By Martin Sadongdong
Scores were hurt and arrested when a violent dispersal occurred between police, along with security officers of condiments manufacturer NutriAsia Inc., and its protesting workers in one of the company’s plants in Marilao, Bulacan on Monday afternoon.
According to initial information, 300 members of Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng NutriAsia (NMN) were holding a mass at the picket line of the group in Barangay Lambakin, Marilao around 3 p.m. when the violent dispersal occurred.
Militant group Anakbayan said around 400 police deployed in the area and the company’s security guards initiated a confrontation with the protesters and rocks started flying in the air while cops hit them with truncheons.
A photo of an elderly woman with bloodied face quickly made rounds online as militant groups said she was hurt by the violent dispersal.
Urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) said the hurt victim was one of their members in its chapter in Pandi, Bulacan identified as Leticia Espino.
At least 10 protesters were hurt, three of them were rushed to the hospital, while 20 more were arrested including Anakbayan secretary general Einstein Recedes, Mark Quinto, deputy secretary general of League of Filipino Students, and University of the Philippines (UP) student Jon Bonifacio, who is also a member of the UP College of Science’s official publication — UP Scientia.
The arrested protesters were detained at Meycauayan City Police Station.
Supt. Santos Mera, chief of Meycauayan police, said they were already preparing for the filing of charges against the arrested protesters.
He did not release any further information on the matter.
Aside from Anakbayan and Kadamay, several lawmakers and other militant groups also condemned the violent dispersal including Bayan-Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate, Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago, the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), and Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU).
The violent dispersal came just as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) ordered the NutriAsia to regularize at least 80 workers of its contractor AsiaPro Multipurpose Cooperative through an order dated June 25, 2018.
The DOLE had also released a compliance order directing NutriAsia and its contractors, Alternative Network Resources Unlimited Multipurpose Cooperative, Serbiz Multipurpose Cooperative and B-Mirk Enterprises Cooperation to regularize 914 of its employees.
NutriAsia airs side
However, in a statement, NutriAsia management said it was the protesters who started throwing rocks to the security deployed in the Marilao plant.
The management also reiterated that the protesting workers are not part of NutriAsia but of Toll Packers, a third-party packaging company they hired.
“[A]fter three days of resumption of operations in the NutriAsia Marilao plant in faithful compliance with DOLE instructions to have the non-striking majority of Toll Packers’ employees return to work, violence erupted when a minority… fired a shot in the air and started to hurl rocks at police and guards tasked to maintain peace and order in the area,” the NutriAsia management said.
They said the protesters violated the writ of preliminary injunction issued last July 26, 2018, by the Malolos Regional Trial Court which orders the independent workers’ union and all other persons involved “to desist and resist from obstructing the ingress to egress” of the Marilao plant.
The management said they were “disappointed” the strikers used children and elderlies as frontliners and human shields “as they pushed their way to barricade the plant entryways.”
“We appeal for calm among the strikers and their supporters and would like to let the public know that the situation is currently in the hands and under control by the Philippine National Police (PNP). We appeal to everyone to comply with the rule of law as we all seek a peaceful resolution,” it added.
The protesters have been on strike since June 2 to protest the supposed dismissal of at least 50 NutriAsia contractual employees, and the “dire” working environment inside the plant.
Prior to this incident, a violent dispersal also occurred on June 14 between the protesters and the police. (Martin A. Sadongdong)