Press Release | July 31, 2018

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, +63917-3162831
Karapatan Public Information Desk, +63918-9790580

Karapatan condemns recent violent dispersal, arrest of NutriAsia workers, supporters and journalists

“We are enraged by the violent dispersal of workers who have already been victimized by the company’s unfair labor practices. We likewise condemn NutriAsia, its security personnel and the Philippine National Police in Bulacan for this brutality. The NutriAsia management even had the audacity to claim in a statement that a gunshot was fired from the ranks of the workers when evidence and testimonies attest that a mass was ongoing prior to the dispersal. NutriAsia has the audacity to call for compliance to the rule of law when it has primarily violated the rights of workers, ignored labor laws and general labor standards,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay on the violent dispersal on the afternoon of June 30, 2018, and NutriAsia’s statement thereafter.

On July 30, at around 3pm, after an ecumenical mass held at the picketline in Marilao, Bulacan, at least 300 NutriAsia workers, their families and supporters were violently dispersed by more than 100 of the company’s security personnel and members of the Philippine National Police. Scores were injured while 19 were illegally arrested.

A Karapatan quick reaction team dispatched to Bulacan revealed that apart from union members, those arrested included five alternative media journalists and members of progressive organizations who are supporting the striking workers. Those arrested and detained are Daisy Jane Heda, 20, Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng NutriAsia (NMN); Robert Sequino, 23, NMN; Sedney Villamor, 31, NMN; Jerald Verano, 26, NMN; Mark Ponce, 31, NMN; Dannyboy Conel, 21, NMN; Marylle Jons Peligro, 23, NMN; Joevelyn Bornales, 33, NMN; Nikki Abilar, 29, Church worker; Jaime Castro, 52, Church worker; Avon Ang, 23, Altermidya; Hiyasmin Saturay, 27, Altermidya; Psalty Caluza, 20, Altermidya; Jon Bonifacio, 20, UP student and campus journalist; Eric Tandoc, 38, Altermidya; Einstein Recedes, 33, Anakbayan Secretary General; Mark Quinto, 24, League of Filipino Students; Imelda Ray, 57, Kadamay member; and Aileen Raganit, 42, Kadamay member.

The police are reportedly set to file trumped-up charges of violation of Batas Pambansa 880, alarm and scandal, physical injuries, among others.

Palabay also underscored that Bulacan Provincial Police Chief Chito Bersaluna, head of the main unit responsible for the violent dispersal of striking NutriAsia workers, was the Caloocan police chief sacked and reassigned by the Duterte regime after the death of 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos in the conduct of drug war operations in August 2017. “Not only did the dispersal result to the wounding of several workers and supporters, but the police also arrested 19 individuals, with fabricated charges and planted evidence of firearms and drug paraphernalia a very looming possibility,” she added.

“This is the trademark of top police officers who have handled the murder of thousands of poor Filipinos in line with the war on drugs, combined with other underhanded, cheap tricks from this regime’s counterinsurgency program. This also reveals widespread impunity among the ranks of police officers involved in drug killings. Here is Bersaluna after he is sacked – still satisfying his bloodlust albeit in a different place,” Palabay noted.

Since June 2, 2018, workers of NutriAsia Inc. have set up a picket outside the firm’s Marilao plant. The strike is led by the Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng NutriaAsia (NMN)- Marilao, with workers primarily demanding regularization. Workers were also protesting the illegal dismissal of 50 workers. In February this year, DOLE had already ordered NutriAsia to regularize over 900 workers after concluding that the company is engaging in labor-only contracting practices. The Department also reported that NutriAsia is violating labor laws and general labor standards, including illegal deduction for workers’ uniforms and underpayment of basic wages.

“This is precisely the dangers of labor-only contracting where there is no employer-employee relationship. Companies such as NutriAsia can arbitrarily fire workers without any repercussions on their part – all while workers carry the burden. This treatment of its own workers, the denial of wage-related benefits, the use of contractualization schemes and outsourcing workers to deny them of employer-employee relationship reveal the company’s utter disregard for worker’s rights,” Palabay reiterated.

The Karapatan secretary general reiterated that “this case shows how the devious partnership between private parties and State forces can seriously cripple the economic, civil, and political rights of the people. This is not an isolated case. Workers in different parts of the country have found themselves in the same position – assaulted and arrested for asserting what is due them. The companies, on the other hand, have hidden behind the protection of the State and the loopholes in our labor laws. Meanwhile, the President who promised to end contractualization is still brandishing his useless executive order used as a cheap media play.”

“The workers’ assertion and strike is just. We call on everyone to stand in solidarity with the workers of NutriAsia and demand accountability from the company and the PNP who instigated the entire ordeal. We also call for the immediate release of the 19 arrested individuals. We likewise challenge the Duterte regime to follow through on its pronouncements and end contractualization in all of its forms,” concluded Palabay.

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PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
publicinfo@karapatan.org
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Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
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Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146
Web: http://www.karapatan.org

KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.