No excuse for violent dispersal of NutriAsia workers, VP's office says

Audrey Morallo - Philstar.com
No excuse for violent dispersal of NutriAsia workers, VP's office says
Photos of 56-year-old Leticia Retiza, who was injured during the dispersal, is making the rounds online, enraging social media users and fueling calls for a boycott.
Anakbayan UST / File

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo's office on Thursday condemned the violence that marred the protest of the workers of a condiments firm in a province north of Manila on Monday, saying there is no excuse for the harm done on the picketing employees.

Workers of condiments giant NutriAsia, who were pressing for implementation of a Labor department order to regularize 80 employees, were violently dispersed by its security personnel and by provincial police.

The violent dispersal on Monday, which led to arrests, incarceration and injurings even among old people, were widely condemned by groups and individuals.

Some social media users have even gone online to call for a boycott of the firm's products, which include popular catsup, soy sauce and fish sauce brands.

"There can be no excuse for the violence inflicted by the police and private security personnel on striking NutriAsia workers and their supporters," Barry Guitierrez, a spokesman for the vice president, said.

He said that regardless of the supposed provocation by strikers and their supporters, the police's principal duty was to maintain order and to prevent a tense situation from exploding into violence.

According to rights and labor groups, around 300 workers and their supporters were violently removed by the firm's security personnel and by police following a mass held outside the factory.

Photos of a bloodied elderly woman, since identified in reports as 56-year-old Leticia Retiza, injured during the commotion prompted outrage online and calls for congressional hearings on the issue of contractual labor.

Around 19 workers and supporters were also arrested, according to initial accounts. The 'NutriAsia 19' have since been released.

NutriAsia, DOLE blame protesters for violence

NuriAsia meanwhile blamed the picketing workers and accused them of sparking the melee when someone from their ranks supposedly fired a shot and hurled rocks.

Edwin Barana, whom police said they arrested for possession of shabu and of a gun, remains in detention. Strikers said he is not from among their ranks and rights group Karapatan said he was planted to justify the detention of the 19.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III blamed the violence on urban poor group Kadamay.

Bello and President Rodrigo Duterte have been slammed by workers groups for their perceived failure to stop short-term hiring in the country.

Duterte promised during the campaign the he would stop the practice, which offers few or no benefits and protection to workers.

Guitierrez said that a "thorough and impartial" investigation should be conducted into the incident.

"Those responsible for the violence must be held fully accountable," he said.




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