Senate to grill ‘sexual predators in barong’

Ayee Macaraig

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Sen Jinggoy Estrada, who heads the committee on labor, calls officials in sex-for-flight scheme 'maginoo pero sobrang bastos'

SEAT RESERVED. Sen Jinggoy Estrada tells labor attache Adam Musa that a seat is reserved for him in a Senate hearing on the sex-for-flight scheme. Estrada links Musa to the sex-for-flight scheme as he talks about the stories of 3 supposed victims who were present in the Senate on Monday. Photo by Senate PRIB/Cesar Tomambo

MANILA, Philippines – They are “perverts,” “sexual predators in Barong Tagalog,” and seats in the Senate are prepared for their public grilling. 

In a graphic and scathing privilege speech, Senate labor committee chairman Jinggoy Estrada blasted labor and embassy officials allegedly involved in the sex-for-flight scheme, and called on the Senate to hold an investigation separate from the one being conducted by the executive branch.

The Senate agreed to look into the issue, with the blue ribbon committee or the accountability of public officers committee and the labor committee leading the probe.

Akbayan Rep Walden Bello first exposed the scheme in June. In the sex-for-flight scheme, labor and embassy officials in the Middle East allegedly promise to prioritize the repatriation of distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in exchange for sexual favors.

READ: ‘Embassy staff prostituting OFWs’ 

Estrada delivered a speech on Monday, July 29, accusing Riyadh assistant labor attaché Antonio “Tony” Villafuerte and labor attaché Adam Musa of verbally and physically abusing OFWs.

In dramatic fashion, the actor-turned-senator read parts from written statements of 3 supposed victims, who he presented in the Senate gallery. He titled his speech “Maginoo pero sobrang bastos” (Gentlemen but perverts).

Estrada said the 3 victims he referred to as “Analiza,” “Angel,” and “Josie” were abused by their employers and later on by Philippine labor officials in Saudi Arabia.

He cited the case of “Angel” who escaped her abusive employer in Riyadh.

Sinundo ni Villafuerte si ‘Angel’ sa nasabing clinic. Nakahinga si Angel [nang] maluwag nang malaman nandoon na ang taga-Embassy para siya ay sunduin. Ngunit nagkamali ng pag-aakala si Angel dahil habang sila ay nasa sasakyan papunta sa POLO office ay puro kalaswaan ang lumabas sa bibig ng assistant labor attache. ‘Malaki ba ari ng amo mo?’ ‘Masarap ba?’ ‘Saan ka tinira, sa harap o sa likod?’”

(Villafuerte fetched ‘Angel’ in the clinic. Angel heaved a sigh of relief when she found out an embassy official was there to fetch her. But she was wrong because when they were in the car heading to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, pure malice came out of the mouth of the assistant labor attaché. ‘Was your employer’s sex organ big?’ ‘Was it pleasurable?’ ‘How did he do it?’ )

Estrada said he chose not to read the rest of Angel’s affidavit into the records “dahil ayokong magmistulang imburnal at puno ng kabastusan ang ating talaan” (because I don’t want our records to be like a sewer and filled with indecency.) 

Estrada said Villafuerte was recalled and is in Manila while Musa is still in Saudi Arabia. While he slammed the two, he said his office is open to listen to their response.

Other OFWs though have come out to dispute some of the statements against the labor officials as a “demolition job.” The departments of foreign affairs and labor are investigating the issue. Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz has submitted her report to President Benigno Aquino III. 

Estrada said the Senate probe will have a “different point of view” from the departments’ probe.  

The senator said the cases of abuse showed lapses, like the lack of professionalism in the management of embassy shelters and the lack of trained coordinators, structured integration and counseling programs for distressed OFWs.

Estrada said the sex-for-repatriation scheme violated the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act, and the laws amending it, which provided for the full protection of OFWs, and funds for their repatriation.

Sen Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr also filed a resolution earlier this month calling for a Senate probe on the issue.

Estrada said, “To all barong-wearing sexual predators in government especially among those posted overseas, beware because your days are numbered. Walang puwang sa gobyerno para sa mga maginoo pero sobrang bastos, lalo na sa ating mga Bahay Kalinga at bawat sulok ng Embahada at Konsulado sa labas ng bansa.”

(There’s no place in government for supposed gentlemen who are actually perverts, especially in shelters and embassies and consulates abroad.)

Below is Estrada’s full speech:

PRIVILEGE SPEECH OF SEN. JINGGOY EJERCITO ESTRADA

ON THE ABUSES OF OUR EMBASSY/LABOR OFFICIALS

29 July 2013

“MAGINOO, PERO SOBRANG BASTOS”

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.

I rise today on a matter of personal and collective privilege.

The plight of our overseas Filipino workers has always been at the forefront of news.  This is understandable given the number of issues confronting the OFW sector — freeze hiring of OFWs in Taiwan, Saudization policy in Saudi Arabia, ongoing crackdown in Kuwait, the conflict in Syria, to mention a few.

However, these issues are all results of external forces, beyond the control of our workers but their movements, safety, and incomes are adversely affected.

Pero may isang isyu, Ginoong Pangulo, mga mahal kong kasama sa Senado, na gumimbal sa sambayanan dahil sarili nating mga kababayan at mga kawani pa ng ating pamahalaan, ang nambabastos at nagtutulak sa ating mga bagong bayani sa kapahamakan. Ito po ay batay sa mga rebelasyon ni Akbayan Representative Walden Bello patungkol sa sex-for-repatriation. Para sa akin po, kung may sex-for-repatriation, meron din mga sexual-predators-in-Barong Tagalog.

I rise today to issue this challenge for truth, justice, and meaningful reforms in behalf of our runaway maids and distressed OFWs living and waiting for their ticket home in Filipino Workers Resource Centers or often referred to as “Bahay Kalinga” around the world.

Mr. President, alam natin na karamihan sa ating mga OFWs ay naninilbihan sa ibayong dagat bilang mga domestic workers. Hindi rin lingid sa ating kaalaman ang mga pag-mamaltrato at pang-aabusong dinaranas ng marami nating OFWs sa kamay ng kanilang mga banyagang amo. Hindi ba’t sa mga ganitong pagkakataon, ang ating mga embahada at konsulado ang takbuhan ng ating mga OFWs?

While in the country, our citizens can rely on the entire government machinery from President down to barangay captains to protect and promote their welfare. But once a Filipino travels and crosses borders especially as an OFW, that entire government machinery is shrunk to fit an embassy or consulate that proudly bears the Philippine flag.

Saan pa ba maliban sa ating mga Embahada, maghahanap ng pagkalinga at proteksyon ang mga OFW lalo na ang mga kasambahay na minaltrato ng kanilang mga amo sa Middle East o sa Asya o saan mang sulok ng mundo?

Bigyan po natin ng mukha at anyo ang ilan sa mga OFWs na lumapit sa ating embahada upang humingi ng saklolo. Si “Analiza” (hindi nya tunay na pangalan) ay isang domestic helper na ginawang alipin ng kanyang mga amo sa Riyadh. 

Sa unang linggo ng kanyang paglilingkod, maganda raw ang turing sa kanya ng kaniyang amo. Ngunit sa ‘di kalaunan lumabas na ang katotohanan. Sa suweldong katumbas ng Php 8,000 pesos, isang buong angkan ang kaniyang pinaglilingkuran, halos bente-kuwatro oras kung magsilbi sa mag-asawa na may limang mga anak at lima pang mga kapatid na lalaki, lahat sa loob ng isang bahay.

Sa sariling niyang pananalita, ito po ang dinanas ni Analiza:

“Noong February 1, nagalit po ang aking among babae dahil hindi ko daw natapos ang paglilinis ng mga kuwarto sa loob ng tatlumpung (30) minuto. Bilang parusa, ikinulong po ako sa isang kuwarto ng dalawang araw na walang pagkain maliban sa isang pitsel ng tubig sa tabi ng aking kama. Dahil sa gutom at sakit, hinimatay po ako at nagkamalay na lamang sa ospital. Minadali ng aking amo ang aking paglabas sa ospital upang pagtrabahuin muli sa kanilang bahay. Feeling ko mamamatay na ako nun. Ang tanging nagawa ko na lamang ay manalangin sa Panginoon na magkaroon ng pagkakataon na makatakas.”

“Dininig ng Diyos ang aking panalangin. Noong February 5, laking tuwa ko dahil nakaligtaan nilang ikandado ang pinto kaya’t ako ay nakatakas. Alas otso ng umaga, tulog pa ang aking mga amo, lumakad po ako na halos walang dala, pera man o damit, mula sa bahay na ‘yon hanggang sa highway. Sa highway, doon ako sumakay ng taxi para magpahatid sa Philippine Embassy. Ngunit imbis na doon ako dalhin ay sa disyerto ako dinala ng driver at sinubukan niya akong pagsamantalahan. Nagmakaawa po ako sa kanya. Nag-iiyak. Nagkunwari ako na isang Muslim at pinaalala ko sa kanya na bawal sa Islam ang kanyang binabalak. Hinipuan po niya ako at ilang beses tinangkang halayin ngunit naglaban ako. Dahil ayaw ko pong pumayag sa gusto niya, napilitan po siya na ihatid na lang ako sa Embahada. Iyak po ako ng iyak sa tuwa nang mamamataan ko na ang bandila ng Pilipinas.”

Iyan ang ilang pahayag ni Analiza.

At the POLO Office, Assistant Labor Attache Tony Villafuerte noticed her crying while waiting for her turn to be attended to. He arranged for the kitchen staff to feed her lunch. Weak and traumatized, Analiza told Villafuerte everything including her ordeal in the desert. Villafuerte said, “Muntik ka na ah.  Pero masuwerte ka pa rin.”

After the interview at the POLO Office, Mr. Villafuerte brought Analiza to Bahay Kalinga. While driving the car from the POLO office to the Bahay Kalinga, where Analiza would be sheltered, Villafuerte allegedly asked the dazed OFW:

“Na-rape ka ba ng amo mo?” “Hindi po”, ang sagot ni Analiza.

“Hinipuan ka ba?” “Hindi po, Sir.”

“Hindi ka pala hinipuan, puwede bang ako na lang ang humipo diyan?”

Analiza was shocked by the request, made by a man she thought would be her protector.  She endured that verbal sexual assault in silence.

Para kay Mr. Villafuerte, kung nanunood o nakikinig ka man, kung ikaw kaya ang makaranas ng pagmamaltrato o kaya dalhin sa disyerto at pagtangkaang halayin ng isang taxi driver na Arabo, matutuwa ka ba kung ganyang uri ng mga tanong ang iyong maririnig mula sa isang opisyal ng Embahada?

Apparently, this labor officer’s insensitivity and crude behavior is not confined to sexual innuendoes alone. His impropriety in dealing with Saudi agencies also deserves a closer look. 

On Analiza’s third day at Bahay Kalinga, Assistant Labor Attache Tony Villafuerte arranged a meeting between Analiza and her Saudi agent, a man named Mr. Turki. She saw how the labor officer and her agent greeted each other warmly. Nagbeso-beso pa raw sa magkabilang pisngi. Both men met in private while she waited outside Villafuerte’s office. 

After that long, private meeting, Mr. Villafuerte called her in and left the room, locking his office door, leaving Analiza alone with Mr. Turki. Behind that locked door, the Saudi agent shouted at and scolded the OFW, berating her for escaping from her employers. She wondered to herself why she had to endure such humiliation, unprotected, with no less than the labor official locking her inside with the abusive agent. 

After several minutes, the labor officer returned and asked Analiza to go back to her employer. She refused. The Saudi agent then gestured that he has given up on Analiza and would just shoulder the cost of her repatriation. After that meeting, she returned to Bahay Kalinga and never heard from Mr. Turki again.

While waiting for the promised repatriation, a certain “Mohammad” who claims to also be from the POLO Office called her cellphone. This mysterious person knew a lot about her case. He even sounded a lot like Villafuerte. This Mohammad promised her a ticket home in exchange for a one-night stand. He also requested for a photo of Analiza wearing nothing but her underwear. How can this pervert have access to the phone and case records of a Bahay Kalinga ward?

Analiza had to endure all these until a kindhearted pastor provided her with a ticket back home. When she finally came home, she immediately went to her Manila agency.  To her dismay, the local agency showed her a copy of an air ticket that Mr. Turki had purchased for her as early as February 27. Analiza came home last May using a ticket donated by private individuals. Why was that ticket from the agency never given? Why keep Analiza in the government shelter for four months when clearly she could have been back with her family much earlier?

I have a copy of said two tickets: one paid for by Mr. Turki but was never used, and the second, a ticket home for Analiza donated by a certain Pastor Beny and Madam Nelda.

Clearly an injustice has been done, and Mr. Villafuerte and the entire POLO staff have much to explain. Ang tanong, madalas ba nangyayari ang ganito, Mr. Villafuerte?

Mr. President, another complainant known as “Angel” went to Saudi Arabia on March 28, 2013 to work as a domestic helper.  In Riyadh, she not only worked for a family with eight (8) children, she also had to clean three (3) big houses for a monthly salary equivalent to Php 8,000 pesos.

Isang araw noong Mayo, habang naglilinis ng bahay, tinutukan ng patalim si Angel ng kanyang among lalaki at pinagsamantalahan. Hindi nagawang magsumbong ni Angel sa among babae. Naisip niya na baka baliktarin siya nito at patayin. Nagplano na lamang siyang tumakas.

Noong May 8, nakatakas si Angel sa kanyang demonyong amo. Sumakay siya ng taxi at nagpahatid sa Riyadh Clinic kung saan may isang nurse na Pinay na doon nagtra-trabaho. Ang nurse na iyon ang tumawag sa Philippine Embassy para humingi ng tulong para kay Angel.

Sinundo ni Villafuerte si Angel sa nasabing clinic. Nakahinga si Angel ng maluwag nang malaman nandoon na ang taga-Embassy para siya ay sunduin. Ngunit nagkamali ng pag-aakala si Angel dahil habang sila ay nasa sasakyan papunta sa POLO office ay puro kalaswaan ang lumabas sa bibig ng assistant labor attache. “Malaki ba ari ng amo mo?” “Masarap ba?” “Saan ka tinira, sa harap o sa likod?”

Ganyan ang mga uri ng tanong ni Mr. Villafuerte kay Angel. Ayon sa kawawang OFW, hindi man lang niya kinakitaan ng simpatiya o awa ang nasabing labor official. Bagkus ay minaliit at niyurakan pa nito ang kanyang pagkatao.

Nasa aking kamay po ang affidavit ni Angel pero hindi ko na po ito babasahin sa records ng Senado, Mr. President, dahil ayokong magmistulang imburnal at puno ng kabastusan ang ating talaan.

Sa isang pagkakataon, pinayuhan ni Villafuerte si Angel na magfile ng kaso laban sa kanyang employer dahil malaking pera raw ang makukuha nito.

Ganoon ba ang tingin niya sa mga naging biktima ng pagmamaltrato at panggagahasa? Mga mukhang pera?

Ganitong-ganito rin po ang inasta ng isa nating Labor Attache sa Saudi Arabia sa isang OFW na tinangkang gahasain ng kanyang driver doon mismo sa POLO office. Si “Josie” (hindi rin tunay na pangalan) ay isang takas na OFW, lumayas sa kanyang amo dahil sa tangkang panghahalay.  Nakaligtas nga si Josie sa kalaswaan ng Arabong amo, ngunit pagdating sa Bahay Kalinga ay ang demonyong tsuper ng labor attache naman pala ang naghahasik ng kalaswaan sa mismong shelter ng ating pamahalaan. 

Kinuha si Josie ng labor attache mula sa Bahay Kalinga upang magtrabaho bilang janitress sa POLO Office. Isang araw, napilitan itong maiwan sa opisina at abutin ng gabi dahil ayon sa driver ay kailangan daw niyang tapusin ang mga inutos sa kanya ng labor attache. Hindi naman pala overtime sa trabaho ang balak ng driver, kung di ang mag-short time sa POLO office. Nagpumiglas at nanglaban si Josie sa tangkang pang-gagahasa ng driver. Dahil sa nangyari, nagpasya si Josie na muling tumakas, pero imbis sa dayuhang amo ay mismong ang Bahay Kalinga ang nais niyang takasan. Pagkaraan ng ilang araw, naglakas loob na magsumbong si Josie sa labor attache. Ngunit siya ay nadismaya dahil imbis na tanggalin ang driver, ni-renew pa ng labor attache ang kontrata nito at inalok pa ng suhol si Josie para manahimik na lang. Labor Attache Adam Musa, may nakahanda ring upuan para sa inyo sa magaganap na pagdinig dito sa Senado.

Mr. President, may isang testigo pa po, isang OFW na itago na lang natin sa pangalang “Michelle.” Marahil ay napanood na ninyo siya o napakinggan ang kanyang mga sinabi sa media. Sadyang hinuli ko ang kanyang kuwento dahil siya po mismo ay hinalay at minolestiya ni Ginoong Villafuerte doon mismo sa POLO office. Kung kay Angel at Analiza ay pambabastos sa pamamagitan sa salita, kay Michelle po ay pambabastos sa salita at gawa. Ayon kay Michelle, may naka saksi sa pangmomolestiyang ginawa sa kanya sa POLO Office.  I am helping Michelle to secure this witness.

Dahil si Michelle ay isang takas, humingi siya ng tulong kay Villafuerte na magkaroon ng personal na gamit katulad ng underwear. Ang tugon po ng ating magiting na assistant labor attache ay ang isang text message na naitago ni Michelle at aking babasahin: “Nagpabili nako 2 salungso at 6 na salungki, kunin mo kay Mam Lita.” Mukhang bihasa din mag-Tagalog itong si Villafuerte. Salungso at salungki – iyun pala po ang bra at panty sa Tagalog, ayon sa ating mahusay na Assistant Labor Attache.

Ayon sa salaysay ni Michelle, noong May 18 sa POLO office, sa opisina ni Welfare Officer Rodrigo nangyari ang pananamantala. Biglang hinila siya ni Villafuerte, sinandal sa pader, hinalikan at dinilaan sa labi habang nilalamas ang kanyang dibdib. At nang tinataas na ni Villafuerte ang abaya ni Michelle, siya ay nagpumiglas at nagkaroon ng pagkakataon na tumakas. Base sa aking pagtatanong kay Michelle, mayroong isang tao na naka saksi ng pangyayaring ito at siya ay ihaharap ko sa tamang oras at panahon. Kaya Ginoong Villafuerte, alam kong nasa Maynila ka na, paghandaan mo ito.

Mr. President, my dear colleagues, nais ko lang ipaalala sa lahat lalo na sa mga kinauukulan sa DOLE, DFA, POEA at OWWA na malinaw ang nakasaad sa ating mga batas.

Under Republic Act No. 8042 otherwise known as the “Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995” the State shall “afford full protection to labor, local and overseas, organized and unorganized, and promote full employment and equality to all. Toward this end, the State shall provide adequate and timely social, economic and legal services to Filipino migrant workers.”

In the same breadth, R.A. 10022, which amended and strengthen R.A. 8042, mandates that agency-hired workers shall be covered by a compulsory insurance policy to cover, among others, the repatriation cost of the worker when his/her employment is terminated without any valid cause.

Samakatuwid, kung mayroon naman palang mandatory insurance at mayroon din kaukulang pondo na maaaring gugulin at ipang tustos sa ating mga kababayan na karapat dapat at kailangan mapauwi, bakit nangyayari ang pambabastos, pang aabuso, paghingi ng mga donasyon para sa air tickets pati na ang sex for repatriation?

Certainly, the laws enacted by Congress are not just meant to pay lip service to the enormous contribution of our OFWs to the country’s economy and to the sacrifices they have to endure to give a better future to their family.

Mr. President, it is also clear based on the testimonies of OFWs who have stayed in Embassy shelters particularly in the Middle East that these shelters are also not being managed professionally and in keeping with best practices in the handling of abused women and victims of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. In fact, the shelters no longer have fully-trained center coordinators, no structured reintegration and counseling programs, and are often led by house parents designated from among the ranks of the distressed OFWs.

And yet, the amended Migrant Workers’ Act principally sponsored by yours truly, states:

“In countries categorized as highly problematic by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment and where there is a concentration of Filipino migrant workers, the government must provide a Sharia or human rights lawyer, a psychologist and a social worker for the Center. In addition to these personnel, the government must also hire within the receiving country, in such number as may be needed by the post, public relation officers or case officers who are conversant, orally and in writing, with the local language, laws, customs and practices. The Labor Attache shall coordinate the operation of the Center and shall keep the Chief of Mission informed and updated on all matters affecting it.”

Clearly, Mr. President, our intent as legislators was to provide the best welfare services and protection to OFWs seeking refuge in our overseas shelters. What happened, Mr. President? How can the protectors be the very people that these workers need protection from?

Kay Assistant Labor Attache Villafuerte at Labor Attache Musa, bukas ang aking tanggapan para sa inyong mga kasagutan sa nilahad ng ating mga OFWs. Para maging patas, ilang ulit ko pong hiningi mula sa DoLE ang report ng fact-finding team tungkol sa inyong mga kaso pero matatagalan pa raw ito. Wala pa raw pormal na tugon si Ginoong Villafuerte sa mga nasabing alegasyon.

Accordingly, Mr. President, in relation with this speech, this humble Representation has filed Senate Resolution No. 97 with the desire to analyze this problem from a point of view different from that of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Labor and Employment, which have initiated separate investigations. 

In closing, may I just say that I still firmly believe in the integrity of our foreign service and I still have faith in our many dedicated and committed public servants. I am confident that in the end the good and just will prevail.  To all barong-wearing sexual predators in government especially among those posted overseas, beware because your days are numbered. Walang puwang sa gobyerno para sa mga maginoo pero sobrang bastos, lalo na sa ating mga Bahay Kalinga at bawat sulok ng Embahada at Konsulado sa labas ng bansa.

Mr. President, I know that you and all of our distinguished colleagues would agree when I say that our modern day heroes especially our domestic workers deserve much better than this.  Maraming salamat po.

– Rappler.com  

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