Abuse of Power? Indeed.

January 12, 2011

Thanks to the Phil. Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Workers on Tuesday picketed the house of Rep. Eulogio Magsaysay and threatened to sue him after he angrily called a Philippine Airlines (PAL) attendant a “menopausal bitch” for failing to get him a seat beside his sons on a flight to Los Angeles.

Around 50 members of the PAL Employees Association (PALEA) and Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) massed for an hour at the Greenhills residence in San Juan City of the representative of the Alliance of Volunteer Educators (AVE) party-list.

They carried placards denouncing Magsaysay as “anti-labor” and “anti-women” for screaming sexist remarks at Sarah Bonnin Ocampo after she told him she had no authority to transfer him next to his sons in the packed flight last Dec. 17.

Magsaysay allegedly also threatened to have Ocampo sacked.

“We would like to seek justice for all aviation workers who are constantly experiencing disrespect and abuse from airline customers, especially abusive politicians and government officials, but have chosen to remain silent for fear of reprisal,” said Ginalyn Licayan, head of PALEA’s Women Committee.

“Mr. Magsaysay represents those obnoxious politicians who shamelessly wield their positions with utmost arrogance against ordinary employees,” Licayan said.

“Calling our co-employee names such as ‘menopausal bitch’ is the epitome of rudeness and sexism, totally embarrassing for a so-called ‘public servant.’ And he is even considered a representative of the education sector!”

PM secretary general Judy Ann Miranda said government officials, “especially the likes of Mr. Magsaysay,” should realize that workers “are human beings who deserve respect.”

“It is truly an embarrassment that a number of ‘public servants’ in our country do not know how to conduct themselves accordingly,” Miranda said.

Ocampo, 42, who claimed she also had been “harassed by mysterious phone calls” after the incident, told reporters she planned to file civil and criminal cases against Magsaysay.

High-pitched voice

In a phone interview, Magsaysay said: “First of all, I would like to tell your readers that I am seeking forgiveness for my harsh words. But I would like everyone to know why it reached that point.”

Magsaysay said that he was surprised that Ocampo, whose task was to take care of customer’s needs, raised her voice against him when he made his request for a seat transfer while waiting in PAL’s Mabuhay Lounge at the Manila airport for his flight.

“First, she was the one who raised her voice at me. But it was only later I realized that she had a high pitched voice. I thought she was shouting at me,” Magsaysay said.

Heated exchange

When Ocampo moved over to the adjacent counter after their heated exchange, Magsaysay said he glared at her. “I was surprised at her reaction, so I gave her a hard stare. She then came at me and asked me, ‘Do you have a problem?’ And that was when I said those words.”

He said he immediately wrote to the PAL management complaining about Ocampo’s behavior but he never asked that she be punished or fired.

Magsaysay said that while Ocampo was free to do whatever she wanted to air her grievance, “I feel that it is my family who has been maltreated here.”

He claimed that throughout the confrontation, he never identified himself as a representative.

“It was only after that I introduced myself as a congressman and they immediately acted on my complaint. There is something wrong with our society if we only act if we know that someone is in power,” Magsaysay said.

‘Bitch, bitch, bitch!’

Ocampo, who first came out in the public and vented her ire last month through Mon Tulfo’s program in Radyo Inquirer, told reporters Tuesday she had been polite to Magsaysay.

Because all seats had been taken, she said she declined Magsaysay’s request, saying she did not have the authority to make the transfer.

But she said Magsaysay snapped and told her: “Easy ka lang, Easy ka lang (Keep your cool.)”

The attendant ignored Magsaysay who at the time, she said, she did not know was a congressman.

Bothered because Magsaysay was shaking with anger and glaring at her, she came to him and asked him what his problem was.

“You shut up, menopausal bitch, bitch, bitch!” Ocampo quoted the congressman yelling at her. “Papasisante kita (I will get you fired).”

Anger not normal

Ocampo, a widow and a mother of an 8-year-old boy, said Magsaysay had caused her “so much hurt.” She said she had been a customer service agent for 18 years but this was the first time a government official humiliated her.

“Every day, people get angry about flight delays or overweight baggage. But his anger was rather not normal,” she said.

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