AN alliance of labor groups and workers organizations on Friday called for the fair treatment of foreigners employed by Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO).

In a statement, Sonny Matula, chairman of the Nagkaisa Labor Coalition and president of the Federation of Free Workers, said that as a nation that demands fair and equal treatment for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), we are bound to apply the same principle to foreign nationals working in the country.

The labor alliance made the call in response to reports that Philippine authorities are seriously considering to summarily deport thousands of POGO workers, who are mostly Chinese, for violating immigration and other laws.

"For decades we continue to confront this same humanitarian crisis, in fact of bigger magnitude than this one, as we handle complex crises involving our distressed OFWs who were denied equal protection by their host countries. We therefore cannot deny other nationals of the same principles that we ourselves demand from other States," Matula said.

He pointed out that as signatory to the United Nations conventions, the Philippine government has the obligation to extend not only non-discriminatory policies but most importantly immediate protection and support for workers of other nationals.

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Specifically, Matula noted that the Philippines ratified the Migration for Employment Convention in 2009.

The Bureau of Immigration is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the legislation relating to immigration, citizenship, and admission and registration of foreigners in accordance with the Immigration Act.

However, Matula explained, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) needs to share this responsibility as it is in charge of the registration and issuance of work permits to regulate the employment of foreigners in accordance with Section 15 of the Labor Code.

"To us in the labor movement, the most important aspect of that protection aside from due process is by not criminalizing the victims for in many cases, migrant workers end up victims to onerous labor contracts if not outright trafficking by criminal organizations," he said.

Matula said many things have already been said about the legal and illegal POGO operations in the country, but the only conclusion that can be draw from those investigations is the "lack of policy coherence to govern the conduct of this new industry, or the lack of it was made arbitrary for a billion black market business to triumph for the benefit of corrupt government officials and human traffickers, especially during the previous administration."

"It appears that most of the POGO workers are victims of trafficking. The government must act as a good Samaritan who helps and rescues distressed workers found in our territory and provides them an opportunity to recover rather than thrash them in our detention centers while summary proceedings for deportation are ongoing," Matula said.

The Nagkaisa Labor Coalition urged concerned agencies such as the DoLE, Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Department of Migrant Workers, to formulate a coherent policy on this issue and to involve labor organizations and migrant groups in the policymaking process.

On Friday, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said the government will start the deportation of nearly 300 illegal employees of POGOs on October 1.