Pasig City mayor Vico Sotto vowed to defend the 23 arrested workers of Regent Foods Corporation after company owners decided to go ahead with its charges of physical injuries against the strikers.
In a Facebook post, Sotto said he will do everything within his power to help the arrested workers regain and maintain their liberty.
“Yesterday (Saturday) afternoon, I talked to the 11 still inside and assured them that I will personally make sure that they are out on bail by Monday,” Sotto posted.
The mayor said 12 of those arrested have already posted bail, including the tricycle driver who was arrested with the workers.
Sotto said Regent owners, couple Irwin and Susan See, refused his request to drop charges against the workers, prompting him to “speak out in public.”
“I asked Regent to withdraw the charges against the 23. Mr. Irwin See and Ms. Susan See separately asked me to give them some time to ask their board,” he revealed.
The Sees reportedly told Sotto that the company board would talk about his request and that he will be informed once a decision is reached.
Upon multiple follow-ups by his office however, the company’s lawyers informed the mayor they would not withdraw the charges, saying they will “just trust the judicial process.”
The mayor slammed the company’s decision.
“[That] is of course easy to say as multimillionaires who will eat (three times) a day no matter what happens here; while the people they have sued have recently lost their main source of income and are now even torn away from their families,” the mayor fumed.
The 23 workers were arrested after a violent dispersal by the security guards last November 9, injuring several of the workers.
The workers launched their strike last October 16 demanding regular employment for long-time employees and salary increases.
They also complained of non-implementation of the collective bargaining agreement, non-recognition of the new leadership within the union and physical and verbal abuses by management.
The workers immediately sought Sotto’s mediation and help in keeping their strike peaceful and safe but the mayor initially clarified he cannot interfere with the labor issues as those fall under the jurisdiction of the labor department.
“However, when my constituents are being deprived of liberty as they fight for their rights as workers, I cannot sit around and do nothing,” Sotto said Sunday.
He further revealed that Regent management hired outside private security to disperse their employees on strike last November 9 that turned violent.
“The situation was naturally tense and violence broke out. I have seen videos of the workers being kicked by the private security as they lay on the ground,” the mayor said.
The tricycle driver who was arrested with the workers and two of their supporters was an innocent bystander “who just went down to see what was going on,” the mayor said.
Sotto said he condemns the company and its owners’ “misuse” of “[their] privileged position to suppress the rights of [their] protesting workers.”
“These people are not criminals; they do not have the goal of hurting you. They are fighting for what they believe to be just. You can continue with the labor dispute without sending the poor and powerless to jail!” Sotto said.
“If you want to have a healthy relationship with our city, I highly suggest you rethink your position,” Sotto warned.
Regent Foods Corporation manufactures Cheese Ring, Cheese Ball, Snacku, Sweet Corn, Tempura, Labzter, Jelly Candy, Fiesta Cakes, Mixed Cakes, Assorted Cakes, Ube Cake, Pandan Cake, Melon Cake, Strawberry Cake, Mocca Cake, Custard Cake, Lemon Cake, Cheese Cake and Belgian Waffle. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)