MANILA - Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Wednesday blamed urban poor group Kadamay for inflaming the violence at the picket line of striking NutriAsia workers.
“Mayroon nang ongoing conciliation. Nagkagulo dahil pumasok yung Kadamay. Hindi naman workers ‘yun. Hindi NutriAsia ‘yun. Kadamay ang pumasok dyan,” Bello told reporters in a chance interview.
(There was an ongoing conciliation. Violence erupted when Kadamay entered the picture. Those were not workers of NutriAsia. Those were Kadamay members.)
Workers of the NutriAsia factory have been on strike for weeks, protesting the firm's alleged engagement in labor-only contracting, low wages, and poor working conditions.
Aside from injuries, the dispersal at the NutriAsia picket line in Bulacan, where the protesters gathered in a Mass, also resulted in the arrest of some workers and supporters of their cause.
NutriAsia claimed the workers threw rocks and even fired a gun in the air, prompting security forces to disperse them.
"Around 200 striking workers of Toll Packer BMirk and their supporters, fired a shot in the air and started to hurl rocks at police and guards," the firm said.
The violent attack happened during a mediation led by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) together with stakeholders and union organizer, NAI said.
NAI claimed that the "aggressive action" by the strikers and their supporters violated the writ of preliminary injunction issued by the Regional Trial Court in Malolos City, Bulacan on July 26.
However, video captured by the League of Filipino Students showed rocks were hurled at the direction of the protesters who were running away.
The Philippine National Police, meanwhile, said its response to the incident was "strictly governed" by rules of engagement.
Police arrested 19 people, some of them allegedly caught with firearms.
The Commission on Human Rights said the Bulacan incident is “concerning, especially that some workers and supporters, including students, elderly, and children, were injured and arrested during the dispersal.”
“Unfortunately, all of this happened during a process of mediation being done by the Department of Labor and Employment with concerned stakeholders and the union organizer,” said CHR spokesperson Jacqueline De Guia in a statement.
De Guia said the CHR has dispatched a team to investigate the incident.
“We are also reminding the police force and NutriAsia's security personnel to observe maximum tolerance in recognition of the rights of the workers to protest,” he said.
“We caution against the use of excessive force in ensuring peace and order. At the same time, the rule of law must always prevail even in times of unrest. We too remind the protesters to not resort to violence and unlawful acts in asserting their rights.”
NutriAsia workers began their strike on June 2, demanding the management to recognize workers’ union, regularize employees, and hire back those they say were illegally dismissed.
NutriAsia manufactures UFC Ketchup, Mang Tomas All-Purpose Sauce, and Datu Puti vinegar and soy sauce.