Nineteen NutriAsia workers and supporters were arrested as 100 elements of the Meycauyan Police and security guards dispersed the picketline just outside the factory in Marilao, Bulacan.
In a phone interview with Bulatlat, NutriAsia worker William Espiritu said the violence started at around 3. pm. today, July 31.
While an ecumenical prayer by some 300 workers and supporters was being held, company security guards started pushing the workers using police’s shields. After a few minutes, the policemen and guards hit the protesters with rattan sticks and threw stones at them.
“They kept on striking us, even as we raised our hands,” Espiritu said. “They did not have any mercy.”
Espiritu said a dialogue between the management and their union was scheduled today. “We were ready to dismantle our picket if need be. Our only demand is to reinstate all the dismissed workers,” he said in Filipino.
One of the supporters, identified as Leticia Espino, a member of Kadamay from Pandi, Bulacan was among those hurt. A photograph posted by Anakbayan shows blood all over Espino’s mouth, spilling on her scarf and blouse.
Two others, Espiritu said, were brought to the hospital in critical condition. At least 20 more were wounded and given first aid.
Nineteen were arrested and brought to Meycauayan Police Station, according to Karra Taggaoa, spokesperson of the League of Filipino Students (LFS). Among those arrested were Anakbayan Secretary General Einstein Recedes and LFS Secretary General Mark Quinto.
After the arrests and beatings, Espiritu said the policemen and security guards destroyed the workers’ makeshift tents and confiscated their laptops, cellphones, bags containing cash and personal belongings.
Espiritu said at least 20 motorcycles and some bicycles owned by NutriAsia workers were also taken by policemen and security guards and brought inside the NutriAsia compound.
NutriAsia workers began their strike on June 2 after management dismissed 50 workers. The NurtiAsia workers are also demanding regularization.
Journalists hurt, arrested
Also apprehended were journalists covering the incident.
Rhea Padilla, national coordinator of Altermidya, said one of their volunteers, Hiyas Saturay sent her a message informing her that she and her colleagues Eric Tandoc, Avon Ang, Psalty Caluza were being taken by policemen.
A campus journalist, Jon Angelo Bonifacio of the Scientia publication of the College of Science of UP, was also arrested.
The five were among the 19 arrested and are currently detained at the Meycauayan Police Station.
Another journalist, Rosemarie Alcaraz of Radyo Natin Guimba, was hurt when NutriAsia security guards hit her with rattan sticks and pushed her away. While filming the dispersal, a policeman hit her camera, a Canon 70D.
“They knew that I’m a journalist. I’m wearing my ID,” Alcaraz told Bulatlat.
Kodao reporter Joseph Cuevas was also told by a company guard to stop filming or his camera would be destroyed.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the arrest of the five journalists, the attack on Alcaraz and threat against Cuevas.
“We denounce the security personnel of NutriAsia for deliberately targeting journalists and the Bulacan police not only for failing to prevent or stop this outrage from happening but, even worse, arresting five colleagues, making false claims about them, and then preventing other journalists from inquiring after them and covering their detention,” the NUJP in a statement said.
The group demanded the release of the five detained journalists by the Meycauayan police and forget plans of filing trumped up criminal charges against the journalists.
The NUJP likewise called on Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde to initiate an immediate investigation into this clear abuse of authority by his subordinates.
Kodao tried to interview NutriAsia guards after the dispersal and arrests but was refused. At the Meycauayan PNP station, the Kodao team was told to leave the precinct when it inquired about the arrested journalists. # (Len Olea/Bulatlat and Raymund B. Villanueva/Kodao)