Tolentino proposes separate welfare office, special court for household helpers
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Francis Tolentino on Thursday suggested a specialized office dedicated to domestic helpers’ welfare and education.
Tolentino heads the Senate committee on justice and human rights, looking into the case of Elvie Vergara.
Vergara is a helper from Occidental Mindoro who went blind after her employer allegedly tortured her.
“Perhaps, if we really made focus before on our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) working abroad, perhaps there should be a local version of this, a local bureau or agency in charge of domestic helpers, not just for purposes of hotlines, but for purposes of educating, not just the domestic workers, but the employers, on their responsibilities,” Tolentino said on ANC Headstart.
The senator also recommended the creation of a tribunal only for maids.
“There should likewise be a special court to handle cases involving domestic helpers,” he said.
“The Supreme Court can perhaps assign a regional trial court to handle cases involving this, so it will draw inspiration, perhaps, greater awareness on behalf of domestic helpers as well as inform the employers that, indeed, the law can reach them wherever they are,” he explained.
Tolentino recalled Kasambahay Law, or Republic Act 10361, mandates proper working hours and standard wages for household helpers.
It was enacted 20 years ago to protect them from abuse and exploitation.
Tolentino believes it must be amended.
“Even the fine is just a mere P10,000 for violations being made by the employers,” he pointed out.
“I would look into strengthening the law further and making it not just within the turf of the Department of Labor and Employment, but to include, perhaps, the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) because barangay officials, barangay captains should have their own databases,” he said.
“They should be registered within the barangay’s jurisdiction,” he added.