THE socialist labor group Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino today denounced the arrest last Wednesday of thirteen officers and members of the DBSN Farm Agriventures Workers Union.
The workers, who were apprehended by members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, were charged with libel under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 or Republic Act 10175 after pictures of workers holding flags and placards were uploaded to Facebook. The pictures were taken before they left for Manila to seek an audience before Secretary Silvestre Bello to air their grievances.
“This is a classic case of harassment. The owner of DBSN could no longer deny the veracity of the accusations of rampant violations of labor standards in his farm as well as the legitimacy of the workers demand for regularization, the Labor department says so,” claimed BMP president and union legal counsel, Luke Espiritu.
Of the thirteen arrested workers, ten are being detained at Camp Downes at Ormoc City including its union president, Ailieen Claros and spokesperson Josephine Jaballa. The remaining three are held at municipal police station of Albuera.
Espiritu explained that the case filed against the workers could not constitute online libel since both the DOLE regional office and the National Labor Relations Commission have found the company guilty of gross violation of labor laws and ordered the regularization of its employees, even if the management has filed an appeal before the agencies.
Espiritu said workers at DBSN Agriventures are paid the minimum wage for Region 8 of PhP285 for 15-hour shifts. However, that prescribed minimum wage is only for an eight hour work not 15-hour shifts. The non-payment of overtime and premium is among the many labor standard violation of DBSN, this despite being is one of the biggest poultry dressing plants in the country.
It was accredited by the National Meat Inspection Service and certified as an ISO company by TUV-Rhineland, he added.
“The sub-human conditions of employees and the outright non-payment is already condemnable, to say the least. To add harassment and criminalization to salvage the owner’s ill reputation and multi-billion profits is new low for an ISO-accredited company,” Espiritu deplored.
Upon labor inspection early this year, the poultry farm was found guilty of: No proof of coverage or remittance of SSS contributions, non-payment of Overtime Premium Pay, non-payment of Service Incentives Leave Pay, non-payment of Holiday Pay, illegal deduction (personal protective equipment such masks, gloves, and aprons, and delivery and transport expenses by boat), non-payment of Night Shift Differential Pay; Labor-only contracting in violation of D.O 174, and non-payment of 13th Month Pay.
BMP maintained that the criminalization of labor struggles shall not make the workers cower in fear but will only reap a flurry of protests and ignite labor unrest further.
“The right to regular jobs and proper compensation are guaranteed by the constitution and no amount of criminalization could override these rights.”
They likewise called on authorities to dismiss the trumped-up charges, free the detained laborers and expedite the implementation of regularization as ordered by state agencies.
DBSN Agriventures, the poultry supplier of the Magnolia brand of San Miguel Pure Foods Inc. and Jollibee’s ‘chickenjoy’ is based in Albuera, Leyte and is owned Mayor Ramon Oñate, Municipal Mayor of Palompon town, also in Leyte.