The Philippines’ Department of Justice (DOJ) has ordered an investigation into allegations that some immigration officials are offering “escort facilitation services” that allow illegal Chinese workers to enter the country.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into allegations that these officials are being paid PHP10,000 (US$196.23) each by illegal Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) to help Chinese workers breeze through immigration counters at airports, reported ABS-CBN News.
These paid officers would allegedly escort foreigners to an immigration counter that is being manned by other officials whom they are in cahoots with. The immigration staff would then allow the foreigner to enter the Philippines with no questions asked, reported GMA News.
Unlicensed POGOs allegedly resort to this scheme because they are unable to apply for work visas for their Chinese employees, who enter the Philippines using tourist visas but stay in the country to work. Before their tourist visas expire, the Chinese POGO workers exit the country then secure new tourist visas so they could work in the Philippines again, reported The Philippine Star.
According to Bureau of Immigration (BI) spokeswoman Dana Sandoval, the scheme has been going on for years. The agency started its own probe in May and has installed CCTV cameras at the immigration counters to monitor those who are part of the scheme. Those found guilty of offering the illegal services will face administrative charges.
Chinese workers in the Philippines have reportedly increased in the past few years, with many of them working in gaming companies where their language skills are needed.
This has sparked worry among critics who say that Filipinos are losing jobs to the Chinese. They point out that the 1987 Constitution mandates that Filipinos should get preferential treatment when it comes to employment.
In June, the BI announced that it canceled the work visas of hundreds of foreigners due to fraud. Many of those foreigners were Chinese.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s government is generally perceived to have pro-China policies. He said in February that he didn’t want to kick out illegal Chinese workers from the Philippines because this might also lead to the deportation of Filipinos illegally working in China.
This line was echoed by his spokesman Salvador Panelo a few days later, which prompted the Chinese embassy in Manila to issue a statement saying that it does not encourage its citizens to work illegally in any country, including the Philippines.