Law on Illegal Recruitment in the Philippines Explained

Several of our fellow Filipinos end up being victimized by unscrupulous illegal recruiters. Thus, instead of landing a dream job abroad and earning dollars, they find themselves not being able to leave the country despite spending hard earned money to pay the illegal recruiters, or worse, some OFWs become TNT or “tago ng tago” for having invalid working permits or visas.

For these reasons, it is therefore important to learn what constitutes illegal recruitment so that you will be able to avoid being counted as a part of the growing numbers of Filipinos duped by illegal recruiters.

What is illegal recruitment?

When committed by a non-licensee or non-holder of authority:

  • any act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring, procuring workers, and includes, referring, contact services, promising or advertising for employment abroad, whether for profit or not and the employment abroad is offered for fee to two or more persons

When committed by any person, whether non-licensee, non-holder, licensee or holder of authority

  • Charging an amount greater than that allowed by the Secretary of DOLE or making a worker pay a loan greater in amount than that received by him. For example if the Sec of DOLE allows recruiters to charge Php100 for a certain task, the recruiter can’t charge Php200 because that would be deemed as illegal recruitment.
  • Provide or publish any false information regarding recruitment. Thus if the recruiter says that the job is for a flight stewardess and it was eventually found out that the actual job is for a GRO, then this will be deemed as false information in relation to recruitment and such act will be considered as illegal recruitment under the RA 8042.
  • To give any false information or document, or performs an act of misrepresentation for the purpose of securing a license or authority. For example if a recruiter stated that he/she has not been previously charged with a criminal case or that there is no pending case against him/her for the purpose of getting a license, then he/she will be deemed as to have committed illegal recruitment.
  • To induce a worker already employed to transfer to quit his current employment in order to offer him to another except when this is done to liberate a worker from oppressive terms and conditions of employment. For example if Juan asked Jane to quit her call center job to transfer to another BPO company, then that would be considered as illegal recruitment.
  • To influence a person or entity not to hire a person who did not apply through his employment agency. Thus, if Pedro said to ABC Company that they should not hire Maria for her failure to use the services of Pedro’s employment agency, then that act would be considered as illegal recruitment.
  • To engage in recruitment of workers in jobs harmful to the public health or to the morality of the dignity of the Philippines. For example, if Berto is engaged in hiring young provincial ladies to work as prostitutes in the Middle East, then this will be deemed as illegal recruitment because the employment is harmful to the dignity of the Philippines.
  • To obstruct inspection by the Secretary of DOLE or his duly authorized representative.
  • To fail to submit reports on the status of employment, placement vacancies, remittances of foreign exchange earnings, separations from jobs, departures or such other matters as may be required by the Secretary of DOLE.
  • To substitute or alter to the prejudice of worker, employment contracts approved and verified by the DOLE, when it is done without the approval of the latter.
  • For an officer or agent of a recruitment or a placement agency to be an officer or member of the Board of Directors of a company involved in the travel agency business or to engage directly or indirectly in a the management of a travel agency.
  • To withhold or deny travel documents of a worker before departure for monetary reasons other than those allowed by the Labor Code or its implementing rules and regulations.
  • Failure to deploy without valid reasons as determined by the DOLE. Thus, if XYZ recruitment agency fails to deploy Ana to Japan without any valid reason, then XYZ will be deemed to have committed illegal recruitment.
  • Failure to reimburse the workers in connection with his documentation and processing for purposes of deployment in cases when the deployment did not push trough.

When is illegal recruitment deemed committed by a syndicate?

It is deemed committed by a syndicate when committed by three (3) or more persons.

When is illegal recruitment deemed committed in large scale?

It is deemed committed in large scale if committed against three (3) or more persons individually or as a group.

When is illegal recruitment deemed an economic sabotage?

It is deemed as an economic sabotage when committed by a syndicate or in large scale as defined above.

What are the penalties for illegal recruitment?

When NOT considered as an economic sabotage:

  • imprisonment of not less than 6 years and 1 day but not more than 12 years and a fine of not less than Php200,000 nor more than Php500,000

When considered as an economic sabotage:

  • life imprisonment and a fine of not less than Php500,000 but shall not be more than Php1,000,000.

When is the maximum penalty imposed?

  • when the person illegally recruited is less than 18 years of age or committed by a non-licensee or non-holder of authority

Author: Atty. James Biron
Atty. James S. Biron is a corporate lawyer specializing in foreign investments, trade, mergers and acquisitions, planning and financing of projects and capital raising. Clients served include real estate, construction, energy, information technology, agriculture, education, medical and casino gaming companies.


  • Joy Dela Plana

    This is very informative.  I appreciate your effort for posting this.  This info has helped us understand our basic rights.  Thank you so much! Hope to read more stuff like this.

    • Atty. James Biron

      Thank you Joy. I will post more articles as long as I have the time to do so. Please visit this site regularly to see updates or subscribe to the email or RSS feed to have these updates sent to you.

  • Leah

    thank you for posting this. we human resource management students used this in our subjects.

  • Reymond

    Thank you Atty. James Biron for your posting it will help me in making Proposal Activcity in Public Employment Service Office in Cavite and keep posting info because it will us and very informative.

  • Did you have any legal basis regarding in OWWA particular in MOA signing particular in OWWA Hepl desk. thank you and more power Atty.

  • vanie lina

    good day!!
    May i ask what are the provision of illegal recruitment? thanks much,,, Hope for the answer…or what is the website?

  • ana manguiat

    good day!!

    May I ask what are the provision regarding illegal  recruitment? What is the Website for that? Thanks, hoping for response?

  • Federico Guerrero Escarcha

    These two provisions on illegal recruitment seem one sided and could easily put anyone in the recruitment business into trouble. Applicants could take advantage of these two provisions to simply collect money from the recruiters. Although, I am not giving them an idea, however this is what these provisions insinuates.  PASEI SHOULD PROTEST THESE PROVISIONS. WHAT ARE THEY  DOING TO PROTECT THE INTEREST OF LEGALLY REGISTERED AGENCIES AND DOING THE RIGHTFUL WAY TO RECRUIT FILIPINOS AND PROVIDE THEM BETTER INCOME FOR THEIR FAMILIES AND THEIR GOOD FUTURE?

    Failure to deploy without valid reasons as determined by the DOLE. Thus, if XYZ recruitment agency fails to deploy Ana to Japan without any valid reason, then XYZ will be deemed to have committed illegal recruitment.
    Failure to reimburse the workers in connection with his documentation and processing for purposes of deployment in cases when the deployment did not push trough.

  • Sheena

    Good Day!

    I filed a case (Illegal Recruitment,large scale) at NBI Manila last October of 2011. The NBI agent told me today that it was forwarded to the Manila City Prosecution office last January 16 or 18. However, as I went there they said it was not yet there. There were four of us. One of us is in Taiwan already, and I would be going to KSA before February 10 2012, God willing, and the other two still waiting for their flight schedule. I wanted justice to be done to those criminals. How can I make that possible, if none of us could take care of the case anymore since it’s like taking years for it to be processed?. Thank you.


    thank you for the info. now, i know how long and how much she will pay on us…i am one of the victim of the illegal recruiter and the case is still on process….

  • Marie

    Hi Atty. Biron, 
    A friend of mine knows a recruitment agency in Macau, she told us they are looking for  people willing to work in the Casino, so my brother and some of my friends relative apply for the job she say 3-4 monthey for the processing of papers. It’s already 8months and brother hasn’t got the job yet. She keep saying just wait, there is some delay, she got too many excuses every time I ask her. How can we get back our money we pay for the down payment. And how can we report this kind of illegal recruitment.

  • Genesis

    Hello Atty. Biron, I’m Genesis can I file for illegal recruitment case to a person who is not already residing in the Philippines? thank you.

  • Clint Maratas

    Hello! Atty. James Biron, thank you for posting this article it help a lot of working people especially those who probably would want to go to abroad.
    I would like to ask some questions.
    1. Can a registered agency employ agents to recruit to workers (for singapore)
    2. What are the necessary documents that these agents would necessary brought with them in recruiting workers?

    • Atty. James Biron

      Hello Clint,

      Thank you for the kind words.
      1. Yes, they may do that.
      2. No specific requirements, just bring the documents you need to convince people to work abroad

  • Lord Rocy Domingo

    Dear Atty,

    I’m just wondering, if I refer a person to a licensed recruitment agency with a valid job order from an accredited foreign Principal, and I don’t ask for any fee from that person, am I committing an act of illegal recruitment?

    If this licensed agency is later on charged by the person with illegal recruitment, will I be a respondent too?

    Lord Rocy

    • Atty. James Biron

      Dear Lord Rocy, I sent you an email, please check your inbox.

    • Mr. vin

      I refer a person to a licensed recruitment agency with a valid job order from an accredited foreign Principal, I don’t ask for any fees or favors out of good will, since my mother in law asked me to assist the applicant . The problem is that she decided to withdraw her application and passport for the reason her employer had already signed her up for the job. So I asked the my friends agency to return the said documents. Unfortunately the return of the documents was delayed for a week,she then filed an IR complaint at POEA. I could not understand what was her proof, i just sent her documents with good intentions in manila, thats I committing an act of illegal recruitment? If so how can the law protect us from such an abusive person who are capable of destroying
      Ones reputation by baseless acts.

  • Gerry B. Pingal

    Sir, I found your blog very helpful specially to me and my father who were victims of illegal recruitment. Actually, not only us but MANY of us here in Zambales. Other victims don’t do anything because “abala lang daw, wala mangyayari”. By the way, I am a resident of Olongapo City, Zambales province. This illegal recruiter used many aliases such as “Marisol Guillas” and “Soledad Manansala Señega”. As far as I know she has 2 assistants whom we’ve also met already but we failed to took pictures of them and her also.

    As far as I know, she has been to many places like Palauig Zambales, Iba Zambales, Cabanatuan and Olongapo. Among other victims who gave her monies, I gave her a P20,000.00 down payment for a promise to my father for a work in Angola Africa. Unfortunately, since she was “known” to be of good moral character according to many, I didn’t ask for a OFFICIAL RECEIPT of the down payment. She just wrote it on a logbook with my father’s name & signature together with her name & signature affixing “Marisol Guillas”. What I did was took a picture of the logbook with my cellphone. My humble questions are:

    1. Is this a large scale or sydicate IR?
    2. Can we collate and used the testimonies of many other victims as proof of evidence in the absence of payment receipts?
    3. Can we group ourselves and file a complaint to which agency of government? (DOLE, POEA, NBI, Police?).
    4. Is this a CRIMINAL OFFENSE. As far as I know, criminal offense has no bail and will automatically be a case vs. the republic of the Philippines and thus, no need for hearing and other judicial expenses?
    5. How long would it take for this case?

    Please give us hope to pursue on this. God bless and more power to you Atty. James Biron!

  • Jen

    Hi atty, I’m a victim of an illegal recruiter. How does it work if the recruiter is not in the Philippines? I would want to file a case against her, but she works and resides in italy. Her agency was recently shut down by poea and cidg. How will she notified about the complaint?thank u for your time.

  • Emmanuel Delos Angeles

    Hello Atty Biron I have a friend who has 10 referred people to an illegal recruiter,will my friend be sued also because he is the one who refered to the said illegal recruiters?Thanks

  • Shane Olano

    I have a question,,,what if they are transporting the 20yrs old girl to Malaysia with consent but still the immigration officer here in the Philippines file illegal recruiter to that person..what can we do?

  • Lhen A.

    Good day po, victim po ako ng illegal recruiter, 7 po kmi nsa 147k ang nkuha po skn, last nkausap ko po ung recruiter nung march 28 2017,ng apply po ako sknya noong july 2016,ano pwed ko po gawin, mababawi pb nmin ung pera po, thanks

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