Senators disagree with Duterte’s position on illegal Chinese workers

Published February 25, 2019, 12:01 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola 

Senators are not supporting President Rodrigo Duterte in his call not to deport illegal Chinese workers for fear that undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Hong Kong and other parts of China might suffer the same fate.

Senator Joel Villanueva on Monday said that even with the presence of illegal Filipino workers in other countries, the Philippines should continue to enforce its laws on foreigners who are unlawfully staying or working in the country.

Senator Joel Villanueva gestures during the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development hearing on the deaths of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), February 21,2018.(Czar Dancel / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Joel Villanueva (Czar Dancel / MANILA BULLETIN)

“This is a matter of enforcing our own rules and regulations, not just for the protection of jobs for Filipinos but also the protection of the rights of the workers regardless of nationality,” Villanueva said in a text message.

“If you are illegal, you have no right and you are not protected by laws. So the bottom line is enforcement of laws to protect workers’ rights and our Filipino first policy,” he added.

The chair of the Senate labor committee said the President was apparently being fed with the “wrong data.” During the committee’s inquiry last week on the influx of illegal foreign workers in the Philippines, Villanueva, who was also former TESDA chief, used latest government data to belie claims that the country lacks enough local skilled workers to satisfy the jobs being given to the Chinese.

As for illegal Filipino migrants, he said the government should “help them become legal workers” abroad.

“And it is the same as what we are doing here. We want legal workers,” he noted.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, echoing Villanueva, also believed that illegal Chinese workers, like other foreigners in a country, should be kicked out if they are found to have violated laws.

“‘Dura Lex Sed Lex’, deportation is a consequence if laws are violated by foreigners,” Sotto said, alluding to the Latin maxim which means “The law is harsh, but it is the law.”

Sen. Panfilo Lacson also said that immigration laws should be obeyed by all foreigners and that they should not be allowed to take away employment opportunities from Filipinos.
“No exception please — Chinese, Japanese, Americans, even from planet Mars,” the former Philippine National Police chief said.

“Whatever the President says, I would rather that we give premium to Filipino workers by deporting foreign nationals illegally working here, and worse, taking away scarce job opportunities from our own countrymen,” Lacson maintained.

Like his colleagues, Sen. Francis Pangilinan urged the Duterte administration to uphold the country’s laws and “without fanfare deport these illegals.”

“The administration should not be afraid of China in the face of hundreds of thousands of their citizens working here illegally. What it should fear is the anger of millions of our people who remain jobless while we give special treatment to these Chinese illegals,” Pangilinan said in a statement also Monday.

Duterte, on Sunday, said he would rather let illegal Chinese workers stay in the country as deporting them could affect 300,000 undocumented Filipinos in China.

Pangilinan said officials of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Bureau of Immigration (BI) who allowed the entry of illegal Chinese workers, estimated at 400,000, should be sacked.

“File criminal cases against them,” he appealed.

The opposition lawmaker lamented that the Philippines has been indifferent to the “illegal” moves made by Chinese, recalling the shipment of multi-billion peso illegal drugs from China and the giant country’s reclamation in the West Philippines Sea.

“Masyado nang nagpapaalipin ang ating gobyerno sa China at dahil dito lalo lang tayong aabusuhin at aalipustahin ng China (Our government has been a slave to China and because of the President’s stance on illegal Chinese workers, China would abuse and bully us even further),” Pangilinan said.

Duterte, on Sunday, said he would rather let illegal Chinese workers to stay in the country as deporting them could affect 300,000 undocumented Filipinos in China.
“‘Yong mga Chinese dito, hayaan mo ‘yan na dito magtrabaho. Hayaan mo. Bakit? We have 300,000 Filipinos in China kaya hindi ako makasabi, ‘Oh, umalis kayo dito. Deport ka doon,’ Eh kung umalis ‘yung [300,000] of them?” he said during the campaign rally of the ruling Partido Demokratiko ng Pilipinas in Laguna.

(The Chinese here, let them work here. Just let them. Why? We have 300,000 Filipinos in China. That’s why I cannot just say, ‘Leave. I will have you deported.’ What if the 300,000 are told to leave?)

In November last year, the President said he agrees with deporting illegal Chinese workers but said that the government should “be careful” so as not to compromise the thousands of OFWs working in China.