15 September 2022 — The labor department voiced support for quick action on crimes dogging the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs) industry during the committee hearing conducted by Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs on 15 September 2022. The senate convened to probe the alarming rise in incidents of kidnapping, abduction, disappearances, and human trafficking linked to the sector.

Among the invited government agencies was the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), as represented by Ms. Rosalinda P. Pineda, Chief of the Employment Services and Policy Regulations Division of the Bureau of Local Employment. Pineda reiterated the Department’s full commitment to fulfilling its mandate to protect the welfare and safety of Filipino and foreign national workers in the country. She manifested the full support of the DOLE for a more intensified campaign against POGO-related illegal activities.

Towards this endeavor, Pineda underscored that the Department is always ready to assist law enforcement agencies by providing information on foreign nationals working in the country who have been issued Alien Employment Permits (AEPs), including those employed in POGOs. The National Intelligence Coordinating Agency regularly receives a list of the same.

The Department, however, acknowledged inherent challenges in verifying the true identity of those reported foreign nationals considering the limited information in the AEP database. For instance, Chinese foreign nationals usually have namesakes or possess similar names. Given these limitations, verification may not be conclusive as to the true identity of persons being investigated.

Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, the Chairperson of the Committee, asked if the DOLE could share its database with the Philippine National Police. Pineda responded in the affirmative, recommending the force’s inclusion in the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Employment of Foreign Nationals. Through this, similar concerns could be properly raised and addressed by other member agencies such as the Bureau of Immigration, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Professional Regulation Commission, Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Department of Justice.

Senator Dela Rosa directed the PNP to coordinate with DOLE on the matter. He emphasized the compelling need to implement a whole-of-government approach to resolve these cases sooner. As previously stated by Senator JV Ejercito, the national government risks losing the confidence of investors, as well as the rest of business sectors should these security concerns remain unresolved.