“In the five years that the union has existed, it has succeeded in the struggle for regularization when the workers went on strike in 2017, sorted out the union fund after the previous leadership left nothing, conducted multiple series of educational discussions to help the workers understand their rights, its leaders have studied how to best run the union in order to serve its workers, and advanced the struggle for livable wages and benefits through [Collective Bargaining Agreements].”
By JUSTIN UMALI
SANTA ROSA, Laguna – Harassment and accusations of being linked with communist groups continue against workers of the Coca-Cola FEMSA plant in Santa Rosa in the days leading up to their local union elections.
According to watchdog Defend Coca-Cola Workers, police and intelligence officers visited the houses of Coca-Cola workers to dissuade them from voting the incumbent union’s slate in the upcoming June 23 local elections, claiming that “Team Roger” had links to the revolutionary New People’s Army (NPA).
“It seems like the capitalists have run out of tricks that even during the campaign period they do not wish to give union members the freedom to practice their right to campaign,” said the group in a statement posted on their Facebook account.
In a video posted by the group, two unidentified men were talking to the wife of a union member, ostensibly to dissuade her husband from participating in union activities.
The group also reported an incident where at least three individuals went to the house of a union officer to intimidate him. The individuals introduced themselves as members of the Philippine National Police, and two of them identified themselves as Sacyanan Gerbel and Luis Mario Cuevas Yusi.
A third individual refused to give their name.
The individuals informed the labor leader that their “comrades have surrendered” and that they should “clear their name as leaders of the CPP-NPA.” They then mentioned that should the Anti-Terrorism Bill be passed then they will use it to “hunt down the terrorists.”
Defend Coca-Cola Workers decried the incidents, stating that it was “evidence that the bloodthirsty police and military will use and abuse the Anti-Terror Bill to intimidate and illegally arrest the people.”
The group contended that the incidents were in line with the upcoming union elections. “There is clear collusion between the capitalists at Coke and the AFP/PNP in going house-to-house with the opportunist turncoats Raffy Baylosis and Rey Medellin,” the statement read.
Both Baylosis and Medellin have figured before as labor leaders-turned-police assets in the previous months.
Baylosis was former president of Liga na Pinalakas ng Manggagawa sa Coca-Cola FEMSA Philippines Sta. Rosa Plant (LIGA). In 2018, they staged a picket demanding regularization for 675 contractual employees, some of which have worked in the plant for 18 years. Baylosis and the other contractual employees succeeded in their call and were subsequently regularized.
On May 1, Baylosis acted a spokesperson for 16 Coca-Cola employees who were presented as “NPA surrenderees” during a sham ceremony in Camp Vicente Lim, Calamba. The 16 employees were taken to the military camp immediately after their shift the day before, with vague explanations of what was going on.
Medellin was also a former high-ranking labor leader who was himself a victim of harassment and red-tagging from a certain Tom Garcia owing to his union involvement. He was also plagued with financial trouble and struggled to raise his 10 children.
Last March 29, Medellin appeared in Camp Vicente Lim as “Rebo”, posing as one of 40 “surrendered” New People’s Army soldiers. A few days later, Medellin was identified visiting union leaders’ houses with the PNP to coerce them to surrender as “members” of the NPA.
The workers of Coca-Cola remain steadfast despite the threats, and have asserted that their union was a true union serving the workers’ interests.
“In the five years that the union has existed,” Defend Coca-Cola Workers stated, “it has succeeded in the struggle for regularization when the workers went on strike in 2017, sorted out the union fund after the previous leadership left nothing, conducted multiple series of educational discussions to help the workers understand their rights, its leaders have studied how to best run the union in order to serve its workers, and advanced the struggle for livable wages and benefits through [Collective Bargaining Agreements].”