July 27, 2012
Some 100 members of the Philippine Airlines Employee Association (PALEA) picketed the Pasay Hall of Justice this morning as union lawyers filed a petition for the Municipal Trial Court to review the finding of “probable cause” by a fiscal. In a resolution dated June 20, 2012, the city prosecutor recommended the filing of information against 234 respondents to the case.
“Ex-President Gloria Arroyo is freed on bail by a Pasay fiscal despite arguably strong evidence of electoral sabotage while a colleague threatens 234 workers with arrest for alleged ‘economic sabotage’ on dubious grounds. PALEA’s protest at the airport last September 27, 2011 was an exercise of the constitutionally guaranteed right of workers to concerted action and thus not illegal nor criminal,” asserted Gerry Rivera, PALEA president.
Warrants of arrest may be issued against the accused even as the resolution provides for bail of Php 6,000 each or a total of Php 1,404,000. Philippine Airlines (PAL) filed the case for alleged violation of RA 9497 or the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Law, specifically Section 81 (b) (5) which sanctions “any person who destroys or seriously damages the facilities of an airport or disrupts the services of an airport”. PAL initially announced that some 300 PALEA members joined the protest action thus the respondents have been called the PALEA 300.
Rivera added that the decision has a chilling effect on labor relations and is a clear and present danger to workers rights. “Labor protests will then be banned in the aviation industry with workers penalized by both imprisonment and fine in violation of constitutionally guaranteed rights. This will be a grave precedent and new special laws can then be enacted to deny workers the freedoms of assembly, expression, self-organization and strike. But PALEA will not be cowed as our fight enters it 10th month,” he explained.
“Early next week, we will also file a similar petition to the Department of Justice, which has jurisdiction over prosecutors, for a review of the resolution. We expect that these motions would stay the issuance of warrants of arrest,” Rivera added.
He explained that “The decision is void of any legal basis as no damages were committed to airport facilities. Moreover the case is a labor issue and thus prior authority from the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Justice should have been secured prior to the filing of the complaint. The CAAP Law is also explicit in providing that ‘only the Director General’ can file the appropriate charges and not the PAL Vice-President of the Airport Services as in this case.”
Rivera further asserted that PAL services deteriorated sharply after September not because of damaged equipments but due to lack of skilled and experienced manpower after PALEA members, in opposition to outsourcing, refused to transfer to assigned service providers. PALEA insists that PAL can only “fly the flag proud” by getting its regular workers back. Supporters of PALEA are calling for a boycott of PAL and its sister company Air Philippines until the laid off workers are reinstated to their regular jobs.