Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Archive for August, 2009

Needed: Laws to Protect Domestic Workers in the Philippines

Posted by butalidnl on 16 August 2009

Many households in the Philippines employ domestic helpers.  They are almost indispensable in a middle class family home. But despite their many contributions to society, Filipinos do not appreciate them fully.

It is important for Philippine society as a whole that the  domestic workers are treated well.  It goes beyond decency, you could see their situation as a labor issue, a developmental issue, and a human rights issue.

Labor issue
Domestic workers are one big unorganized mass of workers. Many people don’t  think of their domestics as workers. But in reality, these domestics work hard, and they are not fully protected by Philippine law. They often work without contracts, do not have social security or medical coverage, and work long hours. Many of them are under the age of 18, and thus are children.

While we may say that there are many workers also with similar conditions, the difference with domestics is that they are not really recognized as workers in our labor laws, and there are no rules or guidelines on how they should be treated or compensated.  The continued nonrecognition of domestic work as regular work undermines the whole structure of labor laws, since there is one big and glaring exception or loophole in it.

Development issue
Domestic workers make up a significant part of the country’s economy. Their main contribution is that they free middle class women to be able to pursue their careers.  Then, they  send back part of their pay to their families, helping to sustain their families in the rural areas.  And domestic work can be seen as a possible transition to urban life, and more formal work.

If the “under-18” domestic workers are given a chance to pursue their studies, then they would have a chance to get good paying jobs after their stint as domestic workers. While studying reduces the number of hours that they can do domestic work; this is more than compensated by the higher quality of the worker.

Human rights
There are also human rights issues concerning domestic workers.  The first of this would be the right of domestic workers to “rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay” (International Declaration of Human Rights, IDHR, No. 24).  There are as yet no clear guidelines on the work/rest hours for domestics.

And then, there are the rights of the child (International Convention on the Rights of the Child) with states that the child has the right to education. Child domestics (i.e. younger than 18 years old) have the right to go to school, and that their domestic work scheduled should be adjusted accordingly,without being too long as a result (since they also have the right to rest and leisure).

First Steps
As a first step towards addressing the labor, development and human rights issues connected with domestic workers, there needs to be a clear legal framework for this.  What is need is a Magna Carta for Domestic Workers, or “Batas Kasambahay” (Kasambahay = domestic workers).  Bills to this effect have been filed  in the House of Representatives and the Senate, but it has mainly been successful in the House. There is a nationwide signature campaign urging Congress (especially the Senate) to pass the Batas Kasambahay.

Since 2005, a number of local governments have passed local ordinances to register and provide programs for domestic workers.  These need to happen throughout the country.

See also: Domestic Workers in the Philippines

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Run-off election for President

Posted by butalidnl on 5 August 2009

Last May, Representative Raul Gonzalez filed HB 6183 entitled “Run-off election for President”. This bill is intended to end the tendency for the country to elect minority presidents.

In this set-up, there would be a second round of elections for president, unless a candidate gets more than 50% of the vote. In the second round, the two candidates with the most votes would be the ones left to choose from.

I agree with Gonzalez. The Philippines needs to select its presidents on the basis of a real majority vote, and no longer the plurality (which could mean quite a low percentage of the vote, if there are many candidates).

In addition to ensuring that the elected president was selected by an actual majority of voters, the run-off rule for presidential elections would also help to solve the conflict between “conscience” and “tactical” voting.  When there are more than two candidates, people often have to decide whether to vote for the candidate they really like, or the candidate that they think will win. Of course, if the candidate you like is the one you think is more likely to win, you don’t have a problem. But, what if this is not the case?  Then you may have to choose the candidate which you least dislike among the ones which have a good chance of winning (this is “tactical voting”).

With the run-off election, people will be free to choose among a wide field of candidates, truly on the basis of their preference, during the first round of voting. In the run-off vote, with only two candidates left, they would then choose the one that they prefer from the ones left. Thus, it would be “conscience” vote on the first round, and “tactical” vote on the second round. Quite convenient.

It is also an arrangement that will be good for the country. The winning president will have a real mandate from the people, and would be stronger in dealing with the rest of the government, especially Congress. And with a stronger mandate, there would be less need for shady alliances and the corruption that naturally brings.
In addition, there would also be more candidates who would run for president, representing a wider spectrum of political parties and programs.

After a while, if people get used to the idea of a run-off election for president; I believe it would be a good idea for this to be done for more elective positions, particularly those for executive positions.

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