By JUSTIN UMALI
SANTA ROSA, Laguna – On the 47th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, September 21, police forcibly dismantled the picketline of striking NutriAsia workers outside the Cabuyao City Hall.
The dispersal came after conflicting notices between the Cabuyao Philippine National Police and the Cabuyao Department of Interior and Local Government.
According to a statement by the Cabuyao Workers’ Alliance (CAWAL), the DILG first served a notice to the NutriAsia strikers on September 20 that they cannot stay outside the City Hall, citing ongoing clearing operations.
DILG claimed that the picketline was blocking F. B. Bailon Street and causing traffic congestion. The picketline was positioned inside the parking area adjacent to the City Hall.
The workers were given until September 29 by the Cabuyao DILG to clear out their picketline. Shortly after, the Cabuyao PNP served a notice until September 21, 12 noon.
According to a statement by Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan – Kilusang Mayo Uno (Pamantik-KMU), elements of the Cabuyao PNP, led by Lt. Col. Zeric Soriano, employees from the Cabuyao City Hall, along with hired goons from NutriAsia arrived at noon to demand the dismantling of the picketline.
Negotiations lasted for hours until the police forcibly dismantled the picketline before 3 p.m. Pamantik-KMU said the policemen were equipped with full riot gear and truncheons.
News of the dismantlement arrived while groups from all over the Southern Tagalog region were conducting a protest caravan in Batangas to mark the 47th anniversary of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law.
The caravan immediately headed to Cabuyao, Laguna and arrived just minutes after the Cabuyao PNP finished dismantling the picket line. A program was commenced, condemning the dispersal, as well as Cabuyao Mayor Rommel Gecolea’s complicity in the act.
Claire Balabbo, spokesperson for Pamantik-KMU, said, ��The workers of NutriAsia voted for you during the elections because they thought you would fight for their rights.” “But this is how you repay the people of your city? Don’t forget that this city’s progress was built on the backs of workers.”
The Kilusan ng Abanteng Seksyon ng Anakpawis sa NutriAsia – OLALIA – KMU (Kasapina-OLALIA-KMU) condemned the act, calling it a “betrayal of the trust given by [them] to the city of Cabuyao.” They cited Gecolea’s refusal to personally engage in dialogue for two months while 17 of their fellow workers were in jail on trumped-up charges.
Over 400 NutriAsia workers went on strike last July 6 to call for regularization and fair wages. The strike was forcibly dispersed after less than six hours, resulting in the arrest of 17 workers on charges of arson, robbery, malicious mischief, grave coercion, and assault.