Press Release
March 6, 2017

Explanation of Vote: Expanded Maternity Leave Act
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto

Mr. President, my dear colleagues:

A wag once said that if men were to get pregnant, "maternity leave would last for two years with full pay, and morning sickness would rank as the nation's number one health problem."

Hopefully, the passage of this bill won't lead to the mass agitation by menfolk for parity, as parental leave today is a short 7 days.

But there's a good reason for that, Mr. President. Maternity is a matter of fact. Paternity, however, is a matter of opinion.

Seriously, I hail this bill for the many bests it brings out of this institution.

It is a fruit of bipartisan push.

It is a testament of our ability to multitask, that we can conduct high-profile investigations at the same time we quietly craft wise legislation.

It is a demonstration of the Senate tradition to champion progressive laws.

In whatever era, whenever the Senate pushes the envelope, the status quo pushes back.

But in the case of this bill, any hostility, if any, from business and capital, is answered by the exemptions that this bill provides.

Leeway is given to distressed companies, to retail and service companies with less than 10 employees, to microbusinesses whose total assets do not exceed P3 million, to firms who are already giving the same benefits.

The rationale for these is simple: Maternity benefits should be calculated in a way that should not cause businesses to abort their operations, especially businesses still in incubation.

This bill is past its due date. This should have been delivered a long time ago.

On the macro level, longer maternity leaves do no harm to the economy. On the micro level, longer maternity leaves make both the baby and the mother healthy and happy.

And the father, in many aspects, benefits, too. On this, there is one innovative section in the bill worth mentioning.

Under Section 6, a mother entitled to maternity leave benefits may opt to allocate up to 30 days of said leave credits to the father of the child, whether they are married or not.

This is the best pasa-load app ever invented. And a fair one too, as it does not impose the burden of matrimony.

I can sense that this section was inspired by that line in Nancy Smith's famous poem which says:

"For every woman who feels 'tied down' by her children, there is a man who is denied the full pleasures of shared parenthood."

Let me further extol some of the related provisions. One is that, if the father of the child is absent or incapacitated, the leave credits can be transferred to a qualified caregiver.

Another is that a solo mother is entitled to 30 more days of maternity leave.

Mr. President, my dear colleagues:

Birthing progressive legislation has always been marked by resistance and attended by pain.

And when it comes to laws that affect women, the gestation is counted not in trimesters but in years.

Filipinas only got the right to vote 70 years ago on April 30, 1937, after years of struggle, marked by defeats, by our brave suffragettes, and the country even had to hold a national plebiscite to ratify a right that was basically theirs.

Two years later, in 1939, the 8-hour-workday law was passed. And in 1941 came the first maternity benefits law, the Commonwealth Act 647.

Both have to hurdle opposition--vilification even--and the breakthrough came only after a tireless campaign by labor and women's groups who have to fend off criticisms that both laws were radical.

But the ensuing years would later uphold as reasonable and fair and just what was seen as radical then.

Mr. President, my dear colleagues:

Any step that lightens the burden for women, and lights the path for the full development of their being, benefits humanity.

Husbands, brothers, fathers and sons too. As Nancy Smith, in the same poem, beautifully said:

"For every woman who takes a step toward her own liberation, there is a man who finds the way to freedom has been made a little easier."

I vote yes to this bill. I congratulate the sponsor. I call for its early signing by the President.

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