Militant labour groups in the Philippines united to condemn the assassination on November 21 of Andrew "Bok" Inoza, the union president at the Alaska Milk factory in San Pedro, 30 kilometres south of Metro Manila, in the province of Laguna. Inoza was also the chairperson of the Laguna branch of the leftist Partido Manggagawa (PM, Workers Party).
"A cowardly act by enemies of labour", was how Gerry Rivera, PM national vice chairperson, described the killing. "We can think of no motive behind his killing than to silence a defender of labour and terrorise the workers of Laguna."
"This only proves that one of the major targets of political killings is the labour sector", said Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) national chairperson Elmer Labog. "It's absolutely enraging that those who strive for humane wages, jobs and conditions at the workplace are the ones who become victims of violence and oppression."
The KMU is generally regarded as influenced by the Communist Party of the Philippines.
The Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) trade union federation said Inoza, who was a member of its Laguna council, was the 11th labour leader killed in the Calabarzon region, which consists of the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon.
According to initial reports gathered by the BMP chapter in Laguna, Inoza was riding his motorcycle on his way to work around eight o'clock in the morning when four assassins shot him at close range. He died on the spot after sustaining seven bullet wounds, two hitting his head. Nine empty shells were found at the crime scene.
Ronnie Luna, BMP chairperson in the Calabarzon area, condemned the killing and blamed the government of President Gloria Arroyo for failing to stop the spate of political killings in the country. Inoza's "death is probably meant to threaten other labour leaders in the region by sending a chilling message that the Calabarzon area has indeed become a killing zone with the most number of labour leaders killed under the Arroyo regime", Luna said.
A tally of the Quezon City-based Centre for Trade and Human Rights showed Inoza was the 30th victim of killings this year and the 73rd under Arroyo's administration. He was the fourth labour leader slain in Laguna.
Inoza's murder came only a week after foreign businesses called the attention of the government to the killings of labour leaders and a week before the celebration of Andres Bonifacio Day, for which protest rallies in the Calabarzon and Metro Manila areas are being planned.
Luna, Labog and Rivera said they could only blame military "death squads" for the killing. They said the government's inaction on political killings was goading the enemies of labour "to act with impunity".
"The vicious agenda of this harassment is clear — to strike fear in the hearts of workers and terrorise them against political involvement", Rivera said. "With a terrorised and docile labour force, it will be easier to cheapen the price of labour power."