Labor group condemns violence in dispersal of workers protest

April 17, 2013
A Pentagon workers shows the wounds he got from the police dispersal of their picket.

The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights condemned the violence employed by members of the Quezon City Police District to stop the protest of some 129 workers of Pentagon Steel Corporation on April 15 in Bgy. Apolonio Samson, Quezon City.

“We condemn the violent dispersal of the [workers’] protest done by members of Quezon City police, eight of whom were even wearing civilian clothes, which led to injuries and arrest of several Pentagon workers,” said Arman Hernando, CTUHR coordinator for documentation.

Six workers of Pentagon Steel Corporation were arrested and detained while seven others were injured in a violent dispersal of workers protest on April 15 in front of the company gate in Bgy. Apolonio Samson, Quezon City. The dispersal was initially carried out by armed men in civilian clothes until members of the Quezon City police intervened to stop the protest.

Arrested and detained were Gilbert Garcia, 35, Jerry Mira, 47, Bautista Unggaya, 35, Arnel Pandungan, 38, Angelo Pandungan, 41, and Nestle Gabriel, 36. The six workers were charged with grave coercion and resistance and disobedience. The following day, 6 PM of April 16, they were released and charges against them were referred for further investigation as the policemen who arrested them violated the guidelines in conducting a warrantless arrest and because their cause for arrest rooted from a labor dispute.

“The police officers’ action in this case clearly violated the workers right to free assembly. It is only just that the arrested workers have been freed. But the policemen who harassed them should be held liable for their misdeeds,” Hernando averred.

According to Center for Trade Union and Human Rights report, 129 workers of Pentagon were peacefully having a protest action on April 15 when eight men in civilian clothes started pushing them away from the company gate. These men reportedly showed their pistols to the protesting workers and threatened to use their firearms if the workers push closer to the company gate. Workers were reportedly hit with metal handcuffs while others were electrocuted using a handheld electrocuting device. Moments later, policemen from three police vehicles intervened in the scuffle. But instead of preventing the armed men from harassing the workers, the policemen helped in breaking up the workers’ protest. In the inquest proceeding, the eight armed men who initially harassed the protesting workers turned out to be police officers from La Loma PNP.

Dispute with the management

The protest of the Pentagon workers started after 129 workers were unjustly dismissed following their protest action inside the factory on April 12. The following day, the workers who participated in the protest were not allowed to enter the company premises. This prompted the workers to hold a series of protest actions outside the factory calling for their reinstatement.

Earlier, six union members were suspended by the management on unclear grounds. The workers deem this act as “excessive” meant primarily to harass the union members who are not pro-management.
The workers of Pentagon are unionized under PTGWO-TUCP whose leadership has been exposed as pro-management in their local union election in 2010. A new set of union officers were elected which the management in connivance with the old union leadership prevented from taking power. From then on, the workers of Pentagon have consistently struggled for a more transparent collective bargaining agreement and better working conditions. Workers of Pentagon have long reported many cases of accidents in the workplace and absence of ventilation in the production site.

Stop undue dismissal

Hernando also conveyed unity with the workers demand to be brought back to work, “The management should settle the just demands of workers for a safer working environment, and a transparent CBA. It should also stop harassing union members who are fighting for the workers welfare.”

Hernando also expressed alarm over the growing number of unjust dismissal due to labor disputes. “This is not the first time that a case like this happened. Last year, another group of workers in PhilSteel in Laguna, were also dismissed after they protested their management’s violation of CBA.”

“The latest incident in Pentagon Steel Corp. shows how the government blatantly collaborates with the capitalists to ensure a ‘peaceful’ industrial climate at the detriment of workers’ rights. The environment for workers’ freedom is becoming worse despite the government’s claim that there is industrial peace. It appears that the kind of ‘peace’ being promoted by the government is unjust, and is actually opposed to workers rights and freedoms,” Hernando added. ###