Updated July 30, 5:47 p.m.
Nineteen NutriAsia workers and supporters were arrested as 100 elements of the Meycauyan Police and security guards dispersed the picketline just outside the factory in Marilao, Bulacan.
In a phone interview with Bulatlat, NutriAsia worker William Espiritu said the violence started at around 3. pm. today, July 31.
While an ecumenical mass was going on, some 300 workers and supporters were sitting on the road when the security guards started pushing the workers using police’s shields. After a few minutes, the policemen and guards hit the protesters with rattan sticks and threw stones at them.
“They kept on striking us, even as we raised our hands,” Espiritu told Bulatlat in a hurried voice. “They did not have any mercy.”
Espiritu said a dialogue between the management and their union is scheduled today. “We were ready to dismantle our picket if need be. Our only demand is to reinstate all the dismissed workers,” he said in Filipino.
One of the supporters, identified as Leticia Espino, a member of Kadamay from Pandi, Bulacan was among those hurt. A photograph posted by Anakbayan shows blood all over Espino’s mouth, spilling on her scarf and blouse.
Two others, Espiritu said, were brought to the hospital due to critical condition. At least 20 more were wounded and given first aid.
Nineteen were arrested and brought to Meycauayan Police Station, according to Karra Taggaoa, spokesperson of the League of Filipino Students (LFS). Among those arrested were Anakbayan Secretary General Einstein Recedes and LFS Secretary General Mark Quinto.
Feared apprehended were journalists covering the incident. According to Rhea Padilla, national coordinator of Altermidya, one of their volunteers, Hiyas Saturay sent her a message informing her that she and her colleagues Eric Tandoc, Avon Ang, Psalty Caluza were being taken by policemen.
Their phones could not be reached at the moment.
Another journalist, Rosemarie Alcaraz of Radyo Natin Guimba, was hurt when NutriAsia security guards hit her with rattan sticks and pushed her away. While filming the dispersal, a policeman hit her camera, a Canon 70D. “They knew that I’m a journalist. I’m wearing my ID,” Alcaraz told Bulatlat.
After the arrests and beatings, Espiritu said the policemen and security guards destroyed the workers’ makeshift tents and confiscated their laptops, cellphones, bags containing cash and personal belongings.
Espiritu said at least 20 motorcycles and some bicycles owned by NutriAsia workers were also taken by policemen and security guards and brought inside the NutriAsia compound.
NutriAsia workers began their strike on June 2 after management dismissed 50 workers. The NurtiAsia workers are also demanding regularization.