By Ruben S. Belmonte, Jr.
Defend Coca-Cola Workers condemned the harassment of nine plant workers by the state forces in the middle of their shift on Thursday, as they were incited to surrender as members of the New People’s Army (NPA), and the said act also violated the workers constitutional right to organize.
According to a report received by Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (PAMANTIK-KMU), one of the nine workers said that they were invited by Jury Montellana, standing president of the Liga ng Manggagawa para sa Regular na Hanapbuhay sa planta ng Coca-Cola (LIGA). While 11 contractual workers were originally being called, only 9 of them went.
The said workers were taken to Camp Macario Sacay in Los Baños for interrogation and they were met by a large number of people and one of whom they immediately recognized was Rey Medellin, one of Coca-Cola’s known labor leaders. Nonetheless, Medellin has now been actively serving as an asset of the Philippine National Police (PNP) CALABARZON Regional Office and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) whose work is to point out several labor leaders and eventually going to its houses for interrogation.
On the said interrogation, the workers were asked several questions such as who teaches them, what they are studying about, and whether they have already taken their oath [as alleged members of the NPA]. However, it is part of being in a worker’s organization to actually attend educational discussions where they take courses such as Kurso sa Tunay, Palaban at Makabayang Unyonismo, Union Administration, Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) Tactics, and labor laws.
The alliance explained that the state forces took advantage on the current conditions of the workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the harassment of unarmed workers and accused them as being part of the NPA.
The workers were also promised that they would be made regular as long as they would not take any further participation to progressive movements.
According to the organization, capitalists wanted to retract the victories of the labor movement, especially noting that last 2013 and 2018, contractual workers in Coca-Cola successfully launched a strike obtaining reasonable work benefits and regularization. They tend to relate such revolutionary movement by the workers as actions by the NPA.
Article XIII, Section 3 of the 1987 Constitution provides the right of all workers to “self-organization, collective bargaining and negotiations, and peaceful concerted activities, including the right to strike in accordance with law”. Article 211 of the Labor Law, meanwhile, states that “It is the policy of the State to promote free trade unionism as an instrument for the enhancement of democracy and the promotion of social justice and development”. [P]