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Breaking News: Luisita union leader shot dead

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by Abner Bolos, Gitnang Luzon News Service

From: Gitnang Luson News Service

TARLAC CITY — Motorcycle-riding gun men shot and killed a union leader in Hacienda Luisita shortly after midnight today, March 17, 2006.

Tirso Cruz, 33, a member of the board of directors of the United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU) and Anak Pawis coordinator in Hacienda Luisita was shot and killed by gun men on board a Wave motorcycle at about 12:30 am today in Barangay Pando of Concepcion, Tarlac according to ULWU president Rene Galang.

Cruz was on the way home along with his father from the “puni,” Pampango term for an all-night Lenten ritual, when they were waylaid by the assassins on board a Wave motorcycle . Six empty bullet shells were found at the crime scene, Galang said.

The victim was immediately brought to a hospital but he was pronounced dead on arrival. Cruz, who is also a barangay council member of Pando, is a victim and a key witness in the November 16, 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre.

Galang said Cruz is actively involved in “people power” protests against the construction of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway project (SCTEP) and the deployment of soldiers inside the hacienda.

Up to the time of his death, Cruz has reportedly received numerous death threats during the strike last year.

“About 50 Cafgu members and soldiers from the 71st ID under Gen. Jovito Palparan are deployed in Barangay Pando and are presently using the management office in the barangay as their headquarters. The soldiers are being used to stop the protests,” Galang said.

“We hold the Arroyo government responsible and condemn this latest act of brutality against the legitimate leaders of the hacienda people. By all indications, this may be another brutal handiwork of soldiers under the 71st ID who have been deployed in the hacienda since March 2005,” he said.