From VAT, VAW to VFA: GWP Takes on Women’s Struggles


Women comprise 50 percent of the labor force in the Philippines. Besides the bill on the proposed wage hike, the GWP also filed House Bill 3973 seeking to extend the maternity leave for women workers.

Women workers are given 60 days or eight weeks for maternity leave. The bill intends to increase it to 120 days or 16 weeks to allow mothers to breastfeed for at least the first four months after delivery.

The Philippines ranks lowest in South East Asia, along with Malaysia in providing for maternity protection as indicated by the length of period of maternity leave benefits granted to women workers.

Vietnam                   4 to 6 months or 120 to 180 days
Thailand                   90 days
Cambodia                 90 days
Indonesia                 3 months or 90 days
Laos                        90 days
Myanmar                  12 weeks or 84 days
Singapore                 12 weeks or 84 days
Philippines                 60 days
Malaysia                   60 days

The GWP also filed a resolution to conduct an investigation on the alleged labor rights violations by Korean firm K&Y Apparel.

Women workers complained that the company violated the minimum wage law, implemented unfair labor practices and denied the workers’ right to organize.

The GWP also filed House Bill 4734 or the Public School Teachers’ Additional Compensation Act. Eighty percent of the public school teachers are women.

The bill aims to increase the salary of public school teachers by P9,000 ($203). According to the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), the present entry level salary of public school teachers is only PhP10,933 ($247). This accounts for only 56 percent of the family living wage of PhP 882 ($20) per day or PhP 19,404 ($438) per month as determined by the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NCPW).

Pinoy-style divorce

Addressing the issue of violence against women, the GWP will file a “Pinoy-style divorce bill.”

Palabay explained, “It’s different from the known kind of divorce, the no faults-divorce where you can just divorce each other without any reason, just because you want to…[the bill has provisions to] establish, review bases for divorce, it accommodates irreconcilable differences.”

Palabay said that legal separation and annulment are too costly for women. “You need to spend a minimum of P200,000 ($4,521) to avail of those remedies. You also have to wait for three to five years.”

Palabay said that existing laws on nullification and legal separation do not give immediate and long-term relief for women in violent and abusive marriages. She said that the divorce bill will not seek to repeal the laws on legal separation and annulment but will only give women another option.

She said that the Philippines and Malta are the only countries without a law on divorce.

Palabay further said, “By having annulment as recourse for women in violent marriages, the Church recognizes that some marriages do not work. The divorce bill is not anti-family because it aims to strengthen quality marriages and relationships. How can you prolong the agony of spouses, especially women, in violent, abusive relationships? That would be detrimental to women and their children.”

The 2003 report of the Philippine National Police shows that wife-battering accounted for 53.6 percent of the total 8,011 cases of violence against women. About three out of 10 perpetrators were husbands of the victims. Husbands accounted for 28 per cent of the crimes of violence against women.

Palabay said that divorce will be more easily facilitated and hopefully less expensive. She said there will be no need to hire psychologists, as required in most cases of legal separation and annulment.

Increasing women’s participation

The GWP also filed a bill seeking to increase women’s participation in various levels of politics and governance by as much as 50 percent.

Palabay said, “This hopes to empower women and to provide venues for the full exercise of women’s rights to participate and include the women’s agenda in politics and governance.”

Foreign troops, sovereignty

On the issue of national sovereignty, the party list group filed separate bills for the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement and of the Philippine-Australia Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

Other resolutions sought to investigate abuses by American troops in Panamao, Sulu.

Palabay said that in spite of a resolution calling for support for Hazel, a Filipina allegedly raped by an American soldier in Okinawa, Japan, Congress has yet to take concrete action. The resolution was unanimously adopted in March.

In a separate interview, Maza said that she will take up Hazel’s case anew and look into several angles of the case, including the U.S. government’s trampling upon the sovereignty of states.(

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