NutriAsia, PNP should apologize — and be held accountable

With the release of the 19 mostly-injured, detained and falsely-accused workers workers, advocates and journalists — NutriAsia and its cohorts in the Meycauayan PNP should be held accountable for the July 30 brutal dispersal.

The issuance of release orders proves that the cases filed are very weak and without substantive evidence.

We also have to point out the clear case of the failed use of “tanim-suspek” — where the Meycauayan PNP brought out, mauled and presented a detainee with no links whatsoever with the NutriAsia union and its supporters. The prosecutor saw through this brazen lie from NutriAsia and the Meycauayan PNP.

There are many indications that NutriAsia and the Meycauayan PNP have been and were in cahoots before, during and after the July 30 incident:

  1. The PNP and NutriAsia guards and goons made up the combined attack force that brutally hit on the workers, supporters and journalists right after the Ecumenical Mass. They destroyed the picketline and the stocks of food and water.
  2. The PNP and NutriAsia management presented similar fantastic and concocted stories that claimed the strikers and their supporters brought or had drugs, and that the protesters started the violence.
  3. The Meycauauan PNP swiftly produced an expensive tourist bus to ferry the arrested and detained NutriAsia 19 from the station to Malolos. Was the bus a contribution from NutriAsia?
  4. Both the Meycauayan PNP and NutriAsia management tried their worst to “manage the news” on the July 30 incident — whether to obtain favorable, albeit baseless, coverage, or kill the stories altogether.
  5. They’ve done it before, when the same cast of characters (NutriAsia guards and goons, and the Meycauauyan PNP attacked and dispersed the peaceful strikers last June 14). The featured image in this post was taken on that day.
Leti Retiza, bloodied by NutriAsia and the PNP

The PNP and NutriAsia guards and goons made the mistake of targeting, mauling and arresting journalists. The station chief and local police likewise banned journalists from the station premises. Asked by journalists why they were being turned away, the chief was quoted as saying “huwag niyo kaming gawing tanga”, implying that media attention and spotlight was that important.

The PNP also tried to prevent the NutriAsia 19 from being reached by  legal and paralegal volunteers who immediately sought to talk with them and to check them out. According to Jon Callueng, CEGP president and a paralegal, they were made to wait for hours before the Meycauayan PNP allowed them access to their clients. That is a violation of their fundamental rights as accused persons. Remember the Miranda rights — which includes the “right to have an attorney”?

We have yet to talk here of the brutality unleashed against the strikers and the supporters. Remember the photo of Leticia Retiza, or Ate Leti? The images of her bloodied face, hit by a stone coming from the ranks of the Meycauayan PNP and the NutriAsia guards and goons, will foreever haunt NutriAsia and its pretensions as a good company. Remember how the police mauled and dragged Jon Bonifacio — a UP MBB student, Oblation scholar, and summa cum laude candidate?

Jon Bonifacio, campus journalist, mauled and dragged by NutriAsia goons and the PNP

NutriAsia management and the Meycauayan PNP should immediately apologize, compensate their victims, and withdraw their false charges. Otherwise, they could be held liable before the courts of law and of public opinion. The boycott campaign is gaining support from consumers nationwide who were revolted by the violence perpetrated by or with hep from a condiments giant their loyal patronage helped build and who they thought were taking good care of their workers.

NutriAsia is making a dangerous gamble that the NutriAsia workers’ issues would go away through crisis PR and working in cahoots with the Bulacan PNP which is now led by the former Caloocan Police Chief made infamous by his men’s cold-blooded murder of Kian delos Santos and other youths.

In NutriAsia’s twisted logic, the combination of embracing the tactics of violence, disinformation through PR, and refusing to obey DOLE orders is better than doing what’s good and what’s legal for their workers.  As the boycott campaign shows, it is not working. No one is blaming the workers. Instead, there the outpouring of support for NutriAsia workers, the fury over the detention of the NutriAsia 19, and the boycott campaign.

Its friends should tell NutriAsia management that they are obviously making serious mistakes that could prove fatal to the brands like Mang Tomas, Datu Puti, Silver Swan, Papa, UFC and others. The power of these well-loved legacy brands created by Filipino entrepreneurs and which NutriAsia bought rests on the trust and loyalty of Filipino consumers

The Filipino consumers now begin to see NutriAsia as an irresponsible steward of these legacy brands, a tyrannical and selfish company, and in cahoots with brutal police forces.

NutriAsia can still salvage its remaining reputation by doing the right things: Apologize to the workers and the rest of the nation for its abusive practices and for the violence they helped perpetrate against the workers. Stop contractualization and regularize all workers. Recognize and negotiate with the union.

These should not be difficult or impossible for the country’s biggest condiments company.