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Labor leader murdered in Philippines

by staff |
September 28, 2005
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(Fight Back! News/Staff)
“Arroyo’s hands bloody again with the killing of KMU National Council Member and Nestlé Cabuyao Union President Diosdado ‘Ka Fort’ Fortuna.”

Fight Back News Service is circulating the following Sept. 23 statement from the main trade union federation in the Philippines, the KMU (May 1st Workers’ Center), concerning the assassination of one of its leaders, Diosdado Fortuna. The government of U.S.-backed Pilipino President Arroyo is responsible for a wave of human rights violations.

Labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) condemns in strongest terms the brutal killing of Diosdado ‘Ka Fort’ Fortuna, President of Union of Filipino Employees Union, the workers union of Nestle Cabuyao; he is also the chairperson of Pagkakaisa ng mga Manggagawa ng Timog Katagalugan (PAMANTIK-KMU) and Chairman of Anakpawis-Southern Tagalog. He was shot dead at around 6 pm last night in front of Sagara Factory in Canlubang, Laguna.

Fortuna, 50 years old, is an active member of KMU National Council and has served the militant labor movement for 29 years since 1976 as a labor leader of the multinational company Nestle workers’ union. He also holds several positions, including Anakpawis Party List-Southern Tagalog Chairman and Co-Chairperson of the National Coalition for the Protection of Workers Rights-Southern Tagalog (NCPWR-ST). He is survived by his wife, Luz Fortuna, and their three children.

Luz Baculo, PAMANTIK-ST Secretary General said Fortuna left the Nestle picket line in Cabuyao, Laguna at around 5 pm yesterday. Ka Fort was supposed to visit his ailing grandson and was on board a motorcycle on his way home to Barangay Paciano when he was attacked by still unidentified assailants. He sustained two fatal caliber .45 gunshot wounds in the chest. He was rushed by bystanders to the Calamba Doctors Hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival. According to eye witnesses, motorcycle riding men fired shots at Fortuna.

“We are certain that the killing is politically motivated. Arroyo’s hands are bloodied once more with the assassination of Ka Fort. Given the notorious record of human rights violations and summary executions of leaders, members and activists of progressive peoples’ organizations in Southern Luzon and other parts of the country, we are holding the military, police, Regional Special Action Force and the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government highly accountable in the killing,” said KMU National Chairperson Elmer Labog.

“As a principled labor leader, Ka Fort manned the Nestle picket lines since their strike started in January 2002. He consistently advocated workers’ rights and welfare by actively serving the union and progressive people’s movement in Southern Tagalog, despite dangerous conditions and threats on his life. He braved and fought the government’s militarization campaign and atrocities on the people’s rights and livelihood. We will seek justice for his death and will send the evil perpetrators of this murder to hell where they belong,” Labog said.

Fortuna is the third regional mass leader killed after KASAMA-TK chairperson Eddie Gumanoy and Eden Garcellana of KARAPATAN - Southern Tagalog were killed in April 2003.

Indignation protests underway; militants seek justice for all victims of political repression

Baculo said that local unions and labor associations under PAMANTIK-ST will hold an indignation protest at Calamba Crossing in Laguna this morning. KMU leaders and unions from NCR will send a delegation to Laguna for the protest and will proceed to Fortuna’s wake this evening.

Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) and NCPWR sent a fact-finding team to Laguna to look deeper into the details of Fortuna’s killing.

Noel Alemania, Vice president of UFE-DFA-KMU said Fortuna even presided an All-Leaders meeting of Southern Tagalog labor federations ALMAPILA and OLALIA yesterday morning and discussed with UST students who were at the Nestle picket line yesterday afternoon before he was killed.

Also, last Sept. 21, Fortuna gave an address during the anti-Martial Law rally held in front of Nestle picket line. “Ka Fort's death proves that there is Martial Law in the labor front. Workers fighting for their livelihood and job security often receive the most brutal response from capitalists, Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, the Department of Labor and Employment and other government forces," said Labog.

Fortuna is the second Nestle Union President killed during an ongoing labor strike. His predecessor, Meliton Roxas, was also killed in front of Nestle picket line in 1989.