According to one of the top leading advocates for the Rights of Women and Children, Congresswoman Janette Loreto Garin (1st District in the Province of Iloilo) House Bill 454 otherwise known as “The Kasambahay Act” which introduces policies that govern the household employment industry need to be studied thoroughly before congress passes it.
Citing that certain provisions fail to acknowledge some of the positive benefits involved in the family dynamics of a Filipino household, Rep. Janette Loreto Garin, points out one detail as a prime example; this is the prohibition of employing “minors” meaning any person below eighteen (18) years of age as a domestic worker or as referred to in the Act a “kasambahay”.
She believes that citing eighteen (18) as indeed the most reasonable limit a young person can be permitted to work as “kasambahay” must be established with factual evidence and it must be proven that indeed Filipinos families are agreeable to the age limit specified in the provision.
Rep. Janette Loreto Garin believes that by making the act of employing a young person below 18 years of age, who may be born in poverty and with no means of being able to go to school but capable of doing reasonable household duties while residing in another’s home as an unlawful act fails to recognize the realities of how majority of Filipino households are run.
The practice of taking in high school age children between the ages of 15 to 17 into ones household has long been done by generations of Filipinos and is still being practiced today for the opportunities and positive advantages they provide a young person and members of his immediate family.
Filipino culture allows for the nurturing of the young sometimes even from birth up to adulthood by people other than one’s own parents. Such is the reality of our world and taking this reality into consideration reveal how even if one is not of one’s own blood, he or she can still be properly cared for while learning about the responsibilities of having household chores. Doing work that is assigned to “kasambahays” should not be seen as a form of exploitation nor considered child labor when requested or tasked to a young person but viewed in a more positive light, seen as an occasion to develop positive Filipino values that may lead to brighter prospects for the future.
Housed, clothed, fed, educated and paid for their contributions in their role as “kasambahays” can be much likened to what parents of other families (even affluent ones) give and expect from their own children. The belief that if one does his chores well, one’s effort will be rewarded has often proven to be a good way to teach our own children about life skills we all need to know in the first place. When kindness, respect and consideration exist in similar arrangements, this proves to be beneficial to all persons involved.
Picture these real life events:
A young person who comes from a very remote and impoverished part of a community where no real schools are established except perhaps a four-walled room with a blackboard and no chairs and where the nearest high school is located miles away. The young person, determined to learn, willingly walks even barefoot to the nearest elementary or high school under harsh weather conditions imaginable. His kind-hearted teacher sees the child’s desire for knowledge and potential to do more offer assistance to the family by taking in the child into her household. Her home is a stone’s throw away from the school and she can provide free board and lodging while the child attends school. In return, the child helps with chores around the home and learns about responsibility, self-reliance and inner satisfaction of living a life that is productive and fruitful.
A well-loved “nanay” of the household brings in her child or grandchild during the summer. The child shows an eagerness to learn and expresses desire to go to school or to finish his studies. However, the child’s parents can barely make ends meet with 6 other children to consider. The grateful employers of “nanay” decide to welcome the child into their home and send him to school. The child studies, finishes his education while he helps around the household perhaps running simple errands, assisting others in the household and basically learning how to live life with diligence, self-discipline, a sense of responsibility and dignity.
There is nothing shameful or unlawful about working ones way through school. This has long been recognized as a way to a better life away from hunger, poverty and deprivation. It is seen as a gesture of kindness and generosity that opens doors for everyone involved. When a person is taught about responsibilities, diligence, even self-discipline the person is given a chance to receive proper education, is provided with a good opportunity to start ahead and forge his way into realizing his own dreams. He gains self-confidence and in turn his self-esteem grows a hundredfold.
Real life situations show that living with others as “kasambahays” help build character and add to ones sense of belonging. The young person is led away from a life of crime and vices, away from temptation and boredom. He is motivated to do well by others and inspired to look towards the future. The arrangement being advantageous to both, provide the generous employers with a household that is well run and a chance to give back and share their own blessings to others. For both sides, hope for a better and peaceful life continues.
Circumstances may vary but the bottom line is the same, by calling the act of welcoming a young person into one’s home and teaching him or her how to be responsible citizens and allowing him or her to “earn her keep” as an “unlawful act” deprives that person from experiencing life and all its wonderful possibilities.
By refusing the acknowledge the current situation in our Filipino household, the sweeping generalization in some of the provisions in the “Kasambahay Act” might in the long run prove to be more harmful rather than beneficial.
Parents who want these opportunities for their children are forced to hide the truth. Some children will be forced to lie about their ages and will remain misinformed, unfulfilled and uneducated. Those who are bolder than others will be tempted to attempt risky behaviors resulting in unwanted and unplanned pregnancies or led to a world filled with vices such as gambling, alcoholism, sex, and drug use.
“Do we really want this for our youth? Do we want them to dwell on lost opportunities that will forever hold them down into a life of servitude and poverty or should we strive to be more proactive and pragmatic in order to assure them of a good future?” asks Rep. Janette Loreto Garin.
She further warns that if congress is not careful about what it passes into law, the consequences will be many. First thing to do, Rep. Janette Loreto Garin suggests in order to remedy the situation, is to ask. Ask the majority of Filipinos if this is indeed what they want for their families, if this is indeed a change they want for themselves. Let us ask first and after such only then can we finally decide.
Congresswoman Janette Loreto Garin clarifies, “I welcome the passage of a bill that advocates for the welfare of our “kasambahays” and by extension their families. In fact, I truly believe that “kasambahays” hold a well-respected position in a Filipino household. They are already members that make up a Filipino family. The role of “kasambahays” is given to those who not only exhibit the skills to do their duties but possess the dignity and integrity expected of anyone. Therefore, a thoroughly studied and properly researched bill that benefits and protects them is expected of us. Most have “kasambahays” in their households – their ages should not prevent them from being welcomed into our homes.”
This is a press Release from the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD)
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