Lepanto Miners Nabbed, Dispersed

At around 7 a.m. last July 2, Mankayan women under the Timpuyog dagiti Babbai iti Minas a Lepanto (TBML, or Movement of Women in Lepanto Mines), the striking workers, and other residents staged a rally at the Municipal Hall grounds to condemn what they called unlawful arrests.Formal charges were only filed against the workers late in the afternoon of July 2.

Those arrested near the CPJ were accused of grave coercion, while the four people arrested in the Nayak picket area were accused of direct assault. At around 4 p.m. same day, the PNP forcibly dragged four more workers from the Nayak picket line into a waiting police car. On the way to the town hall, the car, however, was blocked by those at the indignation rally. The PNP then released the workers.

The day after (July 3), four lawyers – Mary-ann Bayang, Thomas Bayugan, Randy Kinaud and Chit Yangot –negotiated the release of the 19 workers and had their bail reduced to P500 ($8.91) each.

More dispersal

Immediately after the arrest of the four workers near the Nayak picket area last July 2, the PNP dispersed the protesters at the picket line, confiscating the tent, some plastic chairs and the the iron gate that they put up.

According to Phoebe Papat, wife of a mine worker, they were surprised when the police officers arrived and started pushing the men aside to force the gate open. “They were armed with guns and truncheons, and when the protesters struggled against them to guard the iron gate from entry of newly hired employees of LCMCo, the men were mauled by the PNP,” she said.

The PNP escorted the entry of a company-hired bus, from Northern Trans, boarding 29 new employees. Last July 5, however, Tony Baggay of Cordillera chapter of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU, or May First Movement) reported that 10 new workers abandoned their work in the underground mines. This was followed by another four, he said. The PNP dispersed last July 7 the Nayak picketline and escorted another busload of new recruits into the Nayak tunnel.

Workers were not able to confront the newly-hired workers since the PNP aimed their firearms at them.

Two days after (July 9), another dispersal happened at the LCMCo’s Tubo picket line.

Provincial council for Lepanto striking workers

Meanwhile, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP, or Provincial Council) of La Trinidad in Benguet last June 27 passed Resolution No.05-213 which calls on the Police Regional Office through Chief Supt. Noe Wong to “exert maximum tolerance and non-violence” with regard to the strike at LCMCo.

The resolution was passed as a result of reports from the media and the LEU that the PNP deployed at the labor dispute site violently dispersed the Tubo and Nayak picketlines last June 18 and 21, respectively. In the resolution, the SP recognized the union’s statement that the PNP deployment was an overkill.

The SP pointed out that the “primary function of the PNP is to maintain public safety (and) peace and order.”

Last July 1, the SP’s Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) provided medical assistance to the families of the striking workers. This was made possible through SP Resolution No. 05-216. The latter was passed following reports of the company hospital closure and the alleged non-admittance of patients related to the striking workers.

Nida Tundagui of the KMU-Cordillera added that the SP’s two resolutions only show the broad support for the striking workers despite the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Assumption of Jurisdiction order.

“After all, it is government’s responsibility to help the striking workers”, she said. Nordis / Posted by Bulatlat

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