NutriAsia workers, supporters and journalists walk free

The 19 arrested NutriAsia strikers and supporters, including five journalists, were released from detention at about nine o’clock Wednesday morning after finally getting a clearance from the Bulacan Provincial Prosecutors’ Office.

The detainees jubilantly walked out of their jail cell accompanied by their lawyers after the local city prosecutor dismissed charges of physical injuries slapped against them by Meycauayan police.

However, they were given 10 days to respond to charges of violation of Batas Pambansa 880 on alarms and scandals.

The 19 were arrested Monday morning, July 30, when NutriAsia company guards, assisted by the Meycauayan police led by Supt. Santos Mera, violently dispersed an ongoing ecumenical prayer in support of the two-month long workers’ strike.

The detainees spent two days and nights in jail despite widespread condemnation of the violent dispersal.

The Meycauayan city prosecutor actually dismissed the physical injuries charged against the detainees and ordered their release Tuesday night but the police insisted they first secure a clearance from the provincial prosecutor.

Meanwhile, in a press conference in Quezon City Wednesday morning, members of the Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng NutriAsia belied they instigated the violence last Monday.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. presented videos during the press conference showing it was the company guards who rushed the workers and instigated the violence.

The workers condemned efforts by Supt Mera to use a “planted suspect” allegedly caught with illegal drugs and a gun during the dispersal as among those arrested.

Edwin Barana, 39, a resident of Barangay Langka, Meycauayan, Bulacan eventually admitted before the city prosecutor he was forced by the police to say he was among the strikers.

Barana added he is not a member of the organizations present at the strike and ecumenical prayer.

During the press conference, Atty Ephraim Cortez of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers added that the arrest of the media workers by the guards and police may be grounds for countercharges against NutriAsia and the Meycauayan police. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)