Saturday September 24 2005

CALAMBA CITY — THE LEADER OF STRIKING WORKERS of food and beverage giant Nestlé Philippines was gunned down in front of a plastic factory in Barangay Paciano Rizal this city late Thursday afternoon.

The death of Diosdado Fortuna, 50, was quickly condemned by leftist labor groups, with one pinning the blame on Ms Arroyo as the killing came after the President talked tough against her political opponents.

"We are certain that the killing is politically motivated. Arroyo's hands are bloodied once more ...," said Elmer Labog, national chair of the Kilusang Mayo Uno.

"We will seek justice for his death and will send the evil perpetrators of this murder to hell where they belong," he said.

Fortuna died of two gunshot wounds in the back as doctors tried to save his life at the Calamba Doctors' Hospital.

Fortuna heads the 660-strong Union of Filipino Employees-Drug and Food Alliance (UFE-DFA), the coalition of employees of the Nestlé factory in Cabuyao, Laguna.

The group has been on strike since Jan. 14, 2002 after talks for a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with management on retirement benefits bogged down.

Pedro Dy-Liacco Jr., director for communications of Nestlé, said in a statement that the Nestlé management was shocked over the killing of Fortuna.

"We condemn this act of violence and extend our sympathies to Fort's family and relatives. We are prepared to extend help to his family and to the Calamba police for a swift resolution of its investigation."

"He doesn't deserve to die like this. He did nothing wrong but to fight for what is due the lowly workers like him. What an injustice," his wife Luz said.

Luz quickly blamed Nestlé management for the killing.

"My husband has no other enemy except Nestlé management."

Supt. Nestor de la Cueva, deputy chief of the Calamba police, said Fortuna was on his way home in his motorcycle from the Nestlé picket line when gunmen shot him twice about 5:20 p.m.

A passing motorist stopped by and brought Fortuna to the hospital where he died.

Police said the gunmen wore helmets and could not be easily identified.

After news of his death spread, hundreds of people trooped to the Nestlé factory to denounce the killing.

Fortuna's wife said her husband's last text message to her, sent just 30 minutes before he was gunned down, was about their two-year-old grandson, who was suffering from diarrhea.

"He would tell me to remember the face of his would-be assassin. To remember the vehicle his attackers will use," she said. "It hurts me more to know that I wasn't there when he was killed. How can I help him get justice?"

Fortuna became president of the Nestlé union when its former leader, Meliton Roxas, was killed in front of the Nestlé plant in 1988. Marlon Ramos with Delfin Mallari Jr., PDI Southern Luzon Bureau