It was around 8 p.m. when we reached Manila and was shocked to receive a text message informing us that Ka Fort, union president of Nestle Philippines, was killed. Just hours earlier, we had lunch with Ka Fort when we visited the picket line of Nestle workers. That was a year ago. But up to now, justice has not been served.
BY ZOFIA LEAL
Immersions are part of our curriculum as Sociology students in the University of Santo Tomas. Last year, the 3rd year students were able to live with the workers of Nestle Cabuyao for 3 days as part of their Industrial Sociology class. According to Patrick Monreal, through the immersion, “Mas namulat kami sa tunay na kalagayan ng mga manggagawa lalo na yung mga nasa Nestle na pwede na rin i-generalize na kalagayan ng manggagawang Pilipino.” (We were able to know more about the plight of workers especially at Nestle, which we can generalize as reflective of the conditions of Filipino workers.”
A week after their immersion, September 22, 2005, some students decided to visit the picket line and their foster parents. Since I was already on my fourth year, I was not able to join them in their immersion but I went with them during their visit.
The first thing we noticed when we arrived at the picket line was Ka Fort cleaning their refrigerator. It was a small refrigerator and it was already old and rusted but Ka Fort was exerting his effort in cleaning it, saying, “Sayang e, baka magamit pa”. (It might still be useful.) While cleaning the refrigerator, he entertained us, even treated us as guests and asked about our school. We told him and the other workers present at the picket line that as students, we were ready to support them.
Lunch time came and their ‘resident chef’ cooked adobong manok for us. We asked them to join us but they refused saying that the food was for us. Ka Fort ate with us probably because we wouldn’t eat if they won’t. I remember him taking the smallest piece of chicken and eating in the smallest plate. He told us of another company where workers were also staging a strike in Cabuyao. The management of that company did not allow their workers to eat two cups of rice for lunch claiming that workers become lazy when full.
Ka Fort was quiet at times, answering every once in a while when we would ask questions. He said that the workers appreciate the support that we are giving them. That finally, after four long years, maybe we can disseminate the information about their plight since the media are either afraid or paid not to write about the strike and their plight.
It was around 5:00 p.m. when we left the picket line, carrying with us t-shirts that they printed for us. At around 6:00 p.m., one of the workers texted one of the students, asking her where we were. She texted back saying that we were already at the expressway. He replied, “OK, take care”.
We arrived in Manila at around 8p.m. when we received a text message, “Diosdado “Ka Fort” Fortuna, Nestle Union Leader was shot at Cabuyao, Laguna today”. He was shot at around 5:20 pm while riding his motorcycle on his way home.
The hours that followed were full of confusion and anger for all of us who went there. The next day, I was able to talk to the other students and some of them were still in the state of denial. “Hindi kami makapaniwala na ‘yun na pala yung huling araw na makikita namin siya,” (We could not believe that that was the last time that we were going to see him) Monreal said.
What followed was a movement of students to condemn the killing of Ka Fort and to push the Boycott Nestle campaign. We had a candle lighting program at the Espana gate of UST for two hours the following day, but expectedly, no media covered the event. Still, the students were undaunted; we had the commuters and other passengers as our audience.
One year has passed and still justice has not been given to Ka Fort. The Nestle workers are already on their fifth year in the picket line. Last August 22, 2006 the Supreme Court issued their final decision. In the Notice of Judgment, it states that “The ruling of the Court of Appeals on the inclusion of the Retirement Plan as a valid issue in the collective bargaining negotiations between UFE-DFA-KMU and Nestle is affirmed. The parties are directed to resume negotiations respecting the Retirement Plan and to take action consistent with the discussions hereinabove set forth.”
However, talks have not yet resumed and the Nestle administration is expected to file another motion to the Court of Appeals.
Last Friday, September 22, students again gathered at the Espana gate to commemorate Ka Fort and all the victims of political killings under the Arroyo regime in a candle lighting program. The memory of Ka Fort is still fresh in our hearts and minds. For the students, they are keen on keeping their promise to Ka Fort to support the Nestle workers in their struggle no matter what happens or how long it takes. (Bulatlat.com)