“fort” signifies strength, consistency and stability. For the
militant workers of Southern Tagalog, Fort is slain Nestle union
president Diosdado “Fort” Fortuna. If one is to ask them, the
dictionary connotations are also characteristics that have made
Fort the man a pillar of strength for the trade union movement.
by Dennis Espada
positions that Diosdado "Ding" Fortuna (or simply Fort) held in the
numerous labor organizations he had led reveals a badge of unflagging
service ― chairman of Anakpawis Partylist-Southern Tagalog; co-chairman of
the National Coalition for the Protection of Worker's Rights in Southern
Tagalog (NCPWR-ST); chair of the Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog
Katagalugan (Pamantik or Unity of Workers in Southern Tagalog), Kilusang
Mayo Uno's (KMU) regional center ― the list goes on.
passing, he will be remembered by all those who knew him personally
and through the many younger comrades he inspired to become devoted to the
Pillar of strength
Fort was born on Nov. 18, 1954. Growing up in a peasant
family in Canlubang, Laguna, he was driven by an abiding interest to serve
the oppressed amid the turbulence at the former sugar estate once claimed
by the affluent Yulo family.
He finished high school at the Rizal Institute in 1971 and
subsequently took up AB Political Science at the Laguna College of
Business and Arts (LCBA) in Calamba City, south of Manila. Unfortunately,
he was not able to complete the four-year course.
Since 1976, he worked at the Swiss-owned multinational
company Nestle Cabuyao factory where he was assigned to operate machines
that process instant powdered milk.
Luz, 45, his wife with whom he had three children, recalls
how Fort was "a perfect husband
― considerate, calm, and with no pretensions." Through the
years, he has been looked upon as the
provider, disciplinarian and pillar of strength. For her,
he was her heart and wing.
Whenever he was home, which became rare as he became
immersed in various campaigns, he made sure he spent all his hours with
Luz and the children.
Karina Castillo of the NCPWR-ST remembers him as a wisecracker who would
throw infectious jokes during stressful moments. He could also sing and
write songs. "Kahit inaabot kami ng madaling-araw sa mga pulong, walang
inaantok sa amin dahil sa kanya. 'Di ko alam kung magagawa pa namin 'yun
ngayon” (Even if the meetings last till the next morning, nobody gets
sleepy because of him I don’t know if we can still do that now).
"Marami akong natutunan sa kanya -- taktika, pamamaraan
at karanasan sa pakikibaka...'di ko alam
kung kaya kong tumbasan 'yung dedikasyon niya sa kilusan, laluna kung ang
pag-uuusapan ay karapatan at laban ng mga manggagawa"
(I learned a lot from him – tactics, methods and experiences in struggle.
I don’t think I can match his dedication to the movement, especially to
workers’ rights and struggles), she said, holding back the tears.
Fort joined the union in the 1970s where he learned the
fine points of working-class politics. Shortly after the brutal
assassination of then union president Meliton Roxas in 1989, he assumed
In 2001, talks between union and management bogged down
when the latter insisted that the retirement benefits be excluded from the
collective bargaining agreement (CBA), arguing it is a unilateral grant by
Nestle workers were outraged, as management defied the
Supreme Court's (SC) decision in 1991 which stated, "The court agrees with
the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) findings that the
retirement plan was a collective bargaining issue right from the start
(page 109, Rollo)."
In 2002, more than 600 workers went on strike. A year
later, the Court of Appeals affirmed the SC ruling. Despite a wave of
violent dispersals in the picket line by the police and military and
continued harassment of union officers, the
strikers vigilantly stood their ground to demand justice.
In a media forum held last April, Fort spoke about
military-sponsored public slide shows tagging
legitimate people's organizations as "communist fronts," labor organizers
being tracked down by suspected intelligence agents, and himself being
"'Yung pamangkin at anak ko na nag-aaplay sa trabaho, 'yung
isa natanggap na pero kinabukasan tinanggal dahil 'Fortuna' daw siya"
(My nephew and child applied for work; one of them was accepted by
dismissed the following because his surname is ‘Fortuna’), he said,
warning about the possible threat of military crackdown against the
swelling ranks of militant trade unions.
He asked: "Ito ba ang kahulugan ng mga kataga ni Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) nang sabihin niya na
'lalabanan natin ang mga kriminal, gambling at drug lords at 'yung mga
terorista sa mga pabrikang lumilikha ng trabaho?’”
(Is this what GMA meant when she said, 'let us fight against criminals,
gambling and drug lords, and those who terrorize
factories that create jobs?)
Moment of truth
Rebecca Lawson, one of the mission workers of the United
Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) who have met Fort wrote the
"A group of international, young, church people were
finishing an 'immersion of the industrial reality' andhaving an assessment
with him last Sept. 19. As we sat in a circle sharing our experience
together with the workers, a Canadian woman commented, 'Kuya Fort, I am so
inspired by you. When you were introduced, the list of your leadership was
so long: chair of several workers’ organizations, secretary-general of
another, president of the Nestle union. In my country, those leading so
many people are usually full of importance.
when I watch you here at the picket, you embody for me what I think Jesus
Christ would be. I see youcleaning tables, nurturing your grandchild,
encouraging the people around; you are just so much a gentle
"Having sensed evil around, a truthful humor opened mouth
and I added, 'But you know what they did to Jesus...' A warm and sad laugh
enveloped us and tears streamed down the face of Kuya Fort."
On Sept. 22 at around 6 p.m., while riding a motorcycle on
his way home to Rodriquez Subdivision in Barangay Paciano, Calamba City,
Fort was mercilessly shot to death by unknown assailants. He was 50.
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© 2005 Bulatlat
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