Union leader abducted, says Southern Tagalog labor group

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SAN PEDRO, Laguna—The Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan-Kilusang Mayo Uno  is set to file a missing person report to the Cavite police on Monday after almost a month since one of their trade union leaders disappeared and was believed to have been abducted.

This was after the regional labor alliance, headed by Hermenegildo Marasigan, announced that their efforts to find one of their union leaders, Benjamin Villeno, 43, turned fruitless.

“We’ve already gone to every place he might have gone to. We also confirmed with his family in Leyte that he’d never gone home there,” Marasigan said in a phone interview on Sunday.

The group is holding on to a text message that Villeno sent on Aug. 27, the day he left for Cavite to visit his relatives in Dasmariñas City.

“He sent me a text message that morning telling me that he was being tailed. I told him to watch his back,” Marasigan recalled.

He said that was their last contact with Villeno, who did not say whether a person or a vehicle tailed him.

“We thought he made it to his relatives,” Marasigan said.

The search began days after Villeno failed to make any contact with anyone and his relatives told them he never showed up in Dasmariñas.

Villeno, a native of Leyte and a father of four, has been a labor activist since 1989, when he first worked in a car manufacturing company in Laguna province. He became president of labor unions and served as coordinator of the Bayan Muna party-list group and the Satur for Senator Movement for former Rep. Satur Ocampo’s senatorial bid in 2010.

As a union organizer, Villeno was used to staying in the homes of labor union members, Marasigan said.

He added that they did not initially consider going to the police, hoping Villeno had just gone somewhere safe. But he said it was unusual for Villeno not to inform them of his whereabouts, bolstering suspicions that he was “abducted.”

The group now tagged the case as another “enforced disappearance” of a political activist.

Cavite police director Senior Supt. Alexander Rafael earlier said the police would look into the case as soon as a report is filed in their office.

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