Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto’s recent actions to help the release of the detained workers of a food corporation was the second time he defended the rights of picketers against another big company since being elected last June.
A group of workers from Regent Foods Corporation figured in a violent clash with security guards and police officers last November 9 and got 23 of them arrested.
Weeks later, Sotto called on the corporation to rethink on the charges it filed against its employees. He was also pooling enough money to post bail for those who were arrested.
“These people are not criminals; they do not have the goal of hurting you. They are fighting for what they believe to be just,” part of his statement directed to the Regent management read.
He was only able to post about it last November 17 because he had to talk to both sides first, Sotto explained, and even informed Regent’s management of speaking up unless they drop the charges to the workers, touted as Regent 23 by the media.
“From the start, I have made it clear to both sides: as the local government, we cannot interfere with the labor issues at hand, as this is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Labor and Employment. However, when my constituents are being deprived of liberty as they fight for their rights as workers, I cannot sit around and do nothing,” he said.
The neophyte mayor likewise confronted the management of Zagu Foods corporation when he received a report that the workers who staged a strike that time also met a violent dispersal.
Seen in a video posted on Facebook, the management told him that they were only complying with the temporary restraining order of the National Labor Relations Commissioner or NLRC wherein protesters are not allowed to block the “ingress” or “egress” of the place.
The TRO does not prohibit protests, Sotto pointed out back then. The workers were also only picketing at the gate, therefore not causing inconvenience to anyone.
Following his post on the situation with Regent, Filipinos praised his courage to stand up on behalf of the people against a big entity.
I'm not putting politicians on pedestals and @VicoSotto's no exception—but his statement is such a clear-eyed take on why LGUs need to speak up and stand against systemic injustice.
He clearly states why we cannot simply trust judicial processes at the hands of the powerful. https://t.co/EAiKMBswKd
— Philip Jamilla (@pmjamilla) November 17, 2019
Some noted that he seemed to have written it on the point of view of ordinary Filipinos.
Mayor Vico Sotto speaks with the POV of an empathetic citizen and frankly, it's goddamn refreshing and inspiring. More leaders like this please https://t.co/7cHP5ZaM46
— Normani Batumbakal (@notbismarkymark) November 17, 2019
The Regent 23
Regent employees had been protesting against unfair labor practices since October, according to posts by Defend Job Philippines, an alliance of labor unions and sectoral organizations.
Complaints included low wages, contractualization of longtime workers and non-implementation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the company and its labor union.
Earlier this month, the dissenters reportedly threw stones and other items at the Regent security personnel and some members of the Philippine National Police.
Police officers then dispersed them and arrested 23 of them.
When Sotto saw videos of the incident, he immediately met with the representatives of both parties, the labor union of Regent and officials of Regent, and listened to them.
He initially asked Mr. Irwin See and Ms. Susan See to withdraw the complaints against the Regent 23.
He also informed them that he will take this to social media should they not abide by his request.
When he was eventually told that the owners will push through with the legal suits, Sotto moved to free the workers himself and share this on Facebook.
Defend Job Philippines expressed its gratitude to Sotto for this initiative in supporting the rights of his constituents.
“We believe that Mayor Sotto’s open statement of support to the striking and protesting workers of Regent Food Corporation is instrumental and beneficial in proving the justness of the aired grievances of the labor unions as they mounted their strikes in Pasig City and Taguig City,” the group said on Facebook.
“The statement must also serve as a strong message against the Regent management and its cohorts who planned and executed the illegal, violent and overkill dispersal of the labor strike last week,” it added.