Press Release
December 7, 2016


Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.

Today, we will learn more about the circumstances surrounding the arrest of more than 1,200 Chinese nationals suspected of working illegally at a Resort and Casino Complex in Clark, Pampanga.

While much has been reported about this incident, I believe there are still several questions that warrant answers. But let me first provide you a background of this incident, which is the subject of this hearing, through a timeline of important events:

November 24, Thursday: the Bureau of Immigration arrested more than 1,240 Chinese nationals suspected of working illegally for an online gambling operator at the Fontana Technologies Innovations Center in Clark, Pampanga.

November 25, Friday: the Bureau of Immigration held a press conference. Commissioner Jaime Morente said the documents of the Chinese nationals were being checked based on reports they are working as call center agents despite only securing tourist visa and without clearance from DOLE.

Bureau of Immigration spokeswoman Antonette Mangrobang said they were still awaiting the results of an investigation by the Justice Department's cybercrime unit to see if the employer of these Chinese nationals was running an illegal online gambling site. The arrested Chinese are temporarily being held under guard by immigration and police personnel in a building within the leisure park.

November 26, Saturday: Casino junket operator and Fontana owner Jack Lam reportedly attempted to bribe Aguirre during a meeting at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. But the DOJ chief explained that there was no direct act of bribery from Lam's henchman, former police general Wally Sombrero.

November 27, Sunday: Immigration commissioner Jaime Morente said the Chinese failed to present immigration documents, and they had no working permits.

The Department of Justice Chief revealed that he received information that some of the arrested Chinese offered Php 100,000.00 to Php 250,000.00 bribe for their release. Secretary Aguirre, however clarified that there was no actual bribery attempt on him by the casino junket operator and Fontana owner Jack Lam, contrary to a news report.

December 1, Thursday: At around 3:00 in the morning, 57 Chinese nationals escaped from detention. Thirty (30) of the 57 escapees have returned as of Thursday afternoon, leaving 27 Chinese still unaccounted for.

December 2, Friday: In a media forum in Quezon City, Jack Lam's lawyer Atty. Raymund Fortun said that his client has the proper legal authority to operate Fontana and has an existing license to conduct online gaming in the Clark Economic Zone. He also noted that the Chinese nationals were apprehended for alleged violation of Philippine immigration laws and not for illegal gambling activities. The Chinese nationals are facing charges for overstaying, working in violation of the limitations and conditions of their visa, and engaging in an unlicensed online gaming business. He said that the arrested Chinese will undergo deportation proceedings presided by the BI board of commissioners.

December 3, Saturday: PNP Chief Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa said President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the arrest of Chinese gambling operator Jack Lam over bribery and economic sabotage charges.

December 5, Monday: 592 Chinese have been allowed to post bail and were given temporary liberty for being "properly documented" and with the objective to decongest the facilities.

This timeline begs the following questions:

First, how did the undocumented Chinese nationals enter the Philippines? Second, when did the employment of illegal workers start at the Fontana Technologies Innovations Center and why were the Bureau of Immigration and DOLE unaware of this situation? Third, have all the Chinese nationals been held accountable and to what extent? Finally, were there other cases of illegal workers in Clark or in other parts of the country that were discovered?

This inquiry is in aid of legislation. Towards the end of this hearing, I hope that we can gather sound policy recommendations to ensure that there are necessary measures to control the entry of illegal foreign workers in the Philippines by addressing the following issues:

First, what is the extent of foreign employment in the country, both legal and illegal? We want to know the historical data of their employment, nature of their work and their countries of origin. Second, what are the mechanisms in place to track illegal workers in the country? Third, what policies should be adopted to help us regulate the employment of foreign nationals and at the same time, strengthen the monitoring and enforcement capacity of the Bureau of Immigration?

The Labor Code of the Philippines, as amended, made it very clear: "any alien seeking admission to the Philippines for employment purposes and any domestic or foreign employer who desires to engage an alien for employment in the Philippines shall obtain an employment permit from the Department of Labor. The employment permit may be issued to a non-resident alien or to the applicant employer after a determination of the non-availability of a person in the Philippines who is competent, able and willing at the time of application to perform the services for which the alien is desired" (Article 40 of LCP. Employment permit of non-resident aliens).

Mahirap naman pong paniwalaan na walang available na Filipino workers na makaka-satisfy sa skills set na hinahanap ng kumpanya kung saan nahuli ang mga Chinese nationals lalo na kung ito nga ay trabahong pang-call center.

Nagpapasalamat po tayo sa mga negosyanteng pumipili sa Pilipinas para paglagakan ng kanilang puhunan, subalit prayoridad dapat nila ang mga manggagawang Pilipino. Makakaasa silang ginagawa ng pamahalaan ang lahat para iangat ang kalidad ng kasanayan ng ating mga manggagawa lalo na sa IT-BPM at service sectors.

Undocumented workers take jobs that would otherwise go to Filipino workers. The growing number of foreigners entering the country to illegally find employment have serious implications in our current employment and underemployment situation.

Sa mga trabahong malilikha natin, dapat Pilipino muna. Huwag nating hayaang mawala ang mga oportunidad na dapat ay para sa mga manggagawang Pilipino.

The incidence in Fontana involving more than 1,200 Chinese nationals is just the "tip of the iceberg" of the presence of illegal foreign workers in central Visayas, Davao Region, Zamboanga Peninsula, Bataan, Batangas, Metro Manila, etc., especially in the manufacturing, construction, mining and services sectors.

Tingnan po natin ang pagdinig na ito na isang pagkakataon upang mapalakas ang ating labor laws at immigration policies para wala nang dayuhang malalagay sa peligro at mga Pilipinong mananakawan ng trabaho.

Salamat po.

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