Despite the scare brought about by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will resume its crackdown against companies employing undocumented foreign workers. In Administrative Order No. 46, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III sent out 323 Labor and Employment Officers (LEOs) to conduct verification inspection of establishments, including Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), across the country until June 30 this year. The order was issued January 31.

The LEOs will be joined by one regular labor inspector who serves as a team leader to supervise the conduct of verification inspection. The Labor Secretary also directed the Regional Directors to authorize the verification/inspection of identified establishments and workplaces.

In Luzon, eighty seven (87) inspectors were dispatched in the National Capital Region, eleven (11) in the Cordillera Administrative Region, eleven (11) in the Ilocos region, fourteen (14) in the Cagayan Valley region, thirty seven (37) in the Central Luzon region, thirty two (32) in CALABARZON, twelve (12) in MIMAROPA, and twelve (12) in the Bicol region.

Meanwhile, eleven (11) LEOs will conduct the inspection in Western Visayas, twenty two (22) LEOs in Central Visayas, and twelve (12) LEOs in Eastern Visayas. In Mindanao, twelve (12) labor inspectors were given authority to conduct verification inspection in the Zamboanga Peninsula region, seventeen (17) in the Northern Mindanao region, twelve (12) in Davao region, eleven (11) in SOCCSKSARGEN, and ten (10) in Caraga.

During the inspection, the LEOs will ascertain the legitimacy of the company as shown by the business permit and the Securities and Exchange Commission registration and verify the roster of local employees and the foreign national/s actually working at the time of inspection.

The inspectors will also check the list of Alien Employment Permit (AEP) applicants if there are any, and the company representative should certify that they are indeed hiring the foreign nationals. Foreign workers are required to secure an Alien Employment Permit (AEP), which is issued by the DOLE.

Given its increasing presence of foreign workers in the Philippines including the Cordilleras, the government has set up an interagency task force with other concerned bodies to ensure smoother operations. The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) created a customized taxation for foreign workers especially Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) while the DOLE and Bureau of Immigration (BI) concern themselves with the employment of foreign workers.

The companies or establishments are also tasked to register their company to the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) for lawful employment and monitoring of Tax Identification Number (TIN). Local authorities such as the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) are tasked to consolidate and reconcile the list of foreign workers currently working.

An AEP is a document issued by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) through its Regional Offices which is one of the requirements for a foreign national to work in the Philippines.

Foreign nationals required to secure AEP are those foreign nationals who intend to engage in gainful employment in the Philippines with an employer – employee relationship; foreign professionals allowed by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) to practice their profession in the Philippines; and holders of Special Investors Resident Visa (SIRV), Special Retirees Resident Visa (SRRV), Treaty Traders Visa (9d) or Special Non-Immigrant Visa 47(a)2 who occupy any executive, advisory, supervisory, or technical position in any establishment are required to secure AEP from DOLE.

Foreign nationals exempted from securing an AEP are those covered by Article 40 of the Labor Code, but not required to secure an AEP under the existing laws or guidelines. Among the exemptions are the following: all members of the diplomatic service and foreign government officials; owners and representatives of foreign principals whose companies are accredited by POEA; Permanent resident foreign nationals and probationary or temporary resident visa holders under Section 13 of the Philippine

Immigration Act of 1940. Foreign nationals excluded from obtaining an AEP are those providing/supplying services in the country but their employers are located abroad or those without employer – employee relationship in the Philippines and therefore not covered by Article 40 of the Labor Code. Among the exclusions are the following: Members of the governing board with voting rights only; corporate officers as provided under the Corporation Code of the Philippines; Intra corporate transferee and contractual service supplier who is a manager, executive or specialist. However, they are required to apply for a Certificate of Exclusion from the regional Office of the DOLE.

The DOLE Regional Director may, motu proprio or upon petition, cancel or revoke an AEP, after due process, based on any of the following grounds: non-compliance with any of the requirements or conditions for which the AEP was issued; misrepresentation of facts in the application; submission of falsified or tampered documents; meritorious objection or information against the employment of the foreign national; foreign national has been convicted of a criminal offense or a fugitive from justice; employer terminated the employment of foreign national; grave misconduct in dealing with or ill treatment of workers; or disapproval of the application for an Authority to Employ Alien by the Department of Justice (DOJ) or Special Temporary Permit by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), if applicable.

The penalty for working without AEP is a fine of Php 10,000.00 for every year or a fraction thereof to a foreign national found working without a valid AEP and an Employer found employing foreign national without a valid AEP shall also pay a fine of Php 10,000.00 for every year or a fraction thereof. A foreign national whose AEP has been denied or cancelled on the grounds of (a) conviction of criminal offense or fugitive from justice in the country or abroad; or (b) grave misconduct in dealing with or ill treatment of workers is disqualified to re-apply within a period of ten (10) years from date of the order denying, cancelling or revoking the AEP.

END/Patrick T Rillorta