The police chief who ordered the dispersal of NutriAsia workers’ picket this afternoon claimed that they recovered guns and drugs from workers and their supporters.
Supt. Santos Mera, chief of Meycauayan police, told members of the Karapatan paralegal team that they will file charges against the 19 workers, supporters and journalists who are now detained at Meycauayan Police Station. Jose Mari Callueng, one of the paralegals, relayed this information to Bulatlat.
The 19 were arrested at around 3 p.m. as policemen and security guards dispersed some 300 workers and supporters attending an ecumenical mass just outside the NutriAsia factory in Marilao, Bulacan. Scores were injured as policemen and security guards hit the protesters with rattan sticks, metal rods and stones.
Among those arrested were four volunteers of Altermidya, a national network of alternative media outfits, who were covering the incident. They were Hiyas Saturay, Eric Tandoc, Avon Ang and Psalty Caluza.
When Jola Diones-Mamangun of Kodao Productions went to Meycauayan Police Station, policemen denied her team access to police records. When Mamangun asked about the status of her colleagues from Altermidya, a policeman told her they recovered guns and shabu from the journalists.
After a few minutes, Mamangun’s team was ordered to go out of the station. The police then closed the gates.
Two other reporters of Kodao Productions and Radyo Natin Guimba were hurt during the dispersal. Policemen attempted to grab the cameras of Rosemarie Alcaraz and Joseph Cuevas while they were filming the incident. Both were wearing their press ID when the attack happened.
In a statement, Altermidya called on the Philippine National Police to release their colleagues. “Such an assault violates freedom of the press and the public’s right to know,” the group said.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) likewise condemned the arrest of journalists. “The assault on and the possible apprehension of our colleagues is a clear attack on press freedom and highlights the increasing dangers journalists face,” the NUJP said.
As of press time, NutriAsia workers fear another round of dispersal tonight.