AS THE world celebrates International Domestic Workers’ Day, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Tuesday called for a safe, systematic way to safely bring home household helpers working in the city or abroad who want to return to their families.
“Huwag na sanang magkaroon ng isa pang Michelle Silvertino, ang 33 taong gulang na nanay ng apat na bata. Namatay siya sa isang footbridge sa EDSA kamakailan matapos ma-stranded dito dahil hindi makauwi sa Bicol,” he said.
Like many single mothers, Silvertino wanted to work abroad to provide for her children. However, she was forced to work in the metropolis after she failed her medical tests, a requirement for overseas work. During the three-month enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila, she worked as a domestic helper in Antipolo City. When quarantine measures eased on June 1, she planned to go home, but the absence of public transport forced her to stay on a footbridge in Pasay City, where she died and was eventually buried.
“Si Michelle ang mukha ng libo-libo, kung hindi man milyon-milyon, na mga Pilipinong napinsala ng kawalang-linaw sa mga plano ng pagpapatupad ng mga community quarantines. Pinayagan na ang pagbyahe, pero sa maraming walang sariling sasakyan, naging dagdag-pasakit lang ito dahil na-i-stranded o kaya ay napapagod sa kakalakad para lang makarating sa trabaho at makabalik sa tahanan,” Pangilinan said.
“Ni hindi siya nanghingi ng pagkain o palimos, gusto lang niyang makauwi,” he said.
To address the problem, Pangilinan said his office is planning to set up Project Michelle to help all those similarly situated who wish to go back home.
According to 2012 data, the country has between 600,000 to 2.5 million Filipino domestic workers, commonly known as kasambahay, earning between P500 to P800 every day.
“Essential sila sa maraming pamilyang Pilipino. Yaya, cook, cleaner ang mga ginagampanan nilang trabaho,” Pangilinan said.
At the same time, the senator called on the government to strengthen support for returning domestic workers from abroad who lost their jobs due to the COVID pandemic. He also called for a more extensive research on their condition so that appropriate policies may be made about their lot.
To domestic workers themselves, Pangilinan said they should join labor groups so that they are able to collectively find solutions to the challenges they face.
“Ngayong International Domestic Workers’ Day, alalahanin at kilalanin ang ating mga katuwang sa tahanan. Makakaasa po kayo sa aming suporta upang mas mapabuti pa lalo ang inyong kalagayan. Maraming salamat po sa inyo!” Pangilinan said.