The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is pleased to inform you that the four remaining workers being held on false charges for almost two years in Rizal have now been released on bail. They were among 20 who were arrested, falsely charged and detained for holding a strike and two of the detainees died while in custody. The release took place after a local court upheld its order to allow them to post bail; however it significantly increased the amount.
As mentioned in our previous appeal (UAU-001-2010), 14 of the detained workers were able to post bail through surety bond on separate occasions in December 2009 when the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 80, in Morong, Rizal, granted their petition to do so. At the time the RTC judge, Judge Ma. Teresa Cruz-San Gabriel, recommended the bail be set at P60, 000 (USD 1,292) for each detainee.
However when the workers began posting bail through a surety bond and were released one after the other, their employer, Karnation Industries and Exports, Inc., filed a petition (Motion for Reconsideration (MR), on 28 December 2009), requesting that the order be revoked or the bail increased from P60,000 (USD 1,292) to P80,000 (USD1,760). This effectively prevented the release of the remaining four workers, who at the time struggled to raise the amount for their bail. They were also obliged to wait until the employer’s petition was resolved by the court, and to submit their arguments on the merit of the petition.
It was only on 26 January 2010 that the court rejected the petitioner’s appeal (though the copy of the order was received by the workers as late as 1 March 2010). Judge Cruz-San Gabriel ruled that there was no cogent reason to reconsider her order. However she nevertheless granted the petitioner’s appeal to increase the bail to P80,000 (USD 1,760), citing two grounds under Section 9, Rule 114 of the Rules of Court, which are: (a) financial ability of the accused to give bail and (f) weight of the evidence against the accused. The court also ordered that the 14 workers who were released in December 2009 post an additional P20,000 (USD440) bail each within 30 days for their continuing provisional freedom.
The two grounds are now the subject of a petition by those workers, asking the court to reduce the amount of additional bail. They have argued that they are experiencing difficulties in finding work and supporting their families. Their respective families were also denied a stable income throughout their detention.
It should be noted that the release of the 14 workers last year was possible only after several organizations and labour groups (in the country and abroad) helped to raise their bail.
Of those who remained in jail, Andy Salarzon, 32 was released on March 4 while the other three, Joseph Atienza, Pulido Baguno and Claro Claridad, were released on March 19, one day after they had posted bail through a surety bond. This delay was due to another petition filed by the workers’ employer that asked Judge Cruz-San Gabriel to remove herself from the case. The workers had to wait for another judge, Judge Candido De Los Santos, to sign their discharge order.
As one of the four detained workers, Baguno said of the difficulties: “We thought that even if there is money for bail, it will take much longer before we are released, especially as it came to our knowledge that a new judge was taking over the case”. But as Atienza said, “Finally, we are free albeit temporarily”. Claridad spoke of the tears shed by his mother when he was finally freed. Feeling elated and eager to go home the three were met by their relatives and friends outside the jail.
The workers are now set to revive the charges of illegal dismissal that they previously filed against Karnation Industries with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Region IV (case # 03-60542-10-RT). They will continue to demand reinstatement to their work with full back wages and the payment of money claims. Speaking of this decision, Sonny Batuyong, one of the detainees and the union president of the Congress of Labor Organization-Karnation Industries chapter noted: “We may have been freed temporarily but our fight is not over. We shall continue to win our demands and organize other workers”.
On 22 March in a meeting and reunion amongst the workers, some of their family members and staff of the organizations helping them (the CTUHR and Women WISE) the three expressed their deep appreciation for the support that various groups and individuals in the country and abroad have given them.
They also thanked their legal counsel, Atty. Saladero Jr., saying: “Our case would be at a standstill without the help of Atty. Saladero Jr., the CTUHR and other organizations. Without them, perhaps we would still be in jail”.
In her email to the AHRC and other groups, Daisy Arago, executive director of the CTUHR, said:
We would like to specifically thank the trade unionists from UK and earlier, unionists from New Zealand who raised funds to help cover the bail.
Support from International Community: instrumental in pressuring the complainants and getting favourable decision from the court.
On behalf of the families of the Karnation 20, who are now members of Women WISE3 (Women Workers in Struggle for Employment, Empowerment and Emancipation), the CTUHR and PLACE sincerely thank you all for every support you have extended to this campaign. It cannot be denied that the many letters you have sent to the judge have influenced her decision as well as other government authorities including the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines. The same for the many letters sent to the complainants and to the buyers of Karnation Industries and Pansy Accessories Corp had pressured the complainants to soften their opposition to granting of bail.
The Fight for Karnation 20 continues
Whilst the surviving 18 walk to their temporary freedom, the union officers are determined to continue their fight particularly in seeking justice for Melvic Lupe (2008) and Leo Paro (2009) who died in detention without proper investigation. The officers are also set to reviving their labour case (union busting) filed at the Department of Labour and Employment Region IV, and vowed to continue their union organizing at Karnation Industries and Pansy Accessories Corp as well as in reaching out to other workers..
Thank you so much.
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)