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Kasambahays, or household helpers, play an integral role in the daily lives of those who employ them, lightening their tasks and enabling them to save precious time and effort. Kasambahays ensure that homes are clean, meals are prepared, and laundry is taken care of, allowing each family member to go about their day without worry.

Yet, if we check recent news, there are still cases of abuse inflicted on kasambahays. Even in the modern age, it is disheartening that this kind of injustice persists, resembling a modern form of “slavery.” These kasambahays endure deprivation of food and rest, toil under inhuman hours, and suffer from physical and mental mistreatment.

A particularly distressing case involves a kasambahay who went blind and bore countless scars all over her body after allegedly being abused by her employer. This case reached the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which recommended pressing charges against the employer for serious physical injuries, illegal detention, and the violation of Republic Act (RA) 10361, the “Domestic Workers Act,” also known as the Kasambahay Law.

This alarming development has prompted the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to point out that the existing law, RA 10361, is not enough to prevent abuse and maltreatment of household helpers. In a statement, the CHR lauded current efforts to strengthen the protection of the rights, dignity, and welfare of domestic workers through the amendment of RA 10361, and Article 310 of the Revised Penal Code on Qualified Theft.

This amendment was introduced by Senator Raffy Tulfo.“It must be emphasized that the very nature of the work of kasambahays makes them vulnerable to abuse as it takes place at home where they often do not have co-workers. Many of them are also women who work in isolation. The Kasambahay Law provides domestic workers protection in their employment, but this has not been enough to deter some employers from committing abuses and maltreatment against their kasambahay,” the CHR noted.

Among the proposed amendments in the Article 310 of the Revised Penal Code is to replace the term “domestic servants” with “domestic workers.” CHR supports this amendment as the current term “reflects the emphasis on class distinctions and tolerance of social injustice in the past.”

Recognizing the persistent instances of abuse, CHR supports the “proposed amendments to strengthen penalties on crimes committed against domestic workers.”

Aside from stiffer penalties, the CHR also welcomes the proposal to establish emergency hotlines in every barangay that can be contacted by domestic workers in distress.

“These proposed amendments only form part of a much broader goal to realize the fundamental principles and rights of domestic workers as articulated in the Domestic Workers Convention. After rescuing a domestic worker, other services must also be afforded to them, such as temporary shelter, counseling sessions, legal/ medical/ psychological services, financial assistance or livelihood, job placement, or even repatriation to their place of origin.

It is fervently hoped that any amendments in the law will be swifty enacted as cases of kasambahay abuse silently lurk in many households. Abuse of kasambahays has no place in a decent society that values the dignity of all its members, regardless of their employment — even if they live under an employers’ roof.

It is time to put an end to these injustices and ensure the full protection of our kasambahays, who deserve to work in a safe, secure, and respectful environment.