As The Bamboos Sway: Nutriasia, a microcosm of Duterte’s unfufilled promises

By RUDY D. LIPORADA
www.nordis.net

NutriAsia is the manufacturer of what make Filipino food more palatable. The company produces the popular condiments Datu Puti vinegar, Mang Tomas sauce, Silver Swan Soy Sauce, and UFC ketchup among others. The recent strike of its workers and dispersal of picket lines by the Philippine National Police (PNP), however, now leave a bitter taste on the palates of those who continue to do “sawsaw” their food with the company’s “pampasaraps.” Moreover, the ongoing strike reflects the failure of President Rodrigo (Digong) Duterte’s promises in terms of ending contractualization or ENDO, corruption, increasing wages of workers, discouraging OFW work or bring home OFWs, and, overall, on whose side should the government be anyway?

For years, employees like Jornell Quiza, 28, had been shuffled from one section to another of the company, receiving Php380.00 a day as a contractual worker, receiving no other benefits and even paying for his own gears like uniforms. This after working for the company for the last seven years. Simplest meals with a bowl of rice at an SM FoodCourt could range from P50 to P250. Assuming that, to save, a family cooks its own food, there is still the fare to work to consider, the school needs of children, and other daily needs. Considering the further escalation of the cost of products and services due, in large part, with the devaluation of the peso vis-à-vis the dollar, Quiza must work more than overtime to barely make ends meet.

A tinge of alleviation to Quiza’s slave like situation should have come last February. Back then, the Department of Labor and Employment had ordered NutriAsia to place over 900 workers in permanent positions for it has found that the company engaged contractors to hire workers on only contractual basis. Moreover, DOLE bared that NutriAsia was violating other labor laws and general labor standards.

To date, NutriAsia had not complied with DOLE’s orders.

Thus, the strike.

Quiza and his co-workers wanted nothing more than NutriAsia implement the orders of DOLE and asking that 900 of them be absorbed by the company to be permanent employees having the just wages of such employees and receiving benefits due them.

Instead of the labor dispute being settled amicably, however, workers at the picket lines were violently dispersed by Philippine National Police elements (PNP), NutriAsia’s security force and alleged goons on July 30. NutriAsia and PNP Chief of Meycauyan, Bulacan Supt Santos Mera said that the protesters started the melee when the protesters started to throw rocks at the police. Nineteen were arrested. A certain Edwin Barana was also arrested for allegedly firing a caliber .22 pistol and for having 4 sachets of shabu. He had claimed he was part of the protesters.

However, Reverend Marvin de Leon, one of the priests who held a mass before violence erupted, refuted the police’s claim. Edwin Barana, who the workers denied being one of them, also, alleged later claimed that he was coerced by police elements to mingle with the protesters. This is a shade of Marcosian style of old where instigators were planted among protesters to justify attacks on the protesters.

Included in the arrest are US based journalists covering the strike. Hiyas Saturay, Eric Tandoc, Avon Ang and Psalty Caluza are with Altermidya, a national network of alternative media outfits. They claim that media equipment including video cameras worth $20,000.00 were confiscated from them. Although now released from prison, they were earlier denied visitation rights and access to lawyers.

President Duterte had not made any public statement regarding the incident and ongoing labor dispute. Instead, it is Vice President Leny Robledo who has demanded a full-scale investigation on the incident. Clearly, this is not the first time that Digong displays his anti-labor and anti-poor stance. This incident also reflects his failure to fulfill his promise to end ENDO within the time frame he has set.

Moreover, he has doubled the salary of his PNP force but, apart from those he calls scalawags, the attitude of the force towards the poor remain inimical. The force protects the capitalists instead of the masses, a simple shade of the Digong regarding them as “patay gutom” and “wala siyang pakialam sa inyo,”

Moreover, unless Digong really resolves the continuous downward spiral of the economy with the sharp dive of the peso, only as an offshoot, resulting in steep spiral of prices of goods and services without corresponding employment opportunities or increase in wages, there will be more strikes such as at NutriAsia. The conditions prevailing in Philippine businesses like NutriAsia also push workers to seek greener pastures overseas even if they suffer being away from their families at the least and maltreatment, even death, at the hands of their foreign employers. It makes one wonder where is the call of Digong for OFWs to come home for there are jobs for them in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, boycotts of “sawsawans” from NutriAsia should, ironically, make Filipino food more palatable. Their being salty taste like blood anyway. # nordis.net

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