'Cruel and Unusual': Gatchalian believes company owner gave factory worker salary in coins to 'torment' him

Published June 29, 2021, 1:33 PM

by Joseph Pedrajas

Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian is inclined to believe that what happened to the factory worker who received his P1,056 salary in coins was done deliberately to “torment” the worker for raising his concerns against his company’s alleged unfair labor practices.

Gatchalian on Tuesday vowed that the employer or the owner of Next Green Factory, where the worker only identified as “Russel” was working, will be sanctioned “whatever form it will take.”

“Bakit ka naman gaganunin kung hindi galit sa ‘yo. Kumbaga, ginagantihan ka (Why would the company do that if they’re not mad at him. It seems it was their retribution),” he said in a DZRH interview.

“Kahit gaano ko subukan unawain, ‘di ko talaga makita yung anggulo na aksidente. Kagabi ko pa iniisip, kahapon ko pa subukan talagang lunukin yung story di ko talaga malunok eh (No matter how I tried to understand that it was only an accident, I could not),” he added, as a company representative, whom he met on Monday, said that what happened was only an accident and the coins were for a donation.

“Mukhang sadya talaga (It really seems deliberate).”

Gatchalian described as “cruel and unusual” what the owner of the factory did to Russel. He said the owner must be punished the same way.

“Papulutin kaya natin sa kanya itong isang sentimo pa-isa-isa para maramdaman nya yung pagtanggal ng dignidad (na ginawa) nya? (Should we ask him to pick the coins one by one to let him feel how to be stripped of dignity like what he did?)” he added.

Russel sought Gatchalian’s help after he received his salary worth P1,056 for 24 hours of duty purely in the form of coins, mostly in 5-, 10-, and 25-centavos as well as one-peso denominations.

According to the local government, the factory he was working for was registered as a trading and plastic recycling business.

Gatchalian, who met Russel and a representative from the factory on Monday, told the Manila Bulletin that the worker believed that what happened was done “intentionally” as a form of “retribution” of his company as the latter kept on pointing out the unfair labor practices allegedly committed inside their factory, including underpayment and lack of government benefits and night differential pay.

“So when he complained, the owner did this as a retribution,” Gatchalian said in a phone call. “In fact, when he received the money, he was even told that that was his salary.”

The worker tried to return the money but the company’s management refused to accept it, Gatchalian said.

The mayor said that the company’s representative denied the accusation by saying the coins were given accidentally and were actually for a donation.

Gatchalian said he will meet the factory owner on Wednesday.

Several social media users questioned the legality of the owner’s action by citing a circular from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

Under Circular No. 537 Series of 2006 of the BSP, payment, particularly in the form of coins, shall be “legal tender” or must be accepted for as long as it does not exceed a certain limit.

For P1 to P5 denominations, they must not exceed P1,000 while 1, 5, 10 or 25 cents must not exceed P100 in total.

However, both the local government and Russel have not yet done a complete inventory of the coins.

The incident also drew the ire of social media users, with some users calling it “purely evil.”

“Nakakalungkot na may mga tao na ganito i-treat yung mga workers (It’s sad that there are people who treat their workers like this). You don’t know how hard it is for them to really work for their family –24 hours duty yet you gave that kind of salary,” a Twitter user with username @yoursonlylisa said.

Gatchalian said he would help Russel find a better employer in Valenzuela City.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, in a Twitter post, said he won’t allow such kind of abuse on anyone working in Valenzuela City. “Bibigyan namin ng aksyon kaagad ito,” (We will act on this immediately) he said.