Memo to aliens working or enjoying here in the Philippines

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus Jimenez (The Freeman) - February 24, 2021 - 12:00am

It exasperates me as a lawyer handling labor cases and as a professor of Law to know that there are some foreigners here who are managing multinationals and big global companies, with branches based in the Philippines, and who abuse Filipino workers, violate our labor laws, and even insult the authorities, the president, and DOLE officials. I’m warning them. They can be deported, prosecuted, and jailed.

We hasten to say that most aliens are well-behaved, but there are some who act as if they are still our masters, that they’re superior. The Philippines is a sovereign state and we aren’t vassals or colonies anymore. Aliens here reside at the pleasure of our government. They should behave or face the consequences. While it’s never our intention to sound xenophobic, we need to remind our friends from other countries that they are visitors here and they should respect the local culture, laws, and authorities. Filipinos are the most hospitable people they could ever find, and perhaps they know that by now. It must be precisely for that reason they chose to be here, not in Europe or America. Thus, while here, they should stop openly criticizing our government, maligning our officials, and telling us how to run our country and lead our people.

For aliens working here, we need to remind you of the provisions of our immigration and labor laws. Our Constitution explicitly provides that there’s preference for Filipino labor, and you are allowed to work here only as a favor to you and your employers. You shouldn’t abuse that favor and should abide by our rules. Article 40 of our Labor Code explicitly commands that any alien seeking to work in the Philippines, and any domestic or foreign employer who wants to hire an alien here shall (meaning mandatory) obtain an employment permit from the Department of Labor and Employment. And such a permit can be granted only (meaning restrictive) after a determination of the non-availability of a person in the Philippines (meaning locals) who is competent, able, and willing to perform this services. That means foreigners should be given work Filipinos don’t want to do.

In this connection, a famous foreigner hired as a basketball coach of a local team was ousted by the DOLE secretary (GMC vs. Secretary Ruben Torres) and the Supreme Court approved that decision because the local association of Filipino basketball coaches filed their formal objection. In another case, involving an international school, the Supreme Court reversed DOLE's decision, which tolerated discrimination against Filipino teachers in terms of compensation, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. DOLE agreed with management that the alien teachers should be given three times bigger packages in order to entice them here. But the Supreme Court insisted on the time-honored principle of equal pay for equal work. We applaud the High Court for that. Indeed, if our workers are discriminated against, maligned, and abused in their countries, they shouldn’t be treated like kings when they come to work here. We shouldn’t allow discrimination against our own people here in our land. DOLE shouldn’t forget that and go slow in giving out those employment permits to undeserving aliens.

And for those who are married to locals, please respect our laws and authorities. Foreigners cannot own land or some retail business here, since we have some nationalization laws. But your marriage to our fellow citizen allowed you to circumvent the laws by putting the ownership of the real estate in your spouse's name. But we know that the control of the business and the funds are in your hands. Well, that is the decision of your wives and we respect that. Businesses like resorts, hotels, retail establishments, transportations, logistics, and others connected with the supply chain are regulated and controlled by laws and government agencies. Be careful with taxes, labor laws, and treatment of workers, especially minors and women. Make sure there’s no reason to declare you persona non grata.

Many OFWs who work in foreign countries are maltreated and abused by foreign employers who don’t respect the dignity of our people. If our people are exploited and oppressed elsewhere, we should never allow foreigners to act abusively and condescendingly against Filipino workers here. This is our country and we aren’t slaves or vassals to foreigners. The last time I checked, our ancestor, Datu Lapu-Lapu, killed Fernando Magallanes in 1521. Abusive foreign employers should never forget that.

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