Monday, February 23, 2015


I did not know until I made the count myself that I wrote 82 columns against

Unilab, the largest pharmaceutical company in the Philippines. I did a good one when I learned Univet, the veterinary product subsidiary of the company, was producing what many of us cockfighting aficionados considered the best combination of grains for rooster feed. It is called Thunderbird, up to this day acknowledged the best.

I thought that since Yuri Mercado, a top medical representative, brought a case of illegal dismissal to the National Labor Relations Commission, I would stop criticizing Unilab. I could be held liable for violating the sub judice rule.

Word went around I stopped writing against Unilab because I had been fixed. I have no claim to honesty. If I have that virtue it is for others to say of me. If I am a thief that a Unilab official suggested I am I have to be confronted with evidence and be charged in court.

Truth is I had wanted to talk to the general manager of the company, a certain Mr. Poblete. He denied me time. I told Unilab’s public relations girl, a comely woman who answers to the name Clare (Claire?) Papa the company has all the right to either submit to me in writing their side of what I thought was a controversy.

The officials, particularly Mr. Poblete, chose to be silent. My own guns fell silent too. I never feel good about being ignored by anybody or company I am writing against. Still I thought I was fighting for the rights of Mercado who was first suspended then arbitrarily dismissed for alleging forging the signature of a physician he visited regularly as a med rep.

I thought Mercado was denied due process. The signature was not examined by a competent hand writing expert, of say the National Bureau of Investigation. Its conclusions on the signature would be binding on the court.

Ms. Papa spread the word I was fighting for Mercado because I expected a large part of the P40 million Mercado allegedly demanded from Unilab for him  to stop me from writing the negative articles.

Mercado swears by the bones of all his dead relatives he never made the demand.

He told me he was offered an amicable settlement of P750,000 or P 1 million if he can convince me to stop writing against Unilab.

Mercado, my godson, told everybody he would not even think of talking   me out of the subject. Not for a bribe. I told Ms. Papa and high officials of Unilab the matter could be threshed out across the table, not necessarily with money. They turned deaf.

They even said my newspaper is not worth bothering about. That does not bother me a bit.

I suggested to Mercado that he bring the illegal dismissal case to court but warned him he may not win. He lost the case with the NLRC that ruled he was guilty of providing me with negative information against  Unilab.

Strange that Unilab did not bother with a small paper but the NLRC did.

Yes, the pieces I wrote were mostly negative. Unilab did not show any sign of having been offended or maligned. This newspaper is too small for them to worry about. They did not want to glorify me and my paper by going to court.

I dared Unilab to exercise its right to reply. It did not do so, again because the paper is not worth its time. If Unilab would not exercise its right of reply which I have never violated in this thankless job, why should NLRC substitute its judgment for the company’s?

The common interpretation of this ruling is that the NLRC is completely under the spell of the giant company. But there is no evidence to prove it.

Mercado appealed the case to the Court of Appeals. He may have a chance to win or can lose the case again but quite definitely by not affirming the basis of the NLRC ruling.

The CA has to find a new ground for dismissing the appeal.

If I were one of the members of the 13th division of the CA where the case is pending I would argue for the denial of due process to Mercado. The members of the division can always outvote me for their own reasons they would say sit with law.

In the event my interpretation of the appeal is supported by my peers the Court of Appeals would have shown to the world that the NLRC is a court of resort for aggrieved workers, not an arbiter of disputes always in favor of big business.

In the final analysis, the question is why Poblete allowed, in fact recommended the suspension and dismissal of Mercado without giving him a chance at due process.

He sensibly denied the signature of the physician was his. Unilab or Poblete insisted it was his. Poblete reigns and rules. Mercado was a mere subject in his fiefdom.

Even the law was not on the side of Mercado. I heard Mercado was being considered for promotion justified solely by his performance Unilab recognized with some awards.

Two things might have stopped him on his tracks. First, there might have been another candidate who was in the good graces of management. That made comparison of the performance between the two candidates unnecessary. Merado had to go. Poblete or Unilab simply did not like Mercado’s face.

There is nothing I would love better than putting this case on ice. In fact I chose to be silent for at least two years. I knew Mercado could not win. I also knew I must fight for his rights.

It is rather difficult for me to ignore the accusation I was fighting for Mercado in the hope I would get a large portion of the P40 million he demanded from Unilab. He said he did not make the demand. I believe him. If he did, I would have given up on Mercado.

I would have described him without mincing  words he was a blackmailer. Poblete or Unilab could have sued him for the crime of blackmail. It did not precisely because nobody could prove Mercado demanded P40 million which he was supposed to have  shared with me if I stopped writing derogatory pieces against the company. Unilab is celebrating its 70th  anniversary this year. I congratulate the company for being the biggest drug producer in the country.

How it became  its present size is what I have been trying to figure out. I have long known Unilab was sending physicians on foreign junkets in exchange for prescribing its products.

The Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration stopped the practice. It would be difficult for the company and its 2,000 med reps to meet this year’s sales quota.

Better things could happen on its 70th anniversary. Failing to meet sales target is not one of them.

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