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Strike continues; 5 buses burned

Six bus drivers were arrested yesterday in Batangas as the nationwide strike staged by employees of a big bus company continued for the second straight day in dozens of bus terminals in Luzon and Visayas.

Police arrested Albert San Presentacion Gabriel, Lloyd Nicolas Ocares, Wilmar Biaca Caro, Arvin Arrellano Soliven, Joselito Santiago Guevarra, and Ernesto Villanueva following the burning of five buses owned by strike-torn Del Monte Land Transportation Bus Company (DLTB Co.) in Lemery, Batangas.

Three buses were totally destroyed following an explosion in the parking area of the terminal Thursday night, the first day of the strike.

Police placed the damage at P30 million.

At the time of the incident, protesters were picketing outside the terminal in front of Xantra Mall in Barangay Malinis.

Vicente Joyas, DLTB’s legal counsel, said charges will be filed against the six suspects.

Over in Pasay City, leaders of the DLTB Labor Union-Alliance of Genuine Labor Organization (DLTBU-AGLO) vowed to continue their mass action until management grant their demands.

The union, made up of drivers, conductors, mechanics, and staff, is protesting alleged low salaries and non-granting of benefits.

Eduardo Laurencio, paralegal representative of the group, alleged that the workers are paid only R337, way below the minimum daily wage of P491.

Aside from this, Laurencio claimed that workers have not received their 13th month pay, night differential, overtime, and other benefits.

The union claims to have 3,000 members nationwide.

Nick Elman, a union director, said they are ready to spend the New Year away from their family.

“Hangga’t hindi kami dinidinig ng management, hindi kami aalis. Mananatili kami rito kahit abutin pa kami ng New Year,” Elman said.

Elman claimed that they have the support of 80 to 90 percent of DLTB bus drivers in Luzon and Visayas.

The strike affected 10,000 passengers going home for the holidays.

The bus company operates as far as La Union, Benguet, and Isabela in the north and Bicol, Leyte, and Albay in the south.

Welman said the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) signed by rival union Philippine Trade and General Workers Organization (PTGWO) and management did not protect the rights of drivers and conductors.

Christopher Cualbo, a 38-year-old driver, claimed that the company paid him a salary equivalent only to four days after being stranded for one month due to a calamity.

On reports that five buses were burned, Elman believes that it was an inside job.

“Ang napabalita ay sa loob ng terminal nangyari yung pagpapa-sabog. Paano ang mga kasamahan naming ang maggagawa noon ay hindi nga pumapasok at bumabyahe ang mga kasamahan namin at nasa labas kami, nandirito para magprotesta?” Elman asked.

He claimed that five drivers were arrested in their homes.

“Kung magsunog kami ng bus, very damaging sa amin ‘yan,” he added.

“Si DoLE Secretary (Silvestre) Bello lang ang makakaayos nito, hindi ang mga pulis. Assumption of jurisdiction di ba? Pero hangga’t hindi kami pinapakinggan, hindi kami magpapatinag,” Elman said.
(With reports from Danny J. Estacio and Lyka Manalo) (MARTIN A. SADONGDONG)