By RONALYN V. OLEA
The Meycauayan police claimed that one of those arrested yesterday at the NutriAsia dispersal had a hand gun and four sachets of shabu.
During the inquest proceedings this afternoon at the Office of City Prosecutor, the 14 NutriAsia workers and supporters and the five journalists arrested were charged with physical injuries, illegal assembly, alarm and scandal. The 20th suspect, a certain Edwin Barana was charged with violation of Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act), RA 10591 (Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition).
The Meycauayan police stated in its complaint that Barana, 39, a resident of barangay Langka, Meycauayan, was arrested along with NutriAsia workers at the picketline and that he was caught in possession of one caliber 22 revolver loaded with two live ammunition and four sachets of suspected shabu.
Detained NutriAsia workers, however, denied knowing Barana. According to Jose Mari Callueng, one of the paralegals who went to the Meycauayan Police Station last night, Barana also admitted that he was not part of the strike.
Barana was presented to the city prosecutor along with NutriAsia workers this afternoon.
In a Facebook post, the Unyon ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa sa NutriAsia said Barana also admitted before the fiscal today that he has been detained since 2016.
The NMN further said in Filipino, “He [Barana] was beaten up by cops to force him to pretend to be one of the workers. He was temporarily released and ordered to go with the arrested workers to make it appear like the workers were armed.”
Earlier, Supt. Santos Mera, chief of Meycauayan police, also claimed that those arrested had guns and drugs.
The same story line was being peddled by NutriAsia management to the media. In its press release posted yesterday, NutriAsia management said that “violence erupted when a minority, around 200 striking workers of Toll Packer BMirk and their supporters, fired a shot in the air and started to hurl rocks at police and guards tasked to maintain peace and order in the area.”
Accounts from a NutriAsia worker and fellow journalists covering the dispersal yesterday proved otherwise.
A video report from Altermidya shows how the security guards and policemen started hitting the protesters without any provocation. Policemen then arrested workers, supporters and even journalists covering the incident.
Workers arrested were identified as: Gerald Verano, Robert Sequio, Marylle Jons Peligro, Jeovellyn Bornales, Dannyboy Conel, Mark Eduard Ponce, Sedney Villamor and Daisy Jane Hapa.
Also arrested were youth leaders Einstein Recedes of Anakbayan and Mark Ezekiel Quinto of the League of Filipinos students and supporters from Kadamay-Pandi, Aileen Raganit and Imelda Rey.
Two other supporters, Nikkie John Abilar of the Church People Workers Solidarity and Jaime Castro, an audio operator, were also taken by police and detained.
Journalists who covered the incident were also arrested. They were Hiyas Saturay, Eric Tandoc, Avon Ang, Psalty Caluza of Altermidya and Jon Bautista of Scientia, student publication of UP College of Science.
NutriAsia workers began their strike on June 2 after management dismissed 50 workers. The NutriAsia workers are also demanding regularization.
NutriAsia is owned by Joselito Campos, worth P16.8 billion (US$ 905 million). Out of its 1,400 workers, only 100 are regular.
Its brands are Datu Puti, UFC, Papa, Mang Tomas, Jufran, Golden Fiesta & Happy Fiesta. (With reports from Adam Ang and Menchani Tilendo)