Who’s Afraid of a Kasambahay Bill?

In his latest column for BusinessWorld, Atty. Jemy Gatdula writes:

Why should household help, generally untrained as they are, a good number of which work lazily or with a bad attitude, be rewarded an array of rights while having done nothing yet to deserve them?

Gatdula trains his guns on the Kasambahay Bill, calling it an “assault” on the middle class, that it romanticizes household help, and that it is an affront to the notion that our rights should have the commensurate responsibility accorded to it.  And yet, I think, this kind of thinking is precisely the one that reinforces the “paternalistic entitlement society” he (figuratively) spits on.

Which begs invoking an old adage: that those who have less in life should have more in the law.

The plight of household help in the Philippines does not require marathon viewings of “Maalaala Mo Kaya,” or primetime airings of Nora Aunor’s classic “Atsay.”  There is nothing romantic in the story of Bonita Baran, who told her story of abuse.  There is nothing romantic in the untold stories of househelp who suffer the indignities and abuses of less-than-benevolent employers.  Gatdula bemoans and dramatizes the plight of the “middle class” who may reconsider getting katulong, but turns a blind eye on the maltreatment of househelp who are treated as second-class citizens for lack of laws and measures that protect and empower them.  What right of the middle class is trampled upon by a bill that protects and empowers household help?

You cannot demand accountability from people if you do not give them the capabilities to be accountable.  You cannot expect decent treatment if you feed them indecencies and make them privy to indignities.  While he romanticizes the picture of the middle class as people who treat their maids well – and the fact to the matter is, most of them do – there are those who are stripped of their dignity by their amos and kuya‘s and ate’s simply because of the work they do.

Gatdula rightfully demands professional services from maids and domestics.  But what professionalism can be demanded of the kind of ties leveraged to acquire a maid?  The katulong is poor – oftentimes that underprivileged relative from a faraway province – underpaid and undernourished.  He complains of missing appliances and valuables: it does happen, and the amo should rightfully be indignant about it, but what of the hot irons pressed into the faces of less-than-competent maids?  He rants on the sentimental feelings of houseboys and maids who run away: who wouldn’t, if the amo treats the atsay as nothing more than a second-class subhuman, disrespected, abused, paid a paltry sum below the minimum wage, and is still expected to pay deference to the owner for giving him or her a roof above the head?

Never mind that it’s an Arroyo bill.  Never mind that we’ll all have to pay a premium to get a maid (the way it’s supposed to be, anyway).  This, I think, is their “more in the law.”  Being a domestic is a form of employment – one that comes with rights and Gatdula’s much-vaunted responsibilities – and only in metaphor does it become subservience.  In the same vein that no employee should be abused, that all employees should be fairly compensated for their labor.

What disturbs me the most, I think, is the belittling and the disparaging Gatdula does to every maid and houseboy in his column.  Why deny them of their rights?  Why deny them of protection and help in the event of their abuse?  And I reiterate: what inalienable, indispensable right of the middle class is trampled upon by a bill that protects and empowers household help?  The right to a maid?  The right to a houseboy?  The right to deny essentials, contracts, and protection to someone working for them?  The right to enjoy the pleasantries of being on the domineering end of a relationship based on subservience and obedience as opposed to clean, honest labor?  What next: a Magna Carta of the Middle Class, for their rights are trampled upon by a society that made a Magna Carta for household help?

Who’s afraid of a Kasambahay Bill?  Who’s afraid of a bill that sets the rights of a domestic and the responsibilities that come with those rights?  Surely it wouldn’t be responsible households, surely it wouldn’t be responsible recruitment agencies.  Those who are afraid of a Kasambahay Bill are those who fear treating a maid or a houseboy like the human being that he/she is.

Abraham Lincoln once wrote: “I have always thought that all men should be free; but if any should be slaves, it should be first those who desire it for themselves, and secondly, those who desire it for others.  When I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”  I end it here, with the thought that any maid and houseboy treated like a slave is a slave, and Lincoln’s words ring true.

4 comments on “Who’s Afraid of a Kasambahay Bill?

  1. i think you miss the point. nobody is saying that maids and houseboys be denied rights. they have existing rights now and there are laws that maids can resort to in case of abusive behavior.

    but you have to consider that maids (and houseboys) are not forced to work in the households. they are not slaves. and it must be emphasized that the only reason they are accepted to work in such households (that they apply for and approach) despite their lack of qualifications has charity as a large part of the equation. if that consideration, of charity, is taken away and that employment now be based on professional considerations, then it is but logical that professional standards be met by the employed.

    to rely on bonita baran as justification for the kasambahay bill does not make sense. and it further supports the idea that people are very quick to generalize against the middle class who has the audacity to work their way out of poverty and yet do not have the name of the mestizo elite class to enjoy the success that only the mestizo (or chinese) elite are supposed to be enjoying. it ignores the fact that most, substantially most, of the middle class treat their help very generously, more than in fact that they deserve.

    finally, to require accountability by giving them the capacity to be accountability is just glib and does not make any sense. they are just an assembly of words that sound good but has no bearing in reality. one does not need money or education in order for a person to be rewarded for doing good and to be held responsible for doing wrong. it is this romanticization of the poor that will keep this country down.

    and precisely the paternalistic entitlement society that is being forced on a middle class that knows better. those ‘who have less in life should have more in law’. who said? magsaysay? so what? it’s still wrong. everybody should have the law equally applied, rich or poor.

    the poor, like the rich, like anybody else, should learn: you don’t get anything for nothing. you work hard for it, you have talent and merit, and have persistence. that is the only way to get ahead. anything else is just a stupid entitlement mentality and certainly not the kind of thinking that a country that is worth the name should have.

    1. Miguel:

      I don’t think so.

      You said it yourself: that professional standards should be applied means that every househelp should get the professional benefits and responsibilities that come with it. The bill is clear on that. Taking charity out of the equation and making the househelp-owner relationship one of labor, shouldn’t they get benefits accorded to them by the laws of the land as laborers? Otherwise wouldn’t they be – figuratively – slaves?

      I think – and this is just me – that this “protect the middle class” thinking begs the same retort you made yourself: the law has plenty of stipulations that protect OUR rights anyway. Do we ignore the structures that keep the poor poor, like the way we hire katulong? Will middle-class ways of thinking assure the poor of a good life?

      Magna Carta for the Middle Class?

      1. Household help should be regulated to protect both parties, after all, it is a job — like in Singapore. Kasambahay should be hired through agencies approved by DOLE or TESDA or whichever government agency that is fit to regulate it.

        I grew up in a middle class and we had a share of our lazy and lousy maids/kasambahay — we even had one who secretly used our landline to call a cellphone (imagine our surprise with the bill!) and she can’t even wash a glass properly.

        Keeping it professional should not be one sided, it should be both. Right now, the way to acquire a katulong is through recommendation (and often times, some people recommend people who are not fir for the job). Since households do not have Human Resource Department nor training for that kind, an agency approved by the government should help with this issue. Also, if the TESDA could have some kind of “certificate training”, it would be better. Make it professional — in both ways. In job performance and assurance and pay.

  2. Maganda sana ang kasambahay bill kaya lang sana mukang pangit ang kakalabasan nito pag nasa-ibatas na.

    Bakit ba tayo kumukuha ng kasambahay? para maging “sosy”? Kailangan natin ng kasambahay para guminhawa ang gawain sa bahay diba. Kapag batas na ito sa tingin ko madami mawawalan ng trabaho.

    bakit? Una kasi ang ating pamamahay ay hinde negosyo. hinde kailangan lagi me tao nakapwesto sa linis, laba, luto. hinde tulad sa negosyo me nakapwesto dapat sa trabaho kundi hinde tatakbo ng matino ang negosyo mo. pero ang bahay kahit isang beses sa isang lingo ka mag linis ok lang. yung iba sasabihin paano kapag me bata? sa tingin ko mauuso ang daycare pag nangyari ito.

    Pangalawa yung minimum wage at benefits. Paano yung mga kasambahay na kumikita na nang mas malaki sa 2500? Sila ba ay ibabalik sa 2500? Sinasabi me annual increase eh mukang hinde pa sila makakalagpas ng isang taon tatangalin na sila para walang increase. yung benefits naman maganda sana pero mukang ma abala pa sa amo mo na ayusin ito buwan buwan pipila sa SSS, Pag-ibig, etc.. baka kailangan na din ng human resource personel sa bahay para ayusin lahat ito. Eh bili ka na lang ng matitinong kagamitan sa bahay baka mas madali pa ito kesa kasambahay.

    pangatlo Dept of labor – nakow!!! kaya pa sila pag tiisan ng mga employer sa negosyo pero sa sariling pamamahay hinde no no no no keep out GOVERNMENT!!!!! Hinde lahat ng kasambahay ay anghel minsan angHELL. Kung Luto LUTO talaga!!!

    So sabi sa article Matakot? ang sagot ay “YES” kaya imbis na kumuha ng kasambahay ang mga employer, solo flight na lang o kaya mag “call-in” o kaya “outside services” na lang ang gagawin. Matakot din ang mga kasambahay na bumaba ang sweldo o kaya mawalan ng trabaho.

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