SCREAMING FOR JUSTICE:
Streamers (left photo, above) bearing the Nestle union workers' demand for
justice for the death of their president who was shot dead on the spot
covered by a banana leaf (right photo) late afternoon Sept. 22.
Photos by Dabet
Ka Fort, as Fortuna
was fondly called, had been leading the
workers’ strike in Nestle’s Cabuyao, Laguna plant for three years.
Triggered by the management’s refusal to give workers retirement benefits
through a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), more than 600 workers
have been on strike.
But the prolonged
deadlock in the CBA - despite a Supreme Court decision in favor of the
union – has brought a series of violent dispersals in the picketline and
continuous harassment of union leaders. At least 10 striking workers have
already died due to poverty and illnesses.
A well-known labor organizer, Fortuna held a roster of
organizational responsibilities. He was chairman of the Pagkakaisa ng
Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (Pamantik or Unity of Workers in Southern
Tagalog), chairman of Anakpawis Partylist-Southern Tagalog, co-chairman of
the National Coalition for the Protection of Worker's Rights in Southern
Tagalog, national council member of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or
New Patriotic Alliance) and convenor of Southern Tagalog for the Ouster
and Punishment of Gloria (Stop Gloria).
Fortuna proceeded after the meeting to
the picketline to meet with visiting students from the University of Santo
Tomas based in Manila. He received a text message from his wife Luz a few
minutes past 5 p.m. that their grandson was sick and should be brought to
Riding his purple motorcycle, Fortuna
was five minutes away from his house in Calamba City when shot twice at
the back by two motorcycle-riding men.
By 6 p.m., Nestle union vice president
Noel Alemania received word from a union member manning the picket line
that Fortuna was shot and brought to the Calamba Doctors’ Hospital.
He was pronounced dead on arrival at
5:50 p.m. He was 51.
The felled union leader who had worked
in Nestle since 1976 now lies in state at his home in Rodriguez Village,
Barangay Pasyano, Calamba.
Fortuna was the second Nestle union
president killed. In 1987, Meliton Roxas was shot in front of the picket
line, also in Cabuyao.
Targeting union leaders
Fortuna is also the second union
leader killed this year. The first was Teotimo Dante, union board member
of the Schneider Packaging Workers’ Union (SPWU), in Caybiga, Novaliches,
Quezon City, who was killed while the union was on strike Sept. 13.
The SPWU went on strike Aug. 15,
demanding that management observe the minimum wage law and manage their
Social Security Service (SSS) funds well. In an interview with
Bulatlat, SPWU member Mariz Zaragosa said majority of the workers get
P148 ($2.63 at $1=P56.32) to P175 a day for eight to 12 hours of work.
Moreover, they are listed as self-employed under the SSS.
The company’s 15-man security force
and policemen under Station 4-Urduja led by P/Supt. Joselito Fahrillaga
reportedly first attacked the picket line on Aug. 25. Six union members
were arrested and detained while the strikers’ properties were destroyed
and stolen by the police, said Zaragosa.
The strikers then set up their picket
line a few meters away from the company gate.
On Sept. 13, Zaragosa said the union
held a forum in front of the company gate but the company’s security force
prohibited them from doing so. Around 5 p.m. a commotion ensued between
them and the security force.
trucks of Ren Transport are parked idle inside the company's main
terminal in Tandang Sora, Quezon City.
Photo by Dabet
Workers, including Zaragosa, then
heard that plant manager Filipina Mandap ordering members of the security
force to open fire on the strikers. Zaragosa herself said she heard the
plant manager telling the security guards: “Pagbabarilin nyo yan. Pag
hindi nyo binaril yan, kayo ang tatanggalin ko sa trabaho.” (Shoot
them. If you don’t, I will fire all of you.)
The strikers then heard a warning shot
followed by successive gunfire.
Dante’s certificate of death said he
sustained “multiple gunshot wounds on the trunk and extremeties” and was
pronounced dead on arrival at the Lourdes Hospital in Novaliches at 5:30
Seven other strikers were injured in
The CTUHR said it has recorded 27
cases of assault at the picket line victimizing 1,457 individuals and
involving 11 companies nationwide from January to September this year.
Among the documented cases are 17
incidents of physical assault, injuring 1,011 strikers.
Union leaders from other companies
have also experienced harassment and threats in the past months.
Joseph Fausal, secretary general of
the Samahan ng mga Manggagawa ng Ren Transport (Organization of Workers of
Ren Transport or Smart) was on his way home on Sept. 16 when he noticed
three men trailing him.
He was with co-worker Jovito Labay and
was followed from the picket line to the jeepney terminal in Litex, Quezon
The following day, Sept. 17, on his
way back to the picket line, Fausal noticed a silver van with plate number
XEL 299 following him. He said he saw the van stop and two men alighted.
One of the men reportedly pointed him to his companion and both started
toward his direction. Since it was raining hard that day, Fausal covered
himself with his umbrella and ran away.
About 250 garbage collectors and truck
drivers of Ren Transport have been on strike since Aug. 25. Union counsel
Remigio Saladero, in an interview with Bulatlat, said the strike
was mainly due to management scheme to clip Smart’s power as a bargaining
agent by forming what he described as a company-run union. The labor
lawyer said the company has alleged that Smart is a militant union due to
its affiliation with ADLO-KMU (Association of Democratic Labor
Organizations - Kilusang Mayo Uno or May First Movement).
Smart Union president Nestor Fulvinar
also charged that management has failed to remit their SSS contributions
since 2002 although workers have been getting deductions every month from
their salaries as reflected in their pay slips. He said the strikers’
earned wages for the July 25 to Aug. 24 have been held in the bank since
their strike erupted.
The garbage collectors also complained
management has failed to deliver previous CBA agreements including uniform
and safety device provisions, hospitalization benefits and regular sick
and vacation leave benefits.
Meanwhile, in Hacienda Luisita, site
of the Nov. 16 massacre that killed seven strikers and their supporters,
harassment continues at the picket line and the adjoining barangays
comprising the 6,443-hectare sugar estate.
On Aug. 7, 19-year old Harley Amurao,
whose parents are members of the striking union, was shot at close range
by a security guard in Las Hacienda de Luisita. He was identified by one
of the Hacienda guards himself who was on duty on the night of the
killing. No one has been arrested however as of this writing.
On Sept. 9, in Mapalacsiao and
Asturias (villages inside the Hacienda), bulldozers escorted by soldiers
tried to run over the sugar and mill workers and their families who were
protesting the construction of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway Project (SCTEP)
and are blocking the bulldozers’ way. Previous to this, there have been
many attempts by soldiers and company personnel to forcibly clear the
Meanwhile, union leaders continue to
receive harassment in different forms. Ric Ramos, president of the Central
Azucarrera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) and Rene Galang, president of the
United Luisita workers’ Union (ULWU) have been receiving death threats
through their mobile phones while some of them received threats through
registered mails, Bulatlat also learned. Last week, CATLU adviser
Rene Tua’s home in Mapalacsiao was surrounded by soldiers.
CTUHR has documented six cases of
arbitrary arrest and detention involving 30 strikers, among them 20 miners
from Lepanto in Mankayan, Benguet, four from Solid Development Corp. in
San Ildefonso, Bulacan and six from SPWU. All have been released.
Violence against workers
Daisy Arago, CTUHR executive director,
said that 90 percent of picket line violence is due to the Department of
Labor and Employment’s (DoLE) Assumption of Jurisdiction (AJ) power over
AJ usually allows the company to
continue operations which means that the workers are also ordered to get
back to work without the labor disputes being settled.
Controversial Labor Secretary Patricia
Sto. Tomas came under fire last year when she assumed jurisdiction over
the strike of sugar mill workers of the Central Azucarrera de Tarlac
(CAT), the largest sugar mill in Central Luzon owned and operated by the
family of former President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino.
The AJ allowed the entry of hundreds
of police and soldiers inside the 6,443-hectare Hacienda Luisita (HL) in
Tarlac. The subsequent dispersal on Nov. 16 last year killed seven
strikers and injured several others while an unidentified number of
sakadas (seasonal farm workers) have been declared missing. Known
today as the Hacienda Luisita Massacre, it is noted as the bloodiest
picket line dispersal in history.
Among the cases of violent strike
dispersals due to AJ documented by CTUHR under Macapagal-Arroyo are those
of Toyota, Nissan and Nestle Philippines in 2001, Sulpicio Lines in 2002
and Good Found Cement in Bicol in 2003.
Ninety-five percent of the cases
reportedly point to the Philippine National Police (PNP) and company
guards as perpetrators. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on the
other hand has been reportedly involved in three violent dispersals: Good
Found, Sulpicio Lines and Hacienda Luisita.
Meanwhile, records of the National
Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCBM) show that in the last nine months,
around 94,200 workers from 400 commercial establishments nationwide have
filed strike notices; of these, 41 percent have become full-blown
The NCBM’s records also show nine
percent of the country’s work force has been involved in labor disputes.With
reports from Dennis Espada and Abner Bolos of Pokus Gitnang Luson.
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© 2005 Bulatlat
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