As a sending country of migrant workers that demands fair and equal treatment of our OFWs from their host States, the Philippines is required to apply the same principle with respect to the rights of migrant workers of other nationals received into the country by legal means or otherwise.
This is according to the Philippines’ biggest labor coalition Nagkaisa, in response to reports that a ‘humanitarian crisis’ looms as the government considers executing summary deportations against thousands of POGO workers, mostly Chinese, for violating immigration and other national laws.
“For decades we continue to confront this same humanitarian crisis, in fact of bigger magnitude than this one, as we handle complex crises involving our distressed OFWs who were denied equal protection by their host countries. We therefore cannot deny other nationals of the same principles that we ourselves demand from other States,” said Nagkaisa Chair Sonny Matula.
Matula pointed out further that as signatory to UN conventions, the Philippine State has the obligation to extend not only non-discriminatory policies but most importantly, immediate protection and support for workers of other nationals.
Specifically, the Philippines ratified the Migration for Employment Convention (ILC 49) in 2009. The Bureau of Immigration is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the legislation relating to immigration, citizenship and admission and registration of foreigners in accordance with the Immigration Act.
However, Matula explained, the DOLE needs to share responsibility as it is in charged with the registration and issuance of work permit to regulate the employment of foreigners (section 15(a)(4) of the Labor Code).
“To us in the labor movement, the most important aspect of that protection aside from due process is by not criminalizing the victims for in many cases, migrant workers end up victims to onerous labor contracts if not outright trafficking by criminal organizations,” said Matula.
The group said many things have already been said about the legal and illegal POGO operations in the country and the only conclusion we can draw up from those investigations is the lack of policy coherence to govern the conduct of this new industry, or the lack of it was made arbitrary for a billion black market business to triumph for the benefit of corrupt government officials and human traffickers, especially during the previous administration.
“It appears that most of the POGO workers are victims of trafficking. The government must act as a good Samaritan who helps and rescues distressed workers found in our territory and provide them opportunity to recover rather than thrash them in our detention centers while summary proceedings for deportation are on-going,” added Matula.
Finally, Nagkaisa is urging concerned agencies such as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), to formulate a coherent policy on this issue and to involve labor organizations and migrant groups in that policymaking process.