Resilient Central Luzon Collaboration Workshop for the Pampanga River Basin

June 7, 2012

Keynote Speech
Building a Resilient Central Luzon Collaboration Workshop for the Pampanga River Basin
Oxford Hotel, Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga
June 07, 2012

Mr. President,

I rise on a matter of personal privilege to underscore my personal commitment as your Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to push for the ratification of the ILO Convention 189 otherwise known as Decent Work for Domestic Workers’ Convention.

Bukas po ay National Migrant Workers’ Day, at ang bilang ng mga kasambahay ang pinakamalaking lupon ng manggagawa sa labas ng bansa. Sila din po ang ating pinagkakatiwalaan na katuwang ng mga nanay sa pagpapatakbo ng tahanan, sa pag-aaruga sa mga bata at matatanda, at sa seguridad at kalinisan ng ating mga bakuran.

The Senate has always been a consistent ally of the domestic workers’ sector. We have never wavered in our approval of the long overdue Kasambahay measure, as sponsored by our Senate President Pro Tempore and Labor Committee chairman Jinggoy Estrada.

Of utmost priority for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is the ratification of ILO Convention 189. Our goal is to be the first in Asia to register its ratification of this Convention.
It is a fact that without our kasambahays, our economy and that of many others in Asia and the Middle East shall fall. Yet, the convenience they provide has made it too inconvenient for some to bestow these workers their basic rights.

In fact, the last law on domestic workers was Republic Act No. 7655 enacted in 1993 that set 800 pesos as the minimum wage in Metro Manila.

ILO Convention 189 is the manifesto that every domestic worker deserves. This Convention unveils the universal rights of the domestic worker including those working overseas. Most of all, it was the Philippines that championed its entry from committee to the floor of the 100th Session of the International Labour Conference on June 16, 2011, when history was made with 396 affirmative votes of Conference delegates.

Dahil sa pagpupunyagi at pakikibaka ng ating Department of Labor and Employment at mga CSOs sa Geneva, Switzerland, ang ating mga kasambahay ay ganap ng mga manggagawa sa mata ng ILO at ng buong daigdig.

Based on records of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), deployment of domestic workers is increasing year-to-year. In 2011, newly hired overseas Filipino domestic workers breached the 100,000 mark (136,000) for the first time in Philippine history. The ratification of this Convention shall significantly boost the government’s efforts to engage host countries in bilateral negotiations and reforms in labor laws and policies.

Through this Convention we can provide stronger protection and greater support to our migrant domestic workers like Sitti, our kababayan from Mindanao who was beaten up by her employer in Saudi Arabia.

She was sold 11 times to different employers with her passport changing hands beyond her control. Finally, she was sent home with the help of the Philippine Embassy when Sitti landed in a hospital after being beaten once again by her employer.

My esteemed colleagues, Saudi Arabia was among those who voted in favor of adopting this ILO Convention, as did other Middle East countries with a high concentration of Filipino domestic workers such as Kuwait, UAE, Lebanon and Syria. We call on them to join us in ratifying this Convention as well.

Mr. President, abuses against our “kasambahays” happen not only abroad, but even here at home.

On the screen is a photo of a 16-year old girl under the alias “Raquel”, who was recruited by a manpower supply agency from Cotabato province, brought to Manila to work as a domestic worker, and was treated harshly by her employer who would beat her up every day, feed her only rice with salt, and force her to work without wages.
There are many like Raquel, trafficked from rural towns to bustling cities, forced to work as slaves inside gated homes. Sadly, domestic work is also a child labor issue since around 20% of domestic workers are children and minors.

The Convention encourages its signatories to set standards for employment agencies recruiting or placing domestic workers, in accordance with national laws, regulations and practice.

It also directs ratifying states to consider entering into bilateral, regional or multilateral agreements to prevent abuses and fraudulent practices in recruitment, placement, and employment of domestic workers. The DFA can cite this Convention, Mr. President, in initiating bilateral labor talks with fellow ILO members.

Sa ilalim ng ILO Convention 189, kailangan ay may kontrata ang kasambahay at ang kanyang employer kung saan malinaw na nakasaad ang suweldo, oras ng trabaho at pahinga, pagkain at tirahan, panahon ng bakasyon, at para sa mga migranteng kasambahay – anumang kasunduan tungkol sa pagtatapos ng kontrata. Ang probisyon na ito ay nakapaloob din sa panukalang Kasambahay Law.

Mr. President, this Convention also ensures that domestic workers are able to keep in their possession their travel and identity documents.
In Syria, we have 10,000 Filipino workers whose travel documents are being kept by their employers. The civil unrest in the said country had already caused the death of Mer-an Montezor, a Filipino domestic worker shot dead in Homs. Despite this, only less than 2,000 Filipino domestic workers have managed to come home. The others were forced to escape because their employers refused to let them go.

We have in our gallery, two of these women, Maricel Monteclaro and Shirley Antig. In order to escape from Lattakia, Syria, they tied the ends of more than a dozen blankets to make a ladder that they used to climb down from the 5th floor of their employer’s building, hurting themselves in the process. Their presence here today, alongside other OFWs from Syria, underscores how vulnerable our domestic workers truly are.

Our final photo, Mr. President, is that of the late Flor Contemplacion. Her execution in Singapore in 1995 shall be forever etched in our minds and hearts. Tomorrow is National Migrant Workers’ Day because of a law that we enacted to ensure that no one else suffers the same fate.

Mr. President, we look forward to the historic enactment of our Kasambahay Law (Senate Bill No. 78 and House Bill No. 6144). This representation wishes to seek as well the Chamber’s support in giving full priority to ILO Convention 189 when the Senate convenes in July.
The Kasambahay Law, when enacted and the ILO Convention once concurred in by the Senate, will pave the way for Filipino domestic workers—1.9 million of whom are in the country and at least 1.5 million in other nations—to be treated as workers entitled to human and employment rights. Such rights are the foundation of inclusive growth that we as a nation aspire for.

The time has come for all of us to acknowledge the contributions of our household heroes into the global workforce, no longer as invisible hands but as domestic workers, equipped with the rights and benefits accorded others.

Thank you, Mr. President.