“We, the striking workers, are fighting for our wages, jobs and rights.”
By TYRA AQUINO
NutriAsia workers on strike and their supporters belied the claims of the company, police and Labor Sec. Silvestre Bello III that they instigated the July 28 violent dispersal in front of the food giant’s Marilao plant.
In a press conference, Wednesday, Aug. 1, Rev. Fr. Rolando De Leon said he was not able to finish the ecumenical mass for workers and their supporters because company goons and policemen started throwing rocks and hitting the protesters with clubs. Even the make-shift altar was destroyed.
“While we were praying, those we suspected as goons were already clasping rocks. They tried to cover the rocks with towels, others with paper,” the priest said.
De Leon clarified that according to NutriAsia workers, the “goons” are not legitimate security personnel, but hired individuals in uniform.
“While the mass was still going on, we were appealing to the commanding officers of the police and security guards to stop their men. Despite that, they continued snatching away workers and supporters,” De Leon recalled.
In a press statement on Monday, NutriAsia said that striking workers “fired a shot in the air and started to hurl rocks at police and guards tasked to maintain peace and order in the area.”
However, Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng NutriAsia (NMN) President Jessie Garola refuted this claim.
“That’s not true that we were the ones who hurled rocks. The guards were the first ones to strike. We were only holding our placards,” Gerola said.
Videos taken by alternative media outfits and some supporters show the police attacking the workers, journalists and members of organizations supporting the striking workers. The image of a bloodied 56-year-old Kadamay member Leticia Retiza circulated online. Footage of University of the Philippines student Jon Bonifacio being dragged and beaten up by the police also went viral.
Reynante Gudinez, spokesperson for NMN stated in Filipino, “We ,the striking workers, are fighting for our wages, jobs and rights. We did not have drugs and guns. Our only weapon is our collective action. In fact, that very moment, negotiations were ongoing with the NCMB (National Conciliation and Mediation Board).”
There are ongoing talks between the workers, NutriAsia and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Last June, the police also dispersed workers assembled outside the factory for allegedly violating a restraining order issued by a regional trial court in Bulacan. Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod later explained that only the department has jurisdiction over labor disputes.