POSTSCRIPT / February 28, 2019 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Rody must enforce the law on Chinese

THE ISSUE over hordes of Chinese grabbing jobs that should go to qualified Filipinos looks so simple that it amazes many of us why President Duterte, a lawyer, cannot seem to grasp its being illegal and immoral.

Having been sworn to uphold the law, the President has to enforce it. An alien who violates the labor code must face the consequences, including possible deportation. And government personnel who had connived with him must pay for their perfidy.

That Duterte is scared of possible retaliation by China should not deter him from performing his sworn duties as Chief Executive. If Filipinos in China run afoul of the law in that country, sorry na lang sa kanila.

There are an estimated 300,000 to 420,000 Chinese supposedly holding jobs illegally in the country, depriving an equal number of Filipinos of gainful work at a time of rising unemployment and underemployment.

Explaining his hesitation, the President said he did not want to deport illegal Chinese workers, because he was afraid that retaliatory action by Beijing would put at risk the work status of some 300,000 Filipinos in China.

Picking up his boss’ line rationalizing the government’s failure to protect Filipino workers, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said that the thousands of Chinese tagged as illegal employees are performing work that Filipinos cannot or are not wiling to do.

In view of the government’s failure to keep a correct running count of foreigners who enter, stay and work in the country, there should be a more serious effort to monitor them.

Without reliable facts and figures, planning and policymaking will be haphazard. Until we have the basic statistical data, the President and his subalterns in labor, immigration and foreign affairs, should stop their guesswork.

A glaring example of fact-checking failure is in President Duterte himself. In Biñan, Laguna, he said last Saturday there are 300,000 Filipino workers in China whose jobs will be jeopardized if illegal Chinese workers here are deported as mandated by law.

The President said: “Yung mga Chinese dito, hayaan mo ‘yan. (The Chinese here, just let them work here.) Why? We have 300,000 Filipinos in China.”

He sounded like he was willing, for the reason that he gave, to suspend the law for illegal Chinese workers stealing jobs from Filipinos. It looked like cowardice to not a few observers, and dereliction to some others.

As if his alarm was not scary enough, his estimated number of OFWs in China suddenly grew to 400,000 the next day in another campaign speech in Cebu City.

He said: “While there are senators who want to have the Chinese nationals deported, I said, ‘Why will I do that? There are 400,000 Filipinos there in China.’”

Maybe the President should take a rest and give his tired mind a chance to catch up with the numbers. But the question, really, is not whether or not his figures are accurate (they are not), but for what purpose he misrepresents data.

 Honest count of foreign workers imperative

WE first heard the 400,000 figure from Sen. Franklin Drilon who expressed alarm in the Senate hearing of the labor department budget last September over the influx of droves of Chinese workers.

Himself a former labor secretary, Drilon quoted industry sources as saying there were some 400,000 foreign workers in Metro Manila alone, a third of them reportedly employed in offshore gaming operations and business process outsourcing offices.

Stretchable statistics are rampant in government records. In the case of drug addicts, for instance, Duterte was saying in 2016-2017 that they numbered 3-4 million (vs the 1.8 million estimate of the Dangerous Drugs Board). A few days ago, however, he was saying they now number from 7 to 8 million (vs the 4-5 million of the DDB in 2018).

With the number of drug addicts ballooning, is Duterte’s anti-narcotics drive then a failure? Or are government statistics simply unreliable?

We suggest, if only for sanity’s sake, that an honest nationwide labor head-count be conducted pronto. How many foreigners, Chinese from the mainland especially, are working in the country under various guises?

Who among these Chinese/alien employees have updated work permits? With what firm or project are they? Every worker listed must have a valid permit and a certification that his job cannot be filled by a qualified and willing Filipino.

Such personnel listings and related data (which we all hope are true and accurate) should be publicized, and kept current online, so they can be counterchecked or challenged by interested or affected entities. Organized labor can help verify the published information.

The nationwide head count should be top priority. Until it is completed, no labor official should be allowed to go on a junket, even if it be for alleged peace talks, or for cheering up OFWs in god-forsaken places.

In the meantime, officials – including those from the immigration bureau — should be enjoined not to solicit gifts from aliens dealing with their office, and also to reject any unsolicited item offered. Violations must be dealt with severely.

During the census, the labor department and the immigration bureau should publish periodically the number of job openings per industry, business or project, so qualified Filipinos can apply for priority hiring.

And the President should lead in enforcing the rule that only after it has been established that a position cannot be filled by a qualified and willing Filipino should it be offered to aliens.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 28, 2019)

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