By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Three security guards working for Pentagon Steel Corporation were run over by the company’s delivery six-wheeler truck early afternoon Saturday July 13. It was not an accident. According to Pentagon Steel workers manning the union’s picketline by the company gates, the ‘scab’ driving the truck had accelerated going out of the factory gate, despite seeing the protesters lined up and chanting by the gate. The truck was loaded with steel wires and other finished steel products. The workers said they were apparently the intended victim of the speeding truck.
“They (the driver and whoever was in command inside the factory premises) thought the workers are standing by the side of the street outside the company gate. Being a scab, the driver didn’t immediately recognize who was who,” Nards Almoete, 44, a machine operator for 20 years in Pentagon Steel, told Bulatlat.com. The workers believed the truck driver was told to run them over. He was to bring out of the factory some finished steel products.
More than 150 Pentagon long-time workers have put up a picket protest at the gate of Pentagon Steel Corp in Apolonio Samson village, Quezon City, since April 13 this year, in protest against the company’s alleged illegal lock-out. Since then, the protesters have reportedly suffered harassments, violence, even allegedly false arrest and imprisonment from the Quezon City police and various armed groups employed by Pentagon Steel Corp.
This Saturday afternoon, Almoete explained that the protesters had sensed the management and its various armed security groups were planning something. As the delivery truck emerged, it was apparent the management wanted to take out of the factory some finished steel products.
“We’re protesting the company’s moves to deliver finished products and employ scabs,” Jessicor G. Torres, a maintenance worker at Pentagon machine shop for 26 years, told Bulatlat.com. Although Pentagon has declared a lockout and allegedly dismissed illegally most of its workers, the company is trying to continue production but with workers who consented to being hired as contractuals.
“All scabs are being escorted inside by the police and Pentagon guards,” Tolosa said.
This July 13, the guards reportedly tried to occupy the entire street in front of the Pentagon gate to allow for the delivery truck’s passage. As the protesters stood near the gates with their placards, chanting against the company’s illegal lock-out, the loaded truck reportedly backed up a few meters, but, after a while, sped off toward the gate without regard for the people it would likely hit.
The protesters said they dodged the truck, but the security guards were directly hit when the truck veered to their side of the gate as it accelerated down Apolonio Samson Street. Other guards were hit when the truck was forced to stop and to reverse. A total of three guards were directly hit, the protesters reported.
At least one of the security guards is now presumed dead, the protesters who witnessed the incident said. There were 60 protesters when the truck incident began; their number swelled by late afternoon as family members and supporters joined their picket in the street.
The workers said the loaded truck ran over the victim and another security guard before it was forced to stop. It took about half an hour before the victims were removed from under the truck by other Pentagon security guards and the police. The third victim whose foot was severed reportedly had to wait for an hour before he was brought to the hospital; he was taken there via a tricycle, the workers said.
The police and the Pentagon guards allowed the truck with the same driver to leave with its cargo as soon as the victims were removed from the scene.
‘Police just looked on’
Columns of policemen were lined across the street the whole time the scab truck driver was revving up to drive out of the gate, despite the presence there of the protesting workers, said Jowie Dubluis, 37, a worker at Pentagon since 1994. He added that when the driver accelerated, some of the police signaled him to stop, but the driver only sped off, resulting in its running over the security guards. It was then forced to stop, until other Pentagon security guards and policemen have removed the victims.
Members of the police force who were at the sidewalk across Pentagon told Bulatlat.com they were not there when the incident happened about two or three hours before. Another group of police was reportedly there, but they were replaced after the victims were moved.
“The security guards are pitiable,” Almoete told Bulatlat.com. While two of the three victims were just lying on the ground for about half an hour, the one with the severed foot was crying out, but he was brought to a hospital only after an hour, Almoete said.
The protesters said there was nothing they could do, the truck headed to the street by veering to the side of the gate where the security guards went. At the other side of the gate was the workers’ picketline.
Almoete said it was inconceivable that they are being blamed for the incident. In the first place, the truck accelerated despite the likelihood of hitting people on its way. The company illegally locked them out, only to restart production.
After the truck left, stones and acid flew to the direction of the protesters. “The scabs went to the gate and climbed the concrete fence to throw stones and acid at us,” Almoete said. Many of the protesters were forced to cross the street to avoid being hit. At least four protesters had to be treated for wounds and burns.
The protesters said they asked the police to stop the scabs from throwing stones at their picket, but the protesters said the police just looked on. Some policemen even reportedly tried to use their truncheon on the retreating workers. They questioned also why the police did not arrest the truck driver.
While scabs and security personnel of Pentagon were pelting the protesters with stones and acid, some of Pentagon’s security personnel destroyed the strikers’ belongings which had been left under the picket’s makeshift tent. “They carted off our water drum, pail, basin,” Almoete said, adding “They destroyed our megaphone and amplifier.”
The protesters managed to hold on to their kitchen utensils, as some of them returned to secure that part of their picketline. In fact, even as the police, the scabs with their faces covered, and the security forces of Pentagon, were shouting threats or looking menacingly at the protesters, some of the protesters managed to continue cooking their evening meal at the picketline farther from the Pentagon gate.
Tension continued until evening. Pentagon scabs and security guards lined up by Pentagon’s gate to shout obscenities and threats at the protesters. The protesters responded by chanting their demands, which include safe and humane working conditions, the company firing anti-communist Pablito Alcover from its security group, and the workers resuming their old jobs as longtime regular workers.