MANILA, Philippines – Chinese nationals maltreated by their employers in the Philippine Online Gaming Operations (POGO) sector should file a complaint with local authorities, said Malacañang on Thursday, August 8.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said this in reaction to the Chinese Embassy's statement claiming many Chinese POGO and casino workers are victims of "modern slavery" whose passports are taken from them by Philippine employers.
"Please institute a complaint against these employers that are violating your rights because this government will not allow any abuses committed against them (Chinese nationals)," said Panelo during a Malacañang news briefing.
He said the Philippine government needs a formal complaint, not just a statement from the Chinese Embassy, in order to begin criminal proceedings on suspects.
"If we see any violation of human rights, whether against foreigners or against our countrymen, we will respond," said President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman.
No comment on POGO hubs
Panelo declined to give any Palace reaction to the suggestion of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) to place POGOs in self-contained hubs due to complaints from Filipinos of Chinese nationals' "rude" behavior. (READ: How China's online gambling addiction is reshaping Manila)
He said he would wait for Pagcor to explain their proposal in full before commenting.
However, Panelo did admit that any measure that limits the freedom of an individual for no good reason could be an infringement of their rights.
"Rudeness," he said, may be too vague a term or basis to isolate Chinese nationals.
"If you restrict their liberties, there might be a violation. If your only reason is rudeness, you can always subject them to violations under the Revised Penal Code," said Panelo.
A Chinese onling gambling worker told Rappler that abusive recruiters often lie about the salary, work hours, and other working conditions the workers will get when they arrive in the Philippines. (READ: A Chinese online gambling worker's plight in Manila)
Their passports are also often taken from them. But they fear approaching authorities, including the Chinese Embassy, for fear of getting arrested. It is illegal under Chinese law to work for an online gambling company. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.