By Vanne Terrazola
Senator Joel Villanueva on Friday expressed outrage at the discovery of an illegal cigarette factory in Marilao, Bulacan which trapped 87 Filipino workers into forced labor.
Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resource Development, issued a statement after learning that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) rescued on Thursday 87 workers from a warehouse where they have been detained and reportedly forced to manufacture fake cigarettes.
The warehouse, authorities said, was operated by Chinese nationals. Eight foreigners were arrested in the raid.
“At first glance, the labor violations are blatant. The gates are locked from the outside. The sleeping quarters of the workers are inhumane, and based on one worker’s account, the working conditions barely comply with prevailing labor laws, primarily the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Act that we pushed and legislated into law this Congress,” Villanueva said, citing an ABS-CBN report.
“We likewise take exception to the fact that it appears that foreigners supposedly running this illegal enterprise could barely present any documents to prove their legitimate stay in our country. This is the problem we want to address when we launched an inquiry into the influx of illegal foreign workers in the country,” he added.
“Nakakapanlumo at nakakagalit po ito, sa sarili nating bayan inaalila at tinuturing hayop ang ating mga kababayan ng mga illegal foreigners! Hindi po ito katanggap-tanggap! (This is appalling and infuriating, that in our own country, our countrymen are being enslaved and treated like animals by illegal foreigners! This is not acceptable!)” Villanueva said.
Villanueva then urged the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Justice, to look into the incident and ensure that the victims receive the appropriate interventions.
He also called on the Department of Trade and Industry and local government units to “intensify their efforts to stop the proliferation of illegal businesses.”
Meanwhile, he thanked the NBI for immediately responding to the report of one of the workers.
Villanueva said charges should be filed against the persons involved in the operations of the illegal cigarette factory.