ST workers remember slained union leader 9 years after brutal death, Nestle Philippines remains top suspect

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CABUYAO, LAGUNA – After visiting Fortuna’s grave and offered him a mass this morning, workers from different industries and enclaves in the Southern Tagalog region gathered in front of the Nestle Philippines Cabuyao plant to commemorate the 9th year death anniversary of slain worker, Diosdado “Ka Fort” Fortuna.

At exactly 2:00PM this afternoon, ST workers assembled at the PhilSteel Workers Union – OLALIA – KMU’s (PWU-OLALIA-KMU) picket line in Brgy. Pulo, Cabuyao, Laguna before marching to the gates of Nestle Philippines in Cabuyao at 3:00PM. By 3:30, the workers held a short but agitated program in memory of Ka Fort and their continuous cry for justice to the Nestle worker.

Banners stating “Nestle Kills Workers” and “Justice for Ka Fort” were paraded for the community people living near the Nestle factory to see and remember Ka Fort who once became a part of their everyday lives. Also, a replica of the infamous Nestle branded coffee, Nescafe, was burned in front of the factory as an undying symbol that until justice for the Nestle workers has not been served, there will remain ‘blood in your coffee.’

Diosdado “Ka Fort” Fortuna, the militant face of the faceless workers

Diosdado Fortuna, famously known as Ka Fort by his colleagues, was president of the United Filipro Employees – Drug, Food, and Allied Industries – Kilusang Mayo Uno (UFE-DFA-KMU). He lead one of the long-running strikes in the Southern Tagalog region which started on January 14, 2002, when the capitalist Nestle issued deadlock in their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations in its disapproval to give retirement benefits to its workers. Having won the said battle in the Supreme Court, the Nestle workers led by Fortuna became more aggressive in fighting for their right to recognize the CBA in favor of the workers, but still the capitalist Nestle refused.

According to Roque Polido, newly elected Chairperson of the Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan – Kilusang Mayo Uno (Solidarity of Workers in Southern Tagalog – May First Movement or PAMANTIK-KMU), “Ka Fort has been an icon to ST workers, he has been a model for us to be dedicated and serious to our fight for a sufficient wage, job security, and decent living.”

Fortuna, before his untimely death, was Chairperson for PAMANTIK-KMU, Anakpawis Partylist – Southern Tagalog, and National Coalition for the Protection of Workers Rights – Southern Tagalog (NCPWR-ST), and a National Council member of KMU.

Amidst the busy and hectic life of a mass leader, Fortuna never failed to be present to the lives of his family. He has always been actively involved to his family’s issues and activities. Although reluctant to what Fortuna is about, his family eventually understood his cause due to his patient rhetorics of the movement.

“Fort was never selfish. He was never selfish in enlightening me towards his cause even though I was not into it that time. I usually get mad at him because of his involvement in the union, but he was never selfish in letting me understand.” Said Luzviminda Fortuna, Fortuna’s wife and current Regional Coordinator of NCPWR.

Fortuna added, “I remember him always saying ‘If I die, you should accept it no matter how painful it is, because I believe thousands would take my place.’ Now I believed him, seeing that the workers in all over ST calling for justice and fighting for what Fort fought for, and even I was willed to do the same. Now I believed how noble my husband, our comrade, has always been. He was so selfless, even his life he was willed to give.”

On September 22, 2005, while on his way home, Fortuna was shot dead on a dark road by two men riding a motorcycle. The bullets bore wounds on his heart and liver. He was dead on arrival when brought into the nearest hospital.

“We demand that the US-BS Aquino regime do not forget about the Nestle workers. Stop ‘just blaming’ the Arroyo administration for its mischiefs and human rights violations—convict all those who are behind it, and for them to also make themselves accountable to their numerous violations to the workers. If not so, we will be ever willing to make all of the liable pay.” Polido ended.###

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