By JUSTIN UMALI
Graphics by Dawn Peña
SANTA CRUZ, Laguna – Several workers at the Coca-Cola plant in Santa Rosa, Laguna province received text messages inviting them to a mysterious event, according to labor center Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (PAMANTIK-KMU).
In a March 18 report, PAMANTIK-KMU noted that an unknown number texted several Coca-Cola workers inviting them to an “oath taking” ceremony on March 29 at the PNP Region 4A headquarters in Camp Vicente Lim, Calamba, Laguna.
The group noted in its statement that last May 1, 2020, at least 16 Coca-Cola workers were invited to a similar event, which turned out to be a ceremony to present them as ‘surrenderees’ of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Prior to that, a similar “surrender ceremony” was conducted last March 29, 2020, also on Camp Vicente Lim. The incident involved 40 Coca-Cola workers who were presented as ‘NPA surrenderees.’
March 29 is a notable date because it is the anniversary of the New People’s Army. The NPA will have existed for 53 years this month.
PAMANTIK-KMU condemned the incident, stating that the workers of Coca-Cola only want “to be regularized at their workplace and receive a living wage.”
Since the start of the COVID-19 induced lockdown last March 2020, Coca-Cola workers in particular suffered repeated instances of threats, harassment, intimidation, and attempts to destroy their union. These range from attempts to dissuade them from joining the union, to visits from NTF-ELCAC personnel, to forced ‘surrender’ ceremonies in police camps such as Camp Vicente Lim and Camp Macario Sakay in Los Baños, Laguna.
In one instance last December 2021, unidentified people posted flyers around Santa Rosa and Cabuyao with the names and pictures of Coca-Cola workers. The flyers implied that they are members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
The attacks against Coca-Cola workers form a larger pattern of attacks against workers in the region, added PAMANTIK-KMU. From March 2020 to March 2022, there have been no less than 36 incidents against workers and unionists in Southern Tagalog, mostly concentrated in the province of Laguna.
There is a regular pattern in the nature of attacks against unionists, escalating from visits in the workplace and home visitations to the filing of trumped up charges, and in the worst instance, extrajudicial murder. In at least three instances, state agents have made it a point to dissuade workers from affiliating themselves with OLALIA-KMU, and have so far been ‘successful’ in two – Aichi Forge Philippines and Sun Logistics Philippines.
Despite the attacks, however, PAMANTIK-KMU asserts that unionism is a right. “The right to decent wages, benefits, and job security is something every worker should enjoy,” said Mia Antonio, PAMANTIK-KMU spokesperson in a statement to Bulatlat.
“Unions are integral to the struggle for those rights, because without a union, what do workers have?” she added. Antonio asserted that the attacks against workers and unionists is an “attack against the basic rights of workers” and serves “the interests of capital.” (RVO)