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The ‘Kasambahay Law’: When house helpers need protection from their employers

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Jul 15, 2021 11:21 pm

Household helpers or kasambahay are unsung heroes of the home. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Over time, some of them become family, too.

But sadly, not all family kasambahay stories are heartwarming. Some may say that, nowadays, it’s not easy to find a kasambahay who can fit well with the family dynamics and can be trusted at the same time. But there is also another fact—there are employers who treat their kasambahay poorly.

You hear the horrors some kasambahays go through—from not getting a day off, to being verbally abused by their employer, to leaving them physically impaired for life due to physical abuse.

Recently, businessman Timmy Tan, son of tycoon Lucio Tan, was in hot water as he was caught on video swearing and threatening to shoot his househelp, Rocelle Siay.

The reason why Tan went ballistic? Siay allegedly served hotdogs and eggs to Tan’s guest, when the businessman instructed her to serve the guest leftovers.

“India, barilin mo ito! Kunin mo gamit niya! Ngayon na!” Tan can be heard in the video shouting at a bodyguard. Siay was forced to leave the house afterwards.

Siay, who lodged a complaint through TV program Raffy Tulfo in Action, told the show that she decided to discreetly record Tan’s outburst because it was not the first time her former boss shouted at a member of their household staff.

Tan reportedly filed a cyberlibel complaint against Siay with the National Bureau of Investigation.

In the Philippines, the Kasambahay Law or RA 10361, which took effect in 2013, is meant to protect the rights of kasambahays against “abuse, harassment, violence, economic exploitation, and performance of work that is hazardous to their physical and mental health.”

According to RA 10361’s implementing rules and regulations, a kasambahay shall be treated with respect by their employer and members of the household, and shall not be subjected to any kind of abuse (including repeated verbal, psychological, and physical abuse).

Unfortunately, Siay’s story is just one of those that we hear some kasambahays experience in the hands of their employers, especially those who are in positions of power and influence.

Former Philippine envoy to Brazil’s alleged maltreatment of household staff

Screenshot of a CCTV footage shows former Philippine Ambassador to Brazil Marichu Mauro's alleged maltreatment of her household staff in her diplomatic residence in Brazil. Screenshot via Globo News

In October 2020, Philippine Ambassador to Brazil Marichu Mauro was exposed by Brazilian news outfit Globo News in a series of videos showing her maltreating her Filipino household helper inside the diplomatic residence in Brasilia.

In a CCTV footage released by Globo News, Mauro was seen slapping the face and hitting the 51-year-old victim’s head. In another video, the former ambassador throws a piece of cloth at the househelp’s face and twists her ears, bringing her to tears.

After being recalled in October last year to explain the physical abuse on her househelp, she was subsequently charged on Nov. 9, according to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr.

In March 2021, President Duterte approved Mauro’s dismissal from service. He said the dismissal comes with accessory penalties, including cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification from holding public office. Mauro will also be barred from taking the Civil Service examination.

In a statement, Mauro said the probe’s outcome “pains” her. She also pointed out that the video clips were “illegally obtained” and were patched together and released to the media to “shame and embarrass” her. She insisted that the videos were “taken out of context.”

Mauro said she already made amends, has “deeply regretted” her behavior, and has asked forgiveness from her helper, who she said has been with her household for more than 30 years.

Maricel Soriano accused by her household helpers of verbal and physical abuse

In 2011, two of Maricel Soriano’s household helpers accused her of beating them, hurling expletives and threatening to shoot and kill them.

Camille Acojedo and May Cachuela filed a serious physical injury complaint against Soriano, who allegedly had a string of incidents of verbal abuse towards them. What made the household helpers step forward was when Soriano allegedly kicked Cachuela and threatened to kill both of them after they failed to find an item that the actress needed.

At one point the actress was allegedly about to get her gun but was eventually stopped by her son, according to Acojedo and Cachuela. Soriano denied all the accusations.

In 2012, it was reported that “everything has been settled out of court” and according to a joint statement, the incident was a misunderstanding between Soriano and Acojedo and Cachuela. The statement said, “the whole thing was a mere misunderstanding caused by emotional outburst.”

Claudine Barretto sued and was sued by helpers for robbery

Actress Claudine Barretto filed a qualified theft complaint against her former household helpers, Jenifer Murillo and Malou Becher in 2013.

Barretto accused Murillo and Becher of stealing her luxury bags and expensive paintings. Following this, both helpers were reportedly thrown out of the actress’ house. Barretto allegedly took their belongings, including money and gadgets.

The actress filed a qualified theft complaint against both household helpers.

In response to Barretto’s complaint, Murillo and Becher filed counter charges against the actress—grave coercion and grave threats (which have been dismissed) and robbery.

The actress’ estranged husband Raymart Santiago testified in support of the helpers, saying he was the owner of the paintings and luxury bags that Barretto noted in her complaint. According to his sworn affidavit, Santiago said he personally took the said items from their house in 2013.

In April 2014, the Marikina Regional Trial Court junked the qualified theft case against Murillo and Becher. Meanwhile, in June 2014 Barretto voluntarily surrendered to the Marikina Regional Trial Court and posted a P100,000-bail for the robbery case filed against her by Murillo.