Prosecutor orders release of students, journalists, 14 other protesters
The 19 students, journalists and protesters arrested and detained by police after the violent dispersal of a workers’ protest on Monday were ordered released for further investigation by a Bulacan prosecutor.
Meycauayan City prosecutor Frederick Malapit on Tuesday dismissed for “lack of probable cause” the physical injury charges filed against two University of the Philippines-Diliman students and three journalists covering the strike against condiments giant NutriAsia Inc.
Malapit, however, retained the charges of alarm and scandal and illegal assembly against them.
Police identified the UP students as Jon Angelo Bonifacio and Psalty Joy Caluza, an intern of AlterMidya, a national network of independent and progressive media outfits headed by former UP-Mass Communications dean Luis V. Teodoro.
The other journalists were Hiyasmin Saturay, Avon Ang, and Jess Tandoc of AlterMidya.
The 19 were arrested on Monday after police and NutriAsia security guards tangled with protesters manning a monthlong picket line at the company’s compound in Meycauayan, Bulacan.
Both sides claimed that the other party started the violence.
The Commission on Human Rights and the Philippine National Police said they had begun their own investigation of the incident.
The National Union of People’s Lawyers said it would file criminal and administrative charges against the NutriAsia management, as well as the police and security guards involved.
The Nagkaisa labor coalition, meanwhile, called for a boycott of NutriAsia’s products “to force the company to improve its treatment of workers” who, it said, were merely calling for their regularization.
In February, the Department of Labor and Employment found NutriAsia to be engaged in illegal labor-only contracting and directed the company to regularize close to a thousand workers.
NutriAsia manufactures popular condiments Silver Swan soy sauce, Datu Puti vinegar, Mang Tomas lechon sauce, and UFC and Papa catsup. —With reports from Melvin Gascon, Jaymee T. Gamil and Jovic Yee
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