'They're not criminals': Vico Sotto backs arrested workers in labor strike

MANILA, Philippines – Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto on Sunday, November 17, publicly sided with the detained workers of Regent Foods Corporation (RFC), expressing disappointment in its management for taking a hardline stance in the ongoing labor dispute. 

"To the management of Regent Foods Corporation: These people are not criminals; they do not have the goal of hurting you. They are fighting for what they believe to be just. You can continue with the labor dispute without sending the poor and powerless to jail! I condemn the misuse of your privileged position to suppress the rights of your protesting workers. If you want to have a healthy relationship with our city, I highly suggest you rethink your position," Sotto said on his Facebook page.

Sotto vowed to help the remaining detained Regent workers post bail by Monday, November 18. 

What happened? The strike and the arrests took place on Saturday, November 9. According to Sotto, the food company outsourced security personnel to disperse the strike, leading to an explosion of violence. The mayor said he saw videos of the private security personnel kicking workmen "as they lay on the ground."

A total of 23 people were arrested: 20 workers; 2 members of another labor organization; and as Sotto recounted, a tricycle driver who only came to the scene as a bystander.

The workers were charged with physical injury, resistance and disobedience, as well as alarm and scandal.

Sotto said he asked Regent's bosses, Irwin See and Susan See, to drop the charges against the 23. Sotto said he was informed on Saturday, November 16, that the company will "just trust the judicial process".

The workers' strongest ally. The Pasig Mayor fumed at the company's reasoning, saying it was "easy to say as multimillionaires who will eat [three times] a day no matter what happens here; while the people they have sued have recently lost their main source of income and are now even torn away from their families."

"In view of the foregoing, I will do everything within my power to help these 23 regain [and] maintain their liberty. 12 of them have already posted bail (including the tricycle driver, for whom around a dozen of us pooled in money to raise the amount needed). Yesterday, [Saturday] afternoon, I talked to the 11 still inside, and assured them that I will personally make sure that they are out on bail by Monday," Sotto said.

In July, Sotto scolded Zagu Foods Corporation for attempting to stop a labor strike, stressing to one of its factory administrators that organizing strikes was "their right as stated by law." – Rappler.com

 

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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