BY JOHN AARON MARK MACARAEG
MANILA–Tita Cudiamat, president of Regent Food Union, marched from España to Mendiola, Nov. 15 and decried the arrests of her fellow Regent Food Corporation workers five days before.
Her husband Bassilio is among the 22 workers detained and charged with physical injury, resistance and disobedience, as well as alarm and scandal.
The 40-year old union leader said that since Bassilio was arrested, she has not seen her husband. Her co-workers fear that she might get arrested too due to news of her also having an arrest warrant.
Cudiamat maintained that the dispersal on Nov. 10 is illegal.
The Regent workers were having their breakfast at their picketline in Kalawaan, Pasig City when a group of men wearing security guard uniforms came.
A few minutes later, Cudiamat said a number of policemen arrived. Cudiamat said they were expecting the police “would mediate between them and the goons.”
The policemen, however, questioned the legality of their strike. Cudiamat and her team then showed their notice of strike but it did not stop the state forces to disperse them.Her co-workers sustained bruises
The policemen then arrested 24 workers but later freed one. Out of the 23, two are from Defend Job Philippines and another tricycle driver who happened to pass by the picketline.
Cudiamat said that there was already an ongoing talk between their union and management as proposed by the National Labor Relations Commission.
Both parties were told to submit a position paper on Nov. 25 and their respective replies to be filed on December 11.
Their picketline in Taguig was also dispersed.
The union is looking into filing countercharges against the Regent management, the Philippine National Police, and security agency.
Struggle for just work
Tita has been working for 20 years in Regent Food Corps as repacker while her husband has been working for 25 years. Their wages, however, remained “pakyawan” or fixed rate.
Faced with possible lockout, the workers went on strike.
“We heard that they are planning to get the machines out of the building and lock the gates. We knew we just cannot let that happen,” said Cudiamat.
Cudiamat described how the owners insulted them. Twice, the company owner Ricky See raised his middle finger towards them while he was entering the gate.His sister, Susan, meanwhile taunted them by throwing pieces of five-peso coins at them. Cudiamat said these incidents show that the company never acknowledged their hardwork.
Snacku, Tempura, and Cheese Ring are some of the products made by Regent Foods Corporation.
Cudiamat and the union union still believe on the process of law even if the latter is being weaponized against them—unionists and other activists.
“We will continue to be resolute in this fight. For us, our work is our life. This is not only for ourselves but also for those who depend on us,” Cudiamat said.
Attacks on unionists
The Regent workers were joined by other trade union activists. Just last week, Ceres Bus workers have been freed after they were arrested while while consulting with the regional office of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) in Bacolod City.
Military claimed that communists were holding trainings at the offices of KMU, Gabriela and Bayan Muna. Progressive organizations decried the raids and the filing of trumped-up charges against activists.
For Gerry Serue, KMU vice chairperson, the series of arrests shows how President Rodrigo Duterte treats unionists as enemies of the state.
“We are making it clear that none of our lines is a terrorist,” said Serue.“Upholding worker’s welfare and rights is what we do.”
Protest actions were also held in Cebu City PNP Region 7 Headquarters, IloIlo City, Cabuyao City Municipal Hall. Solidarity actions were also conducted in Australia and Indonesia.