Those controversial bills
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The opening of the year 2013 was marked with controversial legislations that were signed and not signed by President Aquino. What were not signed? First, the media was given a low-down treatment when the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill was not even discussed by Congress. That amounted to a snub on the media, despite its mobilization of legitimate members of the bigger media organizations like the Philippine Press Institute.Another bill that was most discussed but never gained a foothold was the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill, which political families were firm on not supporting. Although anti-political dynasty is explicitly stated in the constitution, there must be a law to regulate and penalize those who disregard the provision. But there are so many political families running for office this coming election: the Aquinos, Estradas, Enriles, Binays, et al.Locally, we have the Mangudadatus, Semas, Sinsuats, et al. Watch out for these two bills after the election. Will they die a natural death in the hands of those in power, simply because these two pose a threat to the status quo?
Two other bills have been passed and signed by the President into laws. The first is the Reproductive Health Bill and the second is the Kasambahay Bill. The RH Bill became controversial because it goes against the core values of religious sects – the Catholic Church in particular. Nevertheless, it was certified urgent by the president and Congress worked to please the president. The media could only sigh in resignation because the FOI Bill which media practitioners espouse was not certified as priority.
The other bill passed and signed into law was the Kasambahay Bill. This bill affects almost every Filipino because as a poor country, domestic help is very much accessible. For many families, even those who are not well off, the kasambahay is considered a member of the family because she takes over the household chores of a wife, allowing the wife to work not only to earn additional income but to practice her profession and raise her self-esteem. Ask any ex-pat family what they like most about the Philippines: it allows them more fun because they can easily get a kasambahay to do the housework.
There is only one drawback of the Kasambahay Bill. It strikes the lower middle class families with the expense that is required by the law to maintain a kasambahay. Although it is designed to protect and alleviate the condition of the lowly domestic worker, having to help pay for the Philhealth and the SSS premiums of the worker in addition to a minimum pay of more or less P2,000 is a big dent on the family income of those who still consider themselves poor.
In this region, many domestic helpers are fresh high school graduates (or drop-outs) of rural barangay schools who have not experienced working for families previous to their hiring. As such, they still have to be trained on urban living. This becomes a burden to their “ate” or employer. For years, the relationship between the Kasambahay and the employer has been carried on in an informal contract basis (the worker just leaves the employer anytime she wants to, while the employer can fire out the worker when she is displeased with the work). The advent of the law caught many housewives by surprise. Hopefully, this will be clarified in the guidelines that will put the law in motion.
Eva Kimpo-Tan is the editor-in-chief of The Mindanao Cross, the oldest Catholic weekly in the southern Philippines.