drop of water in a bucket but what I have been observing since 1974 when I first worked in Iran as an Instructor and in many other countries about our conditions are unbearable. At many times our own people who are supposed to protect us OFWs, are the ones who are neglecting us because they look down upon us, taking collectively, as house maids.

    • george roman on

      With response to Rosauro:

      You have valid points, but you have to undrstand that no matter what, we WILL have OWFs. So in that aspect, why can’t we support the people that find passion in what their doing? The people that are having it hard? won’t it be good to have a department that would focus on fixing issues like this? if they are being mistreated or unhappy, the department would come in and will do what’s best of who’s affected?

  5. I don’t why this Villafuerte aside from sexual abuse complaints with witnesses still free. He should be arrested in that country where he is working and turned over to the NBI, detained while awaiting court hearing. what kind of justice system is this. looks like a kangaroo system. In decent countries like the US this guy is in jail by now awaiting to be extradited and trial.