Pasig mayor vows to free arrested Regent Foods strikers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 17) — Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto vowed that he will “do everything within [his] power” to help free the 23 people arrested last week during a strike at a production plant of Regent Foods Corporation.

“These people are not criminals; they do not have the goal of hurting you. They are fighting for what they believe to be just. You can continue with the labor dispute without sending the poor and powerless to jail!” Sotto said Sunday in a Facebook post.

He condemned Regent for “suppress[ing] the rights of your protesting workers.”

“If you want to have a healthy relationship with our city, I highly suggest you rethink your position,” he added.

He said 12 of the 23 arrested, including a tricycle driver, have already posted bail through the help of “around a dozen” people who pooled money. He added that he has assured those remaining that they will be out on bail by Monday.

While he assured freedom for the 23 arrested, Sotto clarified that the local government cannot interfere with labor disputes.

A spokesperson for Regent told CNN Philippines that they have referred Sotto's appeal to their lawyers and will come out with an official statement "in the next few days."

Sotto revealed that he had spoken with Regent owners Irwin and Susan See in separate meetings, where he asked them to drop charges against the 23, including one tricycle driver who happened to be at the scene of the strike.

He claimed that the Sees asked him to give them some time to consult with the company’s board of directors and was later informed by Regent’s lawyer that they will “just trust the judicial process.”

“Which is of course easy to say as multimillionaires who will eat three times a day no matter what happens here; while the people they have sued have recently lost their main source of income and are now even torn away from their families,” Sotto said.

The Eastern Police District said last week that the strikers “became unruly” and threw stones, wood and metal bars at security personnel, which led to their arrest.

Sotto said violence only broke out after Regent management hired private security to disperse their striking employees.