by Ghio Ong – The Philippine Star, 17 Dec 2021
MANILA, Philippines — Fifty workers of a company in Valenzuela were reportedly forcefully dispersed and arrested on Wednesday night after they went on strike.
A video posted on Twitter by lawyer and labor leader Luke Espiritu showed civilians soaked to the skin after being hit with water cannons by men in uniform. Some of the uniformed men were seen beating the civilians with truncheons and dragging them to a police van, Espiritu said.
The arrested employees of Soft Touch Development Corp., which Espiritu said produces pasta, staged a strike after they were told they would be laid off on Dec. 24. They were hired through a manpower agency and are members of a labor union.
Espiritu, who represents the workers, told The STAR the company management said it would “maintain status quo until Dec. 30.”
The 50 employees, along with three organizers from militant groups Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino and Solidarity of Unions in the Philippines for Empowerment and Reforms Federation, were brought to the Valenzuela police station.
Espiritu said police told him they would wait for the company to file charges of coercion against the 53 workers and strike organizers.
“Their right to strike is not a crime,” he said.
Espiritu is running for a Senate seat under presidential candidate and fellow labor leader Leody de Guzman.
Walden Bello, De Guzman’s running mate, appealed to Mayor Rex Gatchalian to release the workers.
Replying to Bello’s tweet, Mayor Rex Gatchalian said he has ordered the release of the workers. He also criticized the dispersal and maintained the action was “unilateral on the side of the chief of police,” referring to Col. Ramchrisen Haveria Jr.
“He never consulted me on his actions. I do not condone this at all. I would have done mediation… We disown this,” Gatchalian added.
Haveria has yet to respond to The STAR’s request for comment on the incident.