Greetings of solidarity from the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) to the participants of the Domestic Workers’ Summit!

Hon. Jojo Binay, Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines; Director Lawrence Jeff Johnson of ILO Manila, Sister Cecile Flores-Oebanda, President of the Visayan Forum; Sister Beth Masamloc, President of Sumapi; Assistant Secretary Tete Soriano of the Department of Labor and Employment; Commissioner Bong  Malonzo; Brother Meneleo Carlo, Co-Chairman of the BBC; Sister Lucila Tarriela, Assistant Treasurer of ECOP; friends, ladies and gentlemen -- magandang hapon sa inyong lahat!

Sister Cecile earlier said that it seems ILO Convention no. 189 is just a dream. Allow me to say that it was made possible by the dreamers of the day.

The dreamers of the day are more dangerous than the dreamers of the night!

In his book “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”[2], T.E. Lawrence said:

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by the night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; the dreamers of the day are more dangerous men (and I may add, women), for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”

The adoption of ILO Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers (ILO no. Convention 189) was an act of courage of the dreamers of the day. There were strong oppositions from some governments and some employers’ groups. In fact, there was a debate of whether to adopt  a convention or a recommendation.  A convention is an obligatory treaty with a force of law between and among states; while a recommendation is a set of guidelines which may be followed or not at the option of member states.  However, through our united act in collaboration with, should I say, like minded “dangerous” men and women -- domestic workers and trade unionists, employers’ groups and governments, citizens in civil society and other persons of goodwill—we were able to achieve what we want to adopt. Through the efforts of women and men like you, who act on your dreams with open eyes, you made the dreams of the domestic workers come true.

Yes, ILO Convention no. 189  was just a dream several years ago. Its adoption and approval last year as a convention by the International Labour Conference in Geneva was a historic moment that can be likened to President Abraham Lincoln’s declaration of the emancipation of the negroes from slavery – that no man shall be considered a slave; and that black persons have the same rights as their white neighbours. 


It is a happy coincidence that this year's Domestic Workers’ Summit is being held at the Institute of Social Order (ISO) in the hall named after Fr. Walter Hogan, S.J.

 The FFW has very deep affinity for both the institution and the person. I also worked as labour education officer in ISO several years ago, before I became a lawyer and president of FFW.

FFW was born from the ISO and Fr. Walter Hogan, S.J., known as the Fighting Padre championing labour rights in the middle of the 20th century was one of its co-founders; the other being Ateneo Valedictorian Johnny Tan. The ISO was often the venue for workers' education and training sessions that led to the formation of the FFW.

It is but fitting that these hallowed grounds once more play host to workers--a different type of workers, but workers just the same--as they undergo education, sharpen their advocacy, fortify their ranks and perhaps, finally experience emancipation.

For the longest time, domestic workers have been unable to extricate themselves from the chains of slavery and slave-like conditions that have characterized the work they perform. After all, domestic work is historically rooted in this inhuman practice that began ages ago.

More than 60 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and more than 80 years since the ILO Convention on Forced Labour was passed, domestic workers might finally see the light of day. By recognizing that decent work principles should be embedded in domestic work, the world might finally be coming to terms with its humanity. Workers' rights and decent work we realize, should not be limited to certain types of workers only, but to all kinds of workers.

As such this Summit should add more fire and bring greater momentum to our anguished call for better protection in law and in practice, including for Filipino domestic workers.

·        We enjoin the Philippine Senate to ratify without delay ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers for the benefit of all Filipino domestic workers, whether they are here in the Philippines or anywhere else in the world in accordance with the mandate of the constitution to “afford full protection to labour, local and overseas”.  (Sec 3, Article XIII, of the Constitution).

·        At the national front, as one voice, we urge Congress to act with speedy dispatch in passing the Kasambahay Bill that is aligned with ILO Convention 189.

·         At the local level, we should continue to engage local leaders to pass ordinances for domestic workers.

·        And in our own homes, all trade unionists must treat their domestic workers the way we want to be treated in our workplaces. There is no better way to show our concrete support for fellow workers than by doing unto our domestic workers  what the rest of us expect from our employers.

We congratulate the Visayan Forum for spearheading this Domestic Workers Summit and for ably shepherding the Technical Working Group for the Philippine Campaign for Decent Work for Domestic Workers, which is co-organizing this Summit.

We laud the Philippine government, particularly the Department of Labor and Employment under Secretary Rosalinda Baldos, ushering the Committee on Decent Work for Domestic Workers and successfully leading the Philippine delegation in the adoption and approval of the draft of ILO Convention no. 189. Usec Lulu Transmonte and Usec Hans Cacdac, successfully chaired the same committee in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

We, in the FFW, continue our commitment to organize domestic workers and integrate them into the trade-union social movement by, among others, including them in our education and training on workers’ rights; assisting organize themselves; and in the foreseeable future help train them on collective bargaining.

The FFW congratulates all women and men of good will who are here today. You are the dreamers of the day who actively participate in this summit and are committed to make a better world. Women and men with open eyes and continue to pursue the dreams of the domestic workers to make them possible.

Domestic Work is Decent Work. 

Mabuhay ang manggagawang Pilipino!



[1] Delivered on November 9, 2011 by Atty. Sonny G, Matula, President of the FFW, at the Opening Ceremony of the National Domestic Workers’ Summit held from November 9 to 11, 2011, at the Walter Hogan Hall, Institute of Social Order, Social Development Complex, Ateneo de Manila University Campus, Loyola Heights, Quezon City.

[2] T.E. Lawrence, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph. New York: Anchor, 1991.




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