The Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association (PALEA) called for the release of Romeo Sayas, its member arrested in Malvar, Batangas and detained since Tuesday. “Free Romeo Sayas,” chanted hundreds of PALEA members as they marched this afternoon for the second straight day in front of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) In-Flight Center near the Terminal 2 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Gerry Rivera, PALEA president and vice chair of Partido ng Manggagawa, said that “The arrest of Romeo is a travesty of justice and we demand his immediate release.” He explained that Sayas should not have been arrested in the first place and the charges should have been dismissed outright. Rivera quoted the Department of Justice Ministry Circular No. 15 (Series of 1982) and the Department of Labor and Employment Order No. 40-G-03 (Series of 2010) that no criminal information can be filed against workers without the required clearance from the DOLE.
Sayas and another 38 PALEA members, including two women, were issued warrants of arrest by the Pasay City Municipal Trial Court branch 44 after finding probable cause to a grave coercion case filed by Philippine Airlines against workers who defended the protest camp when it was attacked by hired goons on October 29, 2011.
Meanwhile Renato Magtubo, national chair, announced that they are coordinating with other labor groups to raise funds for Sayas’ PhP 12,000 bail bond. “I appeal to workers organizations and labor advocates to chip in for a ‘Piso para sa paglaya ni Romeo Sayas’ drive as his incarceration may complicate his diabetes and gout, and also to alleviate his family’s agony who have suffered enough from his one year of joblessness.”
With the air travel peak season approaching, Magtubo renewed the call of labor and church groups for the public to boycott PAL until the labor dispute is resolved and charges against PALEA members are dropped. “We ask OFW’s, balikbayans, students, workers and other travellers to book airlines other than PAL and Air Philippines as labor rights are being violated at the flag carrier,” he reiterated.
Rivera extolled Sayas as a “working class martyr.” “Sayas worked for 20 years as ramp equipment operator in the airport, at first as a contractual, and then he became a regular PAL employee but was finally retrenched for refusing to be outsourced. He has two children, and hails from a working class family—his brother is also a fighting PALEAn and their father formerly worked at PAL,” he stated.
PALEA lawyers are preparing to file a motion to quash or recall the warrants of arrest while protests at the DOLE and DOJ are also being planned. Aside from the case against the PALEA 39, there are is another criminal suit and a separate civil suit pending against union members, all arising out of the labor row concerning outsourcing at PAL.