Labor group calls on gov’t to apply ‘golden rule’ treatment to POGO workers

A House leader on Wednesday urged the Philippine government to give fair and equal treatment to foreign workers, including those employed by controversial Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators.

According to Deputy Speaker Raymond Democrito Mendoza, who represents the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines in the House, the government must ensure the proper treatment of foreign POGO workers in the same way it requires that overseas Filipino workers abroad be given proper care and protection by host governments.

“TUCP calls on the government to pay equal attention to the plight of these foreign workers…because we ourselves have also deployed millions of overseas Filipino workers and seafarers abroad,” Democrito said.

Mendoza made the call as the Department of Justice plans to deport at least 2,000 POGO workers by October as part of a crackdown on foreign workers who are still in the country illegally, following the termination of their POGO firms’ licenses.

“We have seen the horrific treatment of illegal and undocumented OFWs, and how extremely vulnerable our Filipino workers were, and are, in distant countries to abuse and draconian treatment from governments that regarded our OFWs as mere commodities,” the labor leader pointed out.

Nagkaisa chairperson Sonny Matula expressed similar sentiments, emphasizing that, as many Filipino OFWs are abused abroad, foreign POGO workers should not be considered criminals but victims of shady labor and business practices.

“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,” Matula said.

Matula noted that the Department of Labor and Employment, which is in charge of registering and issuing work permits to govern the employment of foreigners under the Labor Code, should take a more active role in regulating POGO workers.

The labor group encouraged the DoLE, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Department of Migrant Workers to develop a consistent POGO policy and include labor and migrant organizations in the policymaking process.

The DoJ revealed that an estimated 40,000 POGO workers or Chinese nationals are still in the country despite the termination of 175 POGO licenses.

On the other hand, data from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation show that there were 120,976 POGO workers in the country as of 2020.

Of the 120,976 foreign POGO workers, 69,613 are Chinese, 3,000 are Vietnamese, 2,400 are Indonesians, 1,700 are Taiwanese, and 1,200 are Malaysians, with the remaining number from 44 other countries.

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