Enrile to help housemaids

PHILIPPINES NEWS SERVICE — After tackling the problem of the ordinary cellphone users victimized by “vanishing loads,” Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile is now setting his sight on abused or maltreated housemaids or kasambahay.

In a proposed Senate resolution, Enrile said he was disturbed by media reports about abused housemaids and directed the appropriate Senate committee “to conduct an immediate inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the plight of house-helpers or kasambahay who were or are being maltreated, even tortured, by their employers.”

The purpose of the inquiry, Enrile added, would be to recommend “remedial measures to address the situation, and to find means to prevent and totally eradicate such inhumane treatments.”

In his resolution, PSR 1193, Enrile cited news report aired over ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol World last July 10, 2009 which featured two kasambahays who suffered numerous injuries due to the alleged predilection of their employers to inflict pain whenever they were caught committing errors in their performance of household chores.

In the report, two house helpers, identified only as Jenny, 18 years old, and her 17 years old cousin, Liza, were allegedly treated like punching bags and were forced to drink a glass of urine by their employer.

It was learned that, aside from enduring the horrendous treatment given to them for a year, their employer, a certain Joanna Velez of Sampaloc, Manila, never bothered to give them their salaries.

Such abuses, Enrile pointed out in his draft resolution, were a clear violation of the basic human rights.

He noted that there were probably hundreds of similar cases of abuse, and that due to the urgent need to put food on the table of these victim’s families, they are likely more than willing to suffer in silence.

“These house helpers endured abuse in the hands of their employer for a year, and as an added insult to the grave injuries they suffered, they were not given compensation for their labors,” Enrile said.

“Clearly, the basic human rights of Jenny and Liza were gravely violated and it was only fortunate that they were rescued. It is unknown how many other kasambahay like them are suffering similar fate and abuse in silence,” he added.

Article II, Section 11, of the Constitution, Enrile explained, specifically declares that it is the policy of the State to value the dignity of every human being and guarantee full respect for human rights. Likewise, he added, Congress was mandated to “give highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of all the people to human dignity, reduce social, economic and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequities by equitably diffusing wealth and political power of the common good.”

“It is high time for the State to know whether occurrences of maltreatment are prevalent to the detriment of these neglected members of society, our kasambahay, and to find the most effective measure in order to protect them from abuse and enable them to have dignity of labor, and to find means to prevent and totally eradicate inhumane occurrences similar to that experienced by Jenny and Liza,” Enrile explained.

Earlier this month, the Senate president, taking the cudgels for the ordinary cellphone users took the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) to task for failing to act on the numerous complaints against the so-called “vanishing loads.”

Enrile’s lament prompted a Senate inquiry and resulted in the NTC immediately adopting two new measures designed to protect mobile phone subscribers. The measures included an NTC circular tripling the shelf life of phone cards and an order banning commercial promotions and other “text spam.”