Falsely-charged workers may lose temporary freedom after bail increase

  Dear friends and partners,   The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights is seeking your support for the campaign of Karnation 20, a group of workers detained for three years due to false criminal charges after launching a strike in 2007 against unfair labor practices of the company management. At present, the workers are temporarily out of prison after posting bail through a surety bond in 2010. However, the new presiding judge has decided in favor of a bail increase worth Php20,000 filed by the management (See related article). The workers, after appealing to the court, were given until December 31, 2011 to post the additional bail. Failure to pay the bail increase on time will result to the issuance of another warrant of arrest and detention of the falsely charged workers. The workers however have no means of raising the additional bail on their own. Their meager income can barely support their daily needs as most of them are easily discriminated from regular jobs because of their unresolved criminal case.   Case Summary On May 2, 2007, twenty workers and members of then newly-formed local chapter of Congress Labor Organization (CLO) went on strike and picketed the front gate of the PINCOCO compound in protest against illegal dismissal, non-payment of holiday pay, 13th month pay, night differential and salary that was  only half of the P320 mandated daily minimum wage at the time. The strikers were: Sonny M. Batuyang, 42, married, residing at Brgy. Tumana, Marikina City; Claro M. Claridad, 32, married, residing at Nangka Marikina City; Romeo M. Amit, 41, married, residing at Brgy. San Isidro Taytay, Rizal; Andy S. Salarzon, 29, single, residing at Concepcion, Marikina City; Jessie A. Bergonia, 25, residing at Brgy.Tumana, Marikina City; Rodolfo D. Mendoza, 34, residing at Village East Ascona St., Cainta, Rizal; Melanio A. Delovino, 33, residing at Villa Tupaz, San Juaquin, Pasig City; Renato B. Lopez, 36, residing at A. Bonifacio Ave., Cainta, Rizal; Crisanto D. Sabatin, 21, residing at Urdaneta City, Pangasinan; Emuel Vergara, 28, residing at Village East Ascona St., Cainta, Rizal; Richard P. Sabuco, 30, residing at Brgy. Sta. Ana, Taytay, Rizal; Joseph M. Atienza, 37, residing at Marikina Heights, Marikina City; Julius S. Alcantara, 40, residing at Barangay San Isidro, Taytay, Rizal; Polido I. Bagono Jr., 33, residing at Gulod, Novaliches, Quezon City; Bobby A. Maglay, 34, residing at Brgy. Tumana, Marikina City; Robert B. Camagay, 26, Brgy. San Isidro, Taytay, Rizal; Leo D. Sabatin, 22, residing at Bautista, Pangasinan; Jason T. Alvarez, 25, residing at Loveros, Antipolo City; Melvic Lupe, 29, residing at Parola, Cainta, Rizal and; Leo C. Paro, 25, single, residing at Parang, Marikina City. They left the gate open, without any blockade enabling the company to operate continuously. Vehicles, employers, and residents come and leave the compound without hitches. On May 9, 2007, the management of Karnation Industries and so-called Pansy Accessories- (a company operating in the same compound as Karnation and believed to have been owned by Karnation) alleged that the strikers padlocked the gate of the compound thus detaining them for eight consecutive days. The workers vehemently denied the accusations.  On the same day, a temporary restraining order was issued by the vice-executive judge of the regional trial court of Antipolo with Civil Case No. 07-8190. On May 10, 2007 the workers were arrested and carried to Hill Top Police Station where they were immediately detained without undergoing preliminary investigation.  They were charged of Serious Illegal Detention, Grave Coercion, Malicious Mischief, Alarms and Scandal, and Resistance and Disobedience to a Person in Authority. The workers asked the assistance of a private lawyer who did not show up after a few hearings and after receiving what the workers called as attorney’s fees. The union organizer abandoned them and did not see him since their detention. During the hearing, the complainants also presented pictures of the padlocked gate while workers were striking outside the compound. The latter contended that the workers shown on the pictures were unknown to them and clearly do not resemble like their own faces. On June 15, 2007, 4th Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Esperanza G. Arceo-Paras issued a resolution holding the detained workers criminally liable of illegal detention. Prosecutor Arceo-Paras also ruled that in the case of complainants Willy Sia, Ma. Teresa Costales, Milo Guido, and Elly Carsula of Pansy Accessories Corporation, no existing employer-employee relation exists between the complainants and respondents and considered the former as “innocent bystanders.”  She also ruled that the crime of Grave Coercion should be absorbed by the crime of Serious Illegal Detention and that no bail is recommended for the said case. Charges of Malicious Mischief and Alarms and Scandals were dismissed since not enough evidences were presented. The Pansy Accessories Corporation – one of the two complainants claimed to be separate and distinct from Karnation Industries and Export, Inc. although it holds the same office with Karnation Industries at 350 Irma St., Marick Subdivision, Cainta, Rizal. The workers alleged that Karnation Industries uses the name of Pansy Accessories Corporation when dealing with their business partners in other countries. Workers also added that salaries of employees from Pansy Accessories Corporation and Karnation Industries and Export, Inc. come from the same department, and that the company rules in Karnation Industries and Export, Inc. is the same with that of the Pansy Accessories Corporation. On September 26, 2007, Provincial Prosecutor Gregorio A. Arizala issued a contrary resolution. Prosecutor Arizala gave significant weight on the Batas Pambansa Blg. 227, which states that “before any case (arising out of a labor dispute) is filed with, or before the same is submitted to the courts, the labor dispute should be allowed to be ventilated before the Ministry of Labor or the office of the President as the case may be, in order that we may attain the industrial peace which is primordial objective of this law.”  Thus he issued a decision granting the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the workers and the information in the instant case be ordered withdrawn and the accused released from detention.” However, on October 20, 2007, Presiding Judge Ma. Teresa Cruz San Gabriel denied the Motion to Withdraw Information and upheld Prosecutor Arceo-Paras’ resolution that the respondents indeed padlocked the gate and detained private complainants. Since October 2007, the case dragged on until July of 2009, when Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr. took over the case following CTUHR intervention. Previous counsels for the complainants come and go, as the latter did not have a single centavo to pay. Relatives’ jail visits became infrequent, as they too ran out of finances and no one to ask for support to pursue the case. Four months into detention, the workers were transferred to Karangalan Police Station where they were detained until their Petition for Bail was granted on November 2009. Prison conditions proved to be terribly miserable where forty to fifty inmates had to fit in a 50 to 60 square meter cell. Because of these sever condition, inmates develop respiratory ailments and skin diseases. Just more than a year after detention, Melvic Lupe died of respiratory complications. CTUHR learned of the plight of the Karnation 20 in November 2008, Mrs. Consejo Sabuco, mother of one of the detainees, Richard Sabuco, walked into CTUHR’s office and sought for help. CTUHR used various channels seeking dialogue with the local government, writing letter to the RTC judge to address the case of the detained workers. CTUHR began assisting the workers by being present during hearings beginning 2009. Alongside this, CTUHR also began campaigning to its network in the Philippines and abroad the situation and call for justice for the Karnation 20. In July 2009, Atty. Remigio Saladero of PLACE (Pro Labor Legal Assistance Center) finally took over the case. CTUHR continued with its campaign and brought the case to the attention of the International Labor Organization High Level Mission (ILO-HLM) in September 2010. The matter became most urgent when Mr. Leo Paro, died in detention also due to respiratory complications during the ILO-HLM (September 25, 2010). In November 2009, presiding Judge San Gabriel ruled in favour of giving temporary release for the Karnation workers for a bail amounting to P60 000. Fifteen of the workers got released before the end of 2009. The remaining three however, were not able to muster sufficient amount of bail until the end of March 2010. After gaining temporary freedom, the workers of Karnation pursued their labor case against Karnation Inc. and recently won their labor case. See related article. In July 25, new presiding Judge Sheila Marie A. Ignacio denied with finality the Motion for Reconsideration (MR) to not implement a bail increase of Php 20,000 citing that there is “no congent reason to disturb the ruling embodied,” previously ordered by Judge Ma. Teresa Cruz-San Gabriel who inhibited from the case after she denied the MR of Karnation Industries to revoke the bail grant. Suggested Action Please support our campaign to raise funds for the bail increase worth Php 20,000 for each of the workers. You can either; 1. Send your donations directly at CTUHR Peso account at Banco de Oro Quezon Avenue-Heroes Hills Branch under Account Name, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights Inc. with Savings Account Number 002010066193 (for deposit overseas, Swift Code: BNORPHMM). 2. Ask your friends and networks to also support this fund raising endeavor.   Also, kindly write letters to the authorities urging them to: 1. Expedite the resolution of the criminal charges against Karnation 20. 2. Uphold and implement the resolution of ILO GB last March 2010 to dismiss criminal charges against the Karnation 20 when such cases are proven to be related to their exercise of right to strike.   You can send your letters to: His Excellency Benigno Aquino III President Republic of the Philippines Malacanang Palace JP Laurel Street, San Miguel Manila 1005, Philippines Fax: +63 2 736 1010 Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80   Hon. Leila de Lima Secretary Department of Justice Padre Faura St. Malate, Manila, Philippines 1000 E-mail: soj@doj.gov.ph   Hon. Loretta Ann P. Rosales Chairperson Commission on Human Rights SAAC Bldg., UP Complex Commonwealth Avenue Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines 928-5655, 926-6188 Telefax: 929-0102 chair.rosales.chr@gmail.com   Ms. Rosalinda Baldoz Secretary 7/F DOLE Building, Intramuros Manila NCR 1002 PHILIPPINES Tel: +63 2 527 2131 E-mail: sec_art_brion@yahoo.com.ph   Honorable Sheila Marie Ignacio Presiding Judge Branch 80 Rizal Regional Trial Court Morong Rizal, 1960 Philippines     Please furnish us a copy of the mails you will be sending to the authorities. Cc  it to pie.ctuhr@gmail.com or to our mailing address Rm 702 Culmat Bldg. 126 E. Rodriguez Avenue, Quezon City 1102 Philippines. You can also fax it thru +632.411.0256. Thank you very much for your support. Union organizing is a right not a crime. Defend Trade Union Rights, Protect the Workers. Stop the killings! Uphold Freedom to form Unions!   Sincerely,         Center for Trade Union and Human Rights ctuhr.org