Duterte to real estate firms: Don’t be haven for illegal foreign workers

Pia Ranada
Duterte to real estate firms: Don’t be haven for illegal foreign workers
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte tells a room full of Chinese executives: 'Just obey the rules. Nobody is going to disturb you.'

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told real estate companies to make sure they don’t employ illegal foreign workers.

“I nonetheless stress that your buildings should never serve as a haven for undocumented foreign workers nor for the manufacture of illegal drugs,” said Duterte on Wednesday, September 25, at the corporate launch of Golden Topper Group Incorporated Philippines, a real estate development firm, in Parañaque City.

These remarks, part of his prepared speech for the event, were immediately preceded by his praises for the real estate sector for helping boost the Philippine economy and providing jobs for Filipinos.

His audience was composed of Chinese and Filipino executives and employees of Golden Topper. Much of the program was in Chinese, translated into English by the host.

Earlier that day, the Bureau of Internal Revenue had shut down the operations of an online gaming firm that employs mostly Chinese nationals. It was found to have evaded taxes.


Duterte told his audience they should “behave” so they would be allowed to do their businesses without interference from the government.

“I just want everybody to behave. I also expect that behavior from you. There are rules to be followed. Just obey the rules. Nobody is going to disturb you,” said the President.

He emphasized that only a grim fate would meet those who dabble in illegal drug trafficking.

“If you go into drugs, if you are a drug lord or if I catch you importing or manufacturing drugs, I can throw you – Pasig River is big enough to accommodate 10 people. Or the sharks of Manila Bay are hungry. They are not well-fed,” he said.

Duterte repeated a mantra he frequently mentions when speaking in front of foreign businessmen – that they should “slap” government officials or personnel who try to bribe them or mire them in red tape. 

The Philippine leader also told the executives in the room not to hesitate to call him up, even in the middle of the night, to complain about corruption

He did not end his speech without making special mention of his trusted aide, Senator Bong Go. Duterte erroneously described Go as the “first Chinese-Filipino who became a senator.”

There have been several senators with Chinese blood, like Go’s colleague in the 18th Congress, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, elected in 2016 or 3 years before Go’s election. There’s also former Manila mayor Alfredo Lim and politician Nikki Coseteng.

In Philippine political history, many Filipinos with Chinese ancestry made names for themselves in the Senate and beyond, such as former president Benigno Aquino III, his late father Benigno Aquino Jr, and former president Sergio Osmeña. –

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at