21:20:01 local time PHILIPPINES
* Justice for Kentex Workers! Ensure criminal prosecution of Kentex factory owners!:
Discharge from post Sec. Baldoz, Roxas, top officials of DOLE, DILG and BFP! Just compensation to Kentex fire victims and workers! Pass Workers SHIELD Bill!
Justice for Kentex Workers!
A seven-hour blaze gutted the factory of Kentex Manufacturing Inc., maker of rubber sandals that are popular in the Philippines, last May 13, 2015 at Tatalon Street, Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela City.
This is the deadliest industrial fire in the history of the Philippines: more than72 workers perished, several others are still missing, and over a hundred more lost their jobs.
The fact-finding mission conducted by labor groups in the Philippines a day after the Kentex tragedy revealed the company’s serious violations of occupational health and safety (OHS) standards.
These include the following: mishandling of highly flammable chemicals shown by absence of proper storage and labeling of the latter; absence of fire exits at the second floor; absence of fire alarms and drills; and, with the thick steel mesh that covered the factory’s windows, the virtual imprisonment of workers.
Our demands and fight for justice
We support the families of victims of the Kentex fire and the workers who survived the fire, the labor groups, church groups and people’s organizations – all who have come together under the Justice for Kentex Workers Alliance to demand justice for those who died and those who survived.
In particular we call on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to:
1)Ensure the criminal prosecution of the owners of Kentex Manufacturing Inc. We demand criminal liability from the company owners who, in their desire to increase profits, willfully ignored workers’ health and safety standards, and laid out the conditions that resulted in the death of our loved ones.
2) Immediately discharge from their posts and to ensure criminal prosecution of Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz and top officials of the DOLE and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Sec. Mar Roxas and top officials of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) who condoned the operation of a factory that proved to be fatal to workers.
read more and please sign.
* Global Day of Action: Justice for Kentex Workers:
Saturday, June 13, 2015 (All day)
World wide, and in your community!
Please support the global day of action in solidarity with the 72 workers who died, and 20 missing workers, in the Kentex footwear factory fire in the Philippines.
Together we’ll call for justice and safe workplaces
Things you can do:
1. On a pair of flip-flops or sandals, write “Justice for Kentex Workers!” or ” Safety for Workers!” or similar calls. Take a photo of the shoes at your workplace, union or organizational gathering, or in front the Embassy of the Philippines in your country. Post the photo in social media using the hashtag #JusticeforKentexWorkers. Please post the picture on June 13, 2015.
2. Write solidarity messages to the families and survivors. Share on twitter using #JusticeforKentexWorkers.
3. Write the Philippine government and the Department of Labor.
See More in part 2: Philippine footwear Factory fire Part 2 20150701-now
* Contractualization kills – workers’ groups:
“It [contractualization] is an alarming business practice: workers both in public and private sectors are forced to work for wages below the meagre minimum wage, with no benefits, no job security and under poor health and safety work conditions.”
In one of the activities marking the 40th day since 72 workers died in Kentex factory fire at Valenzuela, workers groups picketed in front of the Labor Department’s national headquarters in Intramuros this Thursday June 25 to demand a meaningful response to the tragedy from the government.
Carrying a symbolical coffin of the dead workers, members of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and a broad alliance of public and private sector employees under the All Workers’ Unity (AWU) demanded action against the labor department’s policies for contractualization.
The KMU said the Department of Labor and Employment Order No. 18-A Series of 2011, which is the current set of guidelines governing contractual employment, should be junked over what happened in Kentex.
“Kentex shows that the distinction made by the law between illegal ‘labor-only contracting’ and legal ‘job contracting’ is an illusory one.
All forms of contractualization should be banned and the first step should be to junk DO 18-A Series of 2011,” explained Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chairperson.
Dangers of being permanent contractual, non-regular workers
Some people have expressed concern over why labor groups bring the issue of Kentex fire deaths to the issue of worsening contractualization.
Some readers of Bulatlat.com have also commented that the Kentex victims’ supporters should focus instead on occupational health and safety and fire safety requirements.
* Prelate urges Kentex fire victims’ kin to push case:
* Lawyer: Kentex fire victims’ kin to pursue criminal raps despite P150k settlement:
Families of the Kentex factory fire victims will push through with filing criminal charges against the company despite some receiving compensation for case.
“Nilinaw nila na ang inareglo nila yung civil case lamang at walang makakapigil sa kanila sa pagpatuloy ng kanilang sinampang criminal case sa Office of the Prosecutor ng Valenzuela City,” Atty. Remigio Saladero told GMA News TV’s “Balitanghali” on Thursday.
Kentex Manufacturing Corporation lawyer Atty. Renato Paraiso said earlier that 57 families signed quit-claims, waivers, and releases to receive P151,200.
Saladero admitted that he didn’t know if the waivers precluded the possibility of filing criminal charges against the factory owners, but argued that Kentex did not file their quit-claims to the right group.
* KMU: Settlement does not absolve officials of liability:
While respecting the decision of 57 families to accept the settlement offered by Kentex Manufacturing Corp., the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) yesterday said charges against government officials liable over the tragic May 13 fire in Valenzuela City must push through.
KMU chairman Elmer Labog said the private settlement does not absolve officials of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) of their accountability.
He said there is clear accountability on the part of DOLE since it issued the Certificate of Compliance to Kentex while the DILG has jurisdiction over the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).
Last Tuesday, the families of at least 57 victims agreed to a P151,200 total compensation settlement each, which includes P100,000 in death benefits, P30,000 cash for the identification of the remains of the victims; P10,000 burial assistance; P6,200 for funeral service; and P5,000 travel assistance.
* Despite reaching settlement with victims’ kin, Kentex not yet off the hook – Baldoz:
Kentex Manufacturing Corp. is not yet off the hook despite the reported decision of some of the victims from its razed factory in Valenzuela City to accept its settlement, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said.
In a text message, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the agreement did not absolve the rubber footwear company from possible criminal liabilities for its alleged violations of the government laws and regulations.
She said Kentex could still be prosecuted by the government through the Department of Justice (DOJ).
On Tuesday, Kentex announced that at least 57 victims from razed factory last month have already accepted its R151,200 compensation package in exchange for waiving their right to file civil, criminal and administrative charges against its officers and directors.
Baldoz disclosed the government would still have to verify the circumstances surrounding this incident to ensure the settlement was completed without coercion from Kentex.
“They (Kentex) can present quit claim as proof of payment and workers will be asked to appear to confirm that the act was done voluntarily. This is without prejudice to the criminal case to be filed by DOJ,” Baldoz said.
* Kentex still liable amid settlement with victims’ families:
Kentex Manufacturing Corp. is still not off the hook yet despite the reported decision of some of the victims from its razed factory in Valenzuela City to accept its settlement, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said.
In a text message, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the agreement does not absolve the rubber footwear company from its possible criminal liabilities for its alleged violations of the government laws and regulations.
* 57 families of Kentex fire dead settle as firm insists ‘no liability’:
Families of 57 of the 72 persons who died in the country’s worst factory fire have dropped their claims against Kentex Manufacturing in exchange for a P151,200 settlement, a company lawyer said Tuesday.
The families of more of the workers who died in the May 13 fire at the two-story factory in Valenzuela City are expected eventually to agree to the settlement, said lawyer Renato Paraiso as he maintained that Kentex was not to blame for the blaze since it was started by sparks from welders hired from a third company to repair a gate.
“We have no liability regarding what happened. It is just the moral obligation of the management in looking after the workers,” he said.
The fire at the rubber slippers factory, which claimed 72 lives, sparked outrage over the allegedly unsafe conditions which contributed to the high death toll.
Labor groups also denounced Kentex for relying on contract laborers who were not paid regular salaries.
* More bones, body parts found in debris of burned Kentex factory:
Authorities have found more bones and body parts more than a month after the fire gutted a rubber slipper factory that killed 72 people in Valenzuela City.
According to Senior Supt. Emmanuel Aranas, deputy chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory, they have recovered bones and body parts last Saturday and Monday afternoon under the roof of the building that crashed during the fire.
However, he told the Camanava Press Corps that it would be difficult for them to quickly identify the sexual characteristics of the recovered body parts.
The PNP decided to return to the site inside the Kentex Manufacturing Corp. compound on Tatalon Street, Barangay Ugong after two families sought assistance in locating the bodies of two more workers who might have also been trapped in the collapsing roof.
* Kentex factory fire probe to continue even after settlement –Palace:
The government will continue its investigation on the deadly Kentex factory fire in Valenzuela last May even after some of the victims’ relatives agreed to settle with the company, Malacañang said Tuesday.
In a text message, deputy presidential spokesperson Usec. Abigail Valte acknowledged the victims’ families have the prerogative to accept any settlement.
“It must be respected,” Valte told reporters.
The Palace official, however, said that the victims’ families’ decision to settle with Kentex will not affect the government’s ongoing probe on the fire incident, which left over 70 people dead.
20150623 * Kentex victims’ settlement won’t stop probe on deadly fire:
The government probe on the deadly May 13 factory fire in Valenzuela will continue despite the victims’ settlement with Kentex Manufacturing Corp., Malacañang said Tuesday.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Palace respects the decision of the 57 fire victims’ families to agree to a total compensation package worth P151,200 each.
But the families’ settlement will not stop government from investigating the tragedy.
“The prerogative to accept any settlement belongs to the victims’ families and it must be respected. However, any settlement cannot bind government as far investigations on violations of existing rules and regulations are concerned,” Valte said in a text message to reporters.
The investigation of a government task force found earlier that the Kentex fire was caused by sparks from the welding operation near the factory door which ignited chemicals that were stored in the area.
20150623 * Victims of worst Philippine factory fire settle for $3,360:
Families of 57 of the dead in the Philippines’ worst factory fire have dropped their claims against the company in exchange for a 151,200-peso ($3,360) settlement, a company lawyer said Tuesday.
Families of more of the workers who died in the May 13 fire at the two-storey Kentex Manufacturing factory in suburban Manila are expected eventually to agree to the settlement, said Kentex lawyer Renato Paraiso.
The fire at the factory which makes rubber slippers claimed 72 lives and sparked outrage over the allegedly unsafe conditions which contributed to the high death toll.
Labour groups also denounced Kentex for relying on contract labourers who were not paid regular salaries.
However Paraiso said the settlement includes a waiver against any further claims against Kentex.
“More or less, we gave them what is due to them,” he told AFP.
read more. & read more. & read more.& read more.
* Victims’ families, survivors remember Kentex fire:
Families and survivors in the Kentex factory fire in Valenzuela march for justice as they mark 40 days since the tragedy.
* Kentex victims agree to P151,200 settlement:
Relatives of some of the victims in last month’s Kentex factory fire in Valenzuela City offer flowers at the site of the tragedy on Monday, 40 days after the incident which claimed 72 lives. Photo by RICHARD A. REYES- Inquirer.
Families and representatives of at least 57 victims of the fire that razed the Kentex Manufacturing Corp. slipper factory in Valenzuela last May 13 have agreed to a settlement with the company.
Lawyer Renato Paraiso, who represents Kentex management, said the victims’ families have agreed to a total compensation package worth P151,200 each.
The amount includes P100,000 in death benefits, P30,000 cash for the identification of the remains of the victims, P10,000 burial assistance, P6,200 for funeral services, and P5,000 travel assistance.
Paraiso said the settlement applies to all victims regardless of their employment status.
He said the company would shoulder the medical expenses of regular employees who were injured in the incident. They would also be receiving their separation pay, he said.
He was mum, however, on the benefits of injured contractual employees. Most victims of the fire were reportedly contractual employees.
Paraiso said at least 10 more families were willing to settle within the week “but there are those who would not budge” and were asking as much as P4 million for settlement, “which the company cannot afford at this point.”
read more. & read more. & read more.& read more.
* Labor group claims 99% of factories around Kentex violate labor, safety standards:
A labor coalition said that “99 percent” of the factories around Kentex Manufacturing Corporation’s plant in Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela City violate basic labor laws and occupational health and safety standards.
In a statement sent to GMA News Online, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines-Nagkaisa (TUCP-Nagkaisa) labor coalition said that surprise onsite joint inspections conducted with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the formal labor sector of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) found that most of the initial 42 establishments surrounding the burned-down slipper factory do not comply with the current mandated daily minimum wage of P481.
They also do not remit their employees’ Social Security System, PhilHealth, and Pag-Ibig premiums.
“The inspections also confirmed how widespread contractualization of labor has become,” TUCP-Nagkaisa said.
Many workers in the establishments inspected do not know how to compute their overtime pay, night shift differentials and holiday pay, among others.
They were also not aware of other benefits such as the service incentive leave pay and maternity, paternity and solo parent leave.
On the Occupational Safety and Health Standard aspect, Nagkaisa said that all of the assessed establishments did not comply with the standards. The group said that many factories around Kentex either had no fire exits or had obstructed fire exits.
Here is a complete list of the violations, according to the labor group:
20150622 * Body parts found more than a month after Kentex factory blaze:
The Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Monday that it has found body parts in the gutted slippers factory in Valenzuela City more than a month after the fire killed 72 people.
PNP Crime Laboratory Deputy Director Senior Supt. Emmanuel Aranas said that they are still in the process of identifying the body parts, which they found last Saturday.
Aranas admitted that they are finding it difficult to identify if the body parts belong to a man or a woman.
He also said that they are in close coordination with the Valenzuela City Engineering Office in conducting their retrieval operations because of the dangers posed by the gutted factory.
The PNP returned to the site after two families sought their assistance last week in retrieving two bodies believed to be buried under the collapsed roof of the factory.
* Gov’t handling of Kentex fire won’t prevent repeat – KMU:
Joining today’s mass, solidarity lunch, march and a short program in time for the 40 days of the Kentex factory fire in Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela City, national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno said that the government’s handling won’t prevent a repeat of the tragedy.
The labor group said the national government’s refusal to accept responsibility for upholding workplace safety, the lack of mandatory inspection of businesses, and the meager penalties for employers who violate safety standards mean that factory fires with many casualties will most likely happen again.
“Forty days after the worst factory fire in Philippine history, the government has shown no sign of learning from the tragedy. We’ve seen only finger-pointing and a defense of current policies on the part of the national government,” said Roger Soluta, KMU secretary-general.
The labor leader expressed support for the stand taken by workplace safety NGO Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD) that the national government should be in charge of upholding workplace safety standards, lest there be differences in implementation.
* Remembering the victims:
One day before the 40th day of the fire that hit the Kentex slipper factory in Valenzuela City that killed 72 workers, the members of various groups paid tribute to the victims by conducting a mural painting exercise.
* Why kin of Kentex fire victims spared ‘scared’ welder:
The Kentex factory fire in Valenzuela City that killed 72 people was initially traced to a welder who apparently had no safety measures in place while fixing a gate and allowed welding sparks to fall on a stack of highly flammable chemicals.
But survivors and the families who lost their loved ones in the May 13 inferno did not sue the welder because he was just “an ordinary employee who followed orders,” according to their counsel, Remigio Saladero.
Earlier last week, 12 families represented by Saladero filed a criminal complaint for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and physical injuries against the owners of the footwear factory and the company’s manpower supplier, CJC.
“The welder is just an ordinary employee who does not know much but to follow the orders of the employer. We also pity him, so we focused on the company,” the lawyer explained in an interview.
“Who ordered the welder to do the job? Isn’t it the company?” Saladero said, adding that Kentex management had the “bigger responsibility” in ensuring safety in the factory.
If only the chemicals that were ignited by welding sparks were labeled and properly stored by Kentex, then the fire would not have occurred regardless of any negligence on the part of the welder, who is also a relative of one of the victims, he said.
20150621 * Kin of 8 Kentex fire victims drop labor rap:
The relatives of eight of the workers who died in the Kentex factory fire dropped the case they filed with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), a lawyer said yesterday.
The relatives signed a quitclaim on June 11, said Remigio Saladero, who represented the complainants.
The relatives of 69 workers had filed charges with the NLRC.
“We have filed labor-related charges at the NLRC, but some of the complainants insisted that they will pursue the criminal charges,” he told The STAR.
The owners of the footwear factory were charged with reckless imprudence resulting in homicide before the Valenzuela City prosecutor’s office earlier this month.
Families of the 69 workers who died in the May 13 fire have been offered P136,000 not to file charges against Kentex’s owners.
Saladero said some of those who agreed on the settlement would still pursue criminal charges against Kentex’s owners and CJC Manpower.
* Valenzuela gov’t to shoulder cremation, burial expenses of Kentex fire victims:
The Valenzuela City government made true its promise to extend all the much-needed assistance and support to the families of those killed and workers who became jobless after the rubber slippers factory was razed last May 13.
Mayor Rex Gatchalian announced that the local government will shoulder the burial and cremation expenses for those who want their dead kin to be transferred to any cemetery or cremated.
Gatchalian issued the statement in the wake of the result of the forensic examinations by the Philippine National Police-Crime Laboratory (PNP-CL) which identified 71 of the 72 workers of Kentex Manufacturing Corporation on Tatalon Street, Barangay Ugong.
Regarding the one body left unnamed, the PNP-CL said its DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) had already been destroyed to provide the investigators with any information.
Last May 13, the ill-fated factory was razed after sparks from welding works on a metal roll-up gate in the premises set on fire nearby containers of chemicals.
It has been considered the worst industrial fire in Philippine history.
Investigation by the Inter-Agency Anti-Arson Task Force showed the factory was not issued the fire safety inspection certificate (FSIC) by the Bureau of Fire Protection as it lacked fire alarms, sprinklers and protected fire exits, among other things.
The local government, on one hand, revealed that around 12,400 businesses in the city have no FSIC, all of which the mayor had recently revoked.
* Kentex owners sued:
The family members of fire victims in Valenzuela factory sued the owners of Kentex Manufacturing Corporation and CJC Manpower Services before Valenzuela Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday.
Among the individuals to face case of reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homicide and physical injuries are Kentex President Viato Ang; General Manager Ongkin Guan; board of director members Jose Tan, Charles Ng and Mary Grace Ching; and CJC Manpower Services owner Cynthia Dimayuga.
“’Yung tulong na naibigay wala na medyo ubos na rin, pinipilit naming na mabigyan talaga ng hustisya ‘yung dalawa,” said family victim who lost two members, Ammied Rada, in an ABS-CBN interview.
On top of the cases filed by 51 fire victims’ kin, these owners will also face labor cases filed by the survivors such as violation of Republic Act 6727 or Wage Rationalization Act due to minimum wage and non-compliance to required holiday pay and overtime pay to the workers.
read more. & see video report.
* Two more bodies believed trapped in gutted Kentex factory:
Investigators will return to the fire-gutted Kentex slipper factory in Valenzuela City to look for two more bodies believed to be still buried in the debris, a police official said Wednesday.
According to Senior Supt. Emmanuel Aranas, deputy chief of the Philippine National Police’s Crime Laboratory, two families have sought assistance in locating the bodies of two workers who might have also been trapped in the factory during the May 13 incident.
* Families of factory fire victims sue Kentex owners:
The families of some of the victims in the deadly fire that hit the slippers factory of Kentex Manufacturing Corp. last May 13 have sued the owners of the firm.
They filed charges of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and physical injuries against Kentex president Beato Ang, general manager Ongkin Guan, and board of directors members Jose Tan, Charles Ng and Mary Grace Ching before the Valenzuela City Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday.
Also included in the criminal complaint was Cynthia Dimayuga, owner of CJC Manpower Services, a sub-contractor of Kentex.
The complainants also filed charges for violating Republic Act (RA) No. 6727 or the Wage Rationalization Act for not following the minimum wage and not providing the required holiday benefit package and overtime pay to the workers.
* Kentex owners sued despite money offer:
Saying they were not interested in the settlement offer made by Kentex Manufacturing Inc. at P136,000 per victim, 12 families who lost relatives in the May 13 factory fire sued the firm’s owners on Tuesday.
“I just want justice for my son,” Marilyn Yco, the mother of one of the victims, 24-year-old Frederick, said as she added: “Those who are liable must be held accountable.”
The 12 families were among the 47 people who filed a criminal case of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide or physical injuries against the slipper manufacturer and CJC Manpower Services—the company’s manpower supplier—in the Valenzuela City Prosecutor’s Office. The complainants also included survivors and workers displaced by the factory fire which left 72 people dead.
Both firms were also charged with violating the labor code, wage rationalization regulations and the Social Security System law.
* Kentex trying to create bandwagon-effect for settlement – KMU:
National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno condemned the capitalists of Kentex Manufacturing, Inc. for the latter’s claim that relatives of 30 out of the 72 victims of the factory fire have decided to settle and not file charges against the company.
KMU said the capitalists of Kentex are merely trying to create a bandwagon-effect for a settlement among the victims’ families, are taking advantage of economic hardships being faced by the families, and are offering a meager amount.
“We seriously doubt the Kentex management’s claim about the number of families who have agreed to settle. We believe that it is publicizing a high number in order to try to create a bandwagon effect for settlement,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.
* [Justice for Kentex workers!] Safe workplaces for Filipino workers! Junk contractualization!:
Today, we mark one month of the Kentex factory fire which killed more than 72 workers by calling for justice for the victims and survivors and for all Filipino workers.
We are also calling for safe workplaces for Filipino workers and for the junking of contractualization. We vow to respond to the worst factory fire in Philippine history with a most resolute struggle for justice.
We are revolted that our quest for justice has been met by Pres. Noynoy Aquino with an attempt to whitewash the accountability of top officials of national government agencies.
A tragedy of this scale should have meant the voluntary resignation of the said officials, but Aquino is seeing to it that Labor Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz and Interior and Local Government Sec. Mar Roxas will keep their posts. Aquino’s pronouncements and actions show us that we have to fight hard for justice for the victims and survivors of the Kentex factory fire.
* Valenzuela mayor hails workers, hits BFP after Kentex fire:
A month after the slippers factory fire that claimed 72 lives, Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian has boosted the city government employees’ morale, hailing their unwavering service in the aftermath of the tragedy.
“The Valenzuela citizen is bigger than any tragedy. The Valenzuelano will always rise up,” Gatchalian said during a late last week’s general assembly with the city hall workers held at the Valenzuela People’s Park Amphitheater.
He said further: “I have learned that Valenzuela citizens rise right where they fall. The Valenzuela citizen is bigger than any event, any tragedy, any ordeal.”
The mayor likewise expressed his gratitude to the employees for their loyalty and called on them to continue serving the local constituents.
On May 13, a 3,000-square meter factory of Kentex Manufacturing Corporation in Barangay Ugong was razed after sparks from the welding works on one of its roll-up gates set on fire nearby containers of chemicals.
* Kentex victims’ kin offered only P136k settlement, lawyer says:
Is P136,000 enough for the life of a loved one?
Families who lost their kin in the May 13 inferno at the Kentex slippers factory in Valenzuela city have been offered such an amount as settlement, according to the lawyer of some of the kin of the 72 workers who perished in the fire.
Remigio Saladero, who represents 99 complainants in the cases filed against Kentex in the National Labor Relations Commission, said the Kentex management made the offer during conciliation proceedings last week, and only to those who lost loved ones in the fire.
Saladero said although he represented around half of the families who lost members in the blaze, only 19 of them made it to the proceedings.
“The lawyer of the Kentex management told us that there was no order yet from the labor department holding them liable for violations, so they would only speak with those who lost family members, out of humanitarian reasons,” Saladero said.
* Kentex fire victims’ kin agree to settlement:
Relatives of at least 30 of the 72 victims of the fire that razed the Kentex Manufacturing Corp. in Valenzuela City would no longer file charges against the owners of the slipper factory as they agreed to a settlement instead.
“We are having a settlement with some families and right now the number is at 30,” Renato Paraiso, legal counsel of Kentex, told The STAR yesterday, noting that the number is increasing every day.
Paraiso said those who agreed to a settlement would receive financial assistance and “all that Kentex has previously promised.”
He, however, refused to disclose the total amount that would be given to the victims’ families.
Paraiso said they are one with the families of the fire victims in their quest for justice, pointing out that Kentex owners are going through the same ordeal as they have also lost their source of income and loved ones.
* Kentex, recruiter ordered to pay P8.3M to 99 workers, including 34 killed in fire:
Only 34 of the 72 Kentex Manufacturing Inc. workers killed in the May 13 fire that gutted the slipper factory in Valenzuela City, are among the 99 workers entitled to P8.3 million in back wages and unpaid benefits.
The amount represents the underpayment of minimum wage and unpaid benefits owed these workers, according to the June 8 order of Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Central Luzon Director Ana Dione to Bulacan-based CJC Manpower Services and Kentex.
After it opened in January 2014, CJC started supplying Kentex with workers in April 2014.
But following an investigation, DOLE ruled that CJC had violated labor standards, specifically by underpaying the workers and not giving them their cost-of-living allowance and 13th-month pay, holiday pay and special holiday premium in 2014.
* A month after tragedy, kin of Valenzuela City factory fire victims gather to seek justice:
Relatives of 72 workers who were killed in a fire that hit a sandal factory in Valenzuela City marked the first month after the tragedy Saturday with a protest action.
Several relatives gathered near the site of the fire seeking justice for their loved ones, radio dzBB’s James Agustin reported.
* Joint letter from CCC, WRC, MSN & ILRF to President Aquino:
You can read the letter here (pdf): 20150612 Letter WRC CCC ILRF MSN to Presidency Philippines-KENTEX.
* Kentex liability initially placed at P2.5M:
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is set to order Kentex Manufacturing Corp. to pay an initial amount of P2.5 million to its 76 workers displaced by the tragic factory fire in Valenzuela City last May 13.
DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz yesterday said DOLE-National Capital Region Regional Director Alex Avila is set to issue a compliance order to Kentex.
“Our computation shows the company owes the 76 workers P2,456,108.21 in unpaid monetary benefits,” said Baldoz, but added their computation is based only on affidavits the workers have submitted.
This development comes days after the Justice for Kentex Workers Alliance filed criminal and administrative charges against Baldoz, Avila and other government officials at the Office of the Ombudsman over the death of 72 workers.
* New fire inspection policy won’t make workplaces safer – KMU:
One week after Pres. Noynoy Aquino announced his government’s new policy of cancelling permits to businesses which do not pass the fire bureau’s inspection, workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno held a protest along Taft Avenue in Manila this afternoon, claiming the policy won’t make workplaces safer.
The labor group said Aquino made the policy of not granting business permits to employers who are refused a Fire Safety Inspection Certificate (FSIC) by the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in order to shield national government agencies from accountability for the death of many workers in the Kentex factory fire.
“The ‘No FSIC, no permit’ policy won’t bring about safer workplaces for the country’s workers.
By trying to conceal national government agencies’ accountability for the Kentex factory fire, it would in fact perpetrate unsafe and deadly working conditions,” said Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chairperson.
* Roxas: Kentex workers barking up wrong tree:
Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II yesterday said the Kentex Workers Alliance may be barking up the wrong tree by filing charges against him before the Ombudsman, adding he believes Kentex management and the local city government are responsible for the death of 72 people in a tragic fire last May 13.
Without naming names, Roxas said the city government of Valenzuela headed by Mayor Rex Gatchalian has a bigger responsibility in the tragedy by allowing businesses to operate in its area of jurisdiction even without necessary permits.
“Sa aking pananaw, ang may pananagutan ay ang Kentex at ‘yung nagpahintulot na mag-operate ang Kentex kahit may mga nakitang violations sa fire code ang BFP. In fact, sinita ng BFP ang Kentex at alam nila na may mga violations sila kaya hindi nakakuha ng fire safety inspection certificate,” Roxas said.
Last Monday, the Kentex Workers Alliance, through its lawyer Remegio Saladero, filed charges against Roxas, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, DOLE-NCR Director Alex Avila, DOLE NCR labor compliance officer Engineer Joseph Vedasto, BFP chief Ariel Barayuga, BFP NCR director Senior Supt. Sergio Soriano Jr., Valenzuela City fire marshal Mel Jose Lagan, and chief of the Fire Safety Enforcement Section chief Ed Groover Oculam.
* Roxas: Kentex owners should be held accountable for deadly fire:
For Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, the owners of Kentex Manufacturing Inc. factory in Valenzuela City and those who let them operate despite their violations of fire safety regulations should be held accountable for the massive fire that killed 72 people.
“Sa aking pananaw, ang may pananagutan ay ang Kentex at ‘yung nagpahintulot na mag-operate ang Kentex kahit may mga nakitang violations sa fire code ang Bureau of Fire Protection,” Roxas said in a statement sent to media.
“In fact, sinita ng BFP ang Kentex at alam nila na may mga violations sila kaya hindi sila nakakuha ng fire safety inspection certificate,” he added.
Roxas said this when he was asked to give a reaction on the cases lodged against him for his alleged role in the deadly fire.
But the Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary stressed, although he has not seen the report, that it is the prerogative of survivors and families of fire victims to file charges.
* 2 more DOLE officials face probe on Kentex:
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is now probing two more labor officials, who were involved in the issuance of a certificate of compliance to Kentex Manufacturing Corp.
In a statement, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said they have expanded their internal investigation to include other labor personnel from DOLE-National Capital Region (DOLE-NCR) who authorized the certification of Kentex.
“I would like to inform the public that we have our own administrative process in dealing with our officials and we have asked those who are concerned to submit a written explanation to the DOLE Administrative Complaints Committee (DACC),” Baldoz said.
* Baldoz ready to face case over Kentex fire:
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said she is ready to face the case filed against her before the Office of the Ombudsman by families of victims and survivors of the May 13 Kentex fire in Valenzuela City.
In a statement released Tuesday, Baldoz said although she has yet to receive an official copy of the complaint, she welcomes the opportunity to submit her answer.
“I respect the right of the workers to file a complaint for any official act or omission which they deemed I had committed,” she added.
Families of victims and survivors of the May 13 Kentex fire in Valenzuela City are seeking administrative and criminal charges against eight government officials, including Baldoz and Interior Sec. Mar Roxas.
In a letter complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman Monday, victims and their kin said they “seek the formal investigation and the filing of appropriate charges,” including negligence resulting in homicide and physical injuries, and neglect in the performance of functions against several government officials.
* Kentex fire victims’ kin, survivors seek charges vs. Roxas, Baldoz, 6 others:
Families of victims and survivors of the May 13 Kentex fire in Valenzuela City are seeking administrative and criminal charges against eight government officials, including Interior Sec. Mar Roxas and Labor Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz.
In a letter complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday, victims and kin said they “seek the formal investigation and the filing of appropriate charges,” including negligence resulting in homicide and physical injuries, and neglect in the performance of functions.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.& read more.
* Survivors ask Ombudsman to probe Roxas, Baldoz over Kentex fire:
Survivors of the Kentex fire and their families on Monday demonstrated before the Office of the Ombudsman as they prepared to ask the antigraft body to investigate the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for possible liability over the seven-hour fire at the slippers factory in Valenzuela that killed 72 people.
The survivors led by the Justice for Kentex Workers Alliance are set to file complaints against DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, DOLE National Capital Region Director Alex Avila, DOLE NCR Labor Compliance Officer Engineer Joseph Vedasto, Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) fire chief Director Ariel Barayuga, BFP NCR director Senior Supt. Sergio Malupeng Soriano Jr., Valenzuela City fire marshal Supt. Mel Jose Lagan, and chief of the Fire Safety Enforcement Section Chief Ed Groover Oculam.
The officials will be made to face charges of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and physical injury and negligence of duty.
DOLE and DILG are being accused of failure to ensure safe work conditions for the workers of Kentex Manufacturing Corp., while the BFP is being sued for its delay in releasing the report on Kentex failing to comply with safety standards, said Remigio Saladero Jr., the victims’ lawyer.
* DOLE conducts internal probe after Kentex fire:
The Department of Labor and Employment on Monday said it is up to the Ombudsman to determine if the complaint against officials of DOLE and the Bureau of Fire Protection has basis.
The complaint alleges negligence of official duty in connection with the deadly Kentex factory blaze.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said there is an ongoing internal investigation to determine the culpability of labor officials.
She said the DOLE has released notices to four personnel, including DOLE-NCR director Alex Avila, to explain their side.
“We expect that before the end of the week, all of them have submitted explanation on why they should not be changed administratively and on basis of all the submission, the administrative complaints committee will be tasked to evaluate whether there is any basis and what appropriate cases will be filed against them,” she said.
* ‘Fire safety inspection certificate necessary for businesses’:
Malacañang yesterday defended the government’s “no fire safety inspection certificate, no business permit” policy amid criticisms that it could result in job losses.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma noted that the policy would ensure the safety of workers.
“The safety of workers and our people is the main objective of the government,” Coloma told state-run radio station dzRB.
“All considerations were weighed and the foremost consideration is ensuring that all workplaces have safety appliances like fire escape and sprinkler,” he added.
* Labor, fire officials must be held liable: Kentex group:
Labor and fire officials should be held equally liable for the deaths of 72 people in a tragic fire that gutted the Kentex Manufacturing Corp. sandal factory in Valenzuela City last May 13, the Justice for Kentex Workers Alliance said yesterday.
In a statement coursed through its legal counsel Remigio Saladero, the group said Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, DOLE-NCR Director Alex Avila, DOLE-NCR Labor Compliance officer Joseph Vedasto, and BFP chief Ariel Barayuga should not stay in office a minute longer.
“Kentex workers and families insist that DOLE and BFP official should be removed from office and jailed for their criminal negligence and for condoning the Kentex management’s occupational health and safety standards violations which has led to the worst workplace tragedy in the country that left 72 workers dead,” the group said.
The Justice for Kentex Workers was formed after the tragic fire and counts among its members the fire victims’ families, survivors and their supporters.
* Labor group fears new fire policy will lead to unemployment:
The new fire safety policy implemented by the government may lead to a higher unemployment rate, labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) warned.
The new policy requires businesses to present a fire safety inspection certificate first before they can be issued a business permit.
According to KMU chairperson Elmer Labog, the new policy will most likely lead to widespread retrenchment of employees.
Based on records, only 15 percent, or 43,779 establishments out of a total of 295,885, have a fire safety inspection certificate (FSIC) from the Bureau of Fire Protection.
Closure of establishments without the certificate will directly affect employees.
* Erap on Kentex blaze: Valenzuela execs not liable:
Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada came to the defense of Valenzuela City officials yesterday, saying that they should not be penalized for issuing provisional business permits like the one issued to the Kentex slipper factory.
He said memorandum circulars issued by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) allow local government units (LGUs) to issue provisional business permits until the local fire marshal issues a fire safety inspection certificate (FSIC).
“It has been the practice of LGUs all over the country to issue provisional permits to ensure that the operation of business establishments will not be hampered. And this practice has its legal basis on the memorandum circulars issued by the DTI, DILG and BFP,” Estrada said.
He issued the statement as he aired his support for the Valenzuela City government, whose officials President Aquino said will be among those charged for the May 13 fire that destroyed the Kentex factory and killed 72 people.
The fire code, Republic Act 9154, provides that the certificate is a prerequisite for the issuance of a business permit.
* Valenzuela, BFP trade blame over fire safety inspection:
The word war continues between Valenzuela City and Bureau of Fire officials amid the pressures of keeping up with the fire code.
* Group fears mass layoff as business permits withheld:
A labor group on Saturday warned that many workers could lose their jobs if the government will insist on withholding business permits of companies unable to secure Fire Safety Inspection Certificates (FSICs).
Last Monday, President Benigno Aquino III held a press conference on the fire that killed 72 workers of Kentex Manufacturing Corporation in Valenzuela. He reiterated that companies need FSICs before being given a business operating permit.
But Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said, “Out of the 295,885 registered establishments in Metro Manila, only 43,788 or less than 15 per cent have been given FSIC’s by the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).”
“We fear that this policy would mean massive layoffs for us workers,” it added.
* Compensation for Kentex fire victims on the way, says SSS:
Three weeks after the tragic slipper factory fire in Valenzuela City, the Social Security System (SSS) on Thursday said the agency was ready to hand out employees’ compensation to the families of the victims of the fatal seven-hour blaze that hit Kentex Manufacturing Inc. on May 13.
In a report by dzIQ Radyo Inquirer 990AM, SSS assistant vice president Luisa Sebastian said the agency already processed the benefit claims of 11 out of 72 victims after more than 60 casualties were identified by police forensic experts.
Beneficiaries are set to receive P20,000 worth of employees’ compensation, while another P20,000 in funeral benefits will be granted to them after the processing of applications.
The report said five of 11 processed claims of compensation were “ready for pickup,” adding SSS was eyeing to finish the processing of funeral benefits within the day.
* Unsafe establishments in Valenzuela face closure:
The threat of criminal and administrative charges was enough for Valenzuela City Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian to change his tune.
Gatchalian issued an order on Wednesday revoking all business permits of establishments without a fire safety inspection certificate (FSIC) and serving notice of their closure.
The order came two days after President Aquino warned officials of Valenzuela City that they could be held liable for issuing Kentex Manufacturing Inc. a business permit despite its noncompliance with fire safety standards, a violation of the Revised Fire Code of the Philippines.
The slipper factory burned down on May 13, killing 72 people, mostly workers.
Aquino said Kentex violated fire safety regulations by not having automatic fire sprinklers, fire detection and alarm systems, and protected fire escape.
* Valenzuela fire inspection to affect 12,000 workers:
At least 12,000 workers will be affected by the closure of business establishments in Valenzuela City, labor coalition Trade Union Congress of the Philippines-Nagkaisa (TUCP-Nagkaisa) said on Friday.
Alan Tanjusay, the group’s national spokesperson, said that the number could balloon if Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian would continue with his plan to shut down businesses that failed to comply with fire safety requirements.
“Rather than immediate closure, we suggest that erring and non-compliant companies should be given at least 10 days to correct themselves.
Unless, Mayor Gatchalian does have immediate alternative plans to provide jobs to those thousands of workers who might be affected by his closure plan and prevent a massive problem, we recommend that he be rational at this time,” Tanjusay said.
read more. & read more.
20150605 * VIDEO | Valenzuela City gets stricter on fire safety; 63 Kentex victims identified thru DNA:
In order to prevent a recurrence of the fire that left 72 people dead in Valenzuela City last month, the local government will strictly implement next week its “No Fire Safety Inspection Certificate, No Business Permit” policy.
It means that seven days from now, business establishments in Valenzuela City that fail to present a fire safety inspection certificate (FSIC) will face closure and revocation of their business permits unless they comply with the city ordinance passed on Thursday.
According to the LGU data, there are currently 15,775 registered businesses but only 2,667 have FSICs.
Aside from its firefighting duties, the Bureau of Fire Protection is also charge of inspecting establishments for fire safety. It said compliance with the city ordinance would be doable within two months but the 7-day deadline given by the Valenzuela government would need additional BFP personnel.
* Kentex officials assailed in P136K offer for waivers:
Officials of Kentex Manufacturing Corp., the owner of the sandal factory where 72 workers died in a tragic fire last May 13 in Valenzuela City, were assailed yesterday by a militant labor group for offering a “measly” P136,000 each to the families of the victims and survivors in exchange for waiving legal claims.
Kilusang Mayo Uno chairman Elmer Labog condemned the offer, saying Kentex officials “are showing just how little they value the lives of the workers.”
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) had earlier said Kentex and its illegal sub-contractor, CJC Manpower Services, must pay the company’s 99 workers at least P7.8 million in underpaid wages.
This is aside from the monetary benefits due the workers, like overtime pay, night shift differential, 13th month pay, holiday pay, vacation and leave pay, refund of cash bond, and other emoluments, including social security benefits.
Labog called on the affected families to reject the Kentex offer.
* Special DOJ team builds up factory fire raps:
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has given a special panel of prosecutors 30 days to determine whether or not there are enough evidence to merit the filing of criminal and administrative cases against people behind the Kentex factory fire which left 72 workers dead last month.
In a department order released on Wednesday, De Lima said the panel, which she created partly upon the instructions of President Aquino, would be composed of State Prosecutors Roberto Lao, Olivia Torrevillas and Ma. Cristina Barot as well as State Counsels Margarette Robles, Consuela Corazon Pazziuagan and Dioxenos Sulit.
The team was tasked to review the reports of the Inter-Agency Anti-Arson Task Force (IATF) and Department of the Interior and Local Government, and other official reports on the fire in relation to the Revised Penal Code, Republic Act No. 9514, or the Revised Fire Code, Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Revised Administrative Code, Civil Service Law and Local Government Code, among other regulations.
read more. & read more.
* 63 of 72 Valenzuela City fire victims identified:
The Philippine National Police crime laboratory identified within 15 days 63 of 72 bodies that were recovered in the May 13 Valenzuela City factory fire, making the DNA identification process “one of the fastest in history.”
In a meeting with Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian on Thursday, Senior Supt. Emmanuel Aranas of the PNP crime laboratory said 60 of the victims were known through DNA test by the PNP scene of the crime operations (Soco) disaster victim identification (DVI), while the remaining three victims, including the company owner’s son, were easily identified.
At least 72 individuals died in a seven-hour fire that gutted the factory of Kentex Manufacturing Inc. in Barangay (village) Ugong. The fire was said to have started when spark from a welding work landed on highly-flammable materials stored inside the factory.
The crime laboratory deputy director said 26 of the bodies recovered were males, while 37 were females. Police earlier collected DNA samples from the relatives of the victims through a buccal swab or gently scraping inside the mouth.
read more. & read more.
* KMU hits Kentex for waiver offer to victims:
National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno condemned today the capitalists of Kentex Manufacturing, Inc. for asking the families of the victims as well as the survivors of the fire that gutted the company’s factory to sign waivers surrendering their right to file charges in exchange for a meager amount.
The labor group said that it has been informed by the victims’ families and the survivors that since last Tuesday, the Kentex management has been approaching them to offer P136,000 in exchange for their signatures to a document that waives all their legal claims in relation to the factory fire.
“The capitalists of Kentex are again showing just how little they value the lives of workers. We condemn them for taking advantage of the economic hardships faced by the victims’ families and survivors in order to make the latter waive their right to file charges,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.
* Aquino is selective in call for accountability over Kentex fire – KMU:
In his press conference today, Pres. Noynoy Aquino was being selective in his call for accountability over the Kentex factory fire. He is being selective in hinting at going after the capitalists of Kentex Manufacturing, Inc. and the local government of Valenzuela City.
Among those who are most responsible for the death of many workers were sitting in front of him during his press conference: Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz of the Department of Labor and Employment and Sec. Mar Roxas of the Department of Interior and Local Government.
Baldoz should be held responsible because her agency granted Kentex a certificate of compliance in relation to occupational health and safety standards and general labor standards a few months before the factory fire.
Roxas should be held responsible because the Bureau of Fire Protection, an agency under his watch, allowed Kentex to operate despite the factory’s non-compliance with fire safety standards and failed to notify the city government of Valenzuela of the said non-compliance.
* Kentex probe results up for review:
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Wednesday formed a special panel of prosecutors whose job is to review the findings of an inter-agency task force that investigated the Kentex factory fire in Valenzuela City that killed 72 people last May 13.
In Department Order No. 402, De Lima designated six prosecutors who will assess and evaluate the recommendations and evidence gathered in the report of Inter-Agency Anti-Arson Task Force (IATF) composed of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine National Police and National Bureau of Investigation.
The members of the panel include Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Roberto Lao, Assistant State Prosecutors Olivia Torrevillas and Ma. Cristina Barot, and State Counsels Margarette Robles, Consuelo Corazon Pazziuagan and Dioxenos Sulit.
De Lima has ordered the panel to build the cases and “assess and evaluate the available documentary, testimonial, and object evidence so far gathered in the investigation and provided by the investigating agencies, and determine the sufficiency of the same in the filing of the appropriate criminal and administrative cases.”
“After all the necessary and available evidence is completed and reviewed, the panel shall identify the specific criminal and administrative offenses to be charged and the specific private individuals and public officials who shall be charged therewith, with an enumeration of the evidence to be used for each case against each individual, and whether the same shall be filed with the appropriate public prosecutor of the NPS or the Office of the Ombudsman or any other appropriate body,” De Lima said, in her order.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
& read more. & read more. & read more.
* Inspection teams to be dispatched to factories:
Hundreds of inspection teams from local government units and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) will inspect factories in Metro Manila to enforce safety standards and prevent tragedies similar to the slippers factory fire that killed 72 people in Valenzuela last month.
The teams were created as Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II met with Metro Manila mayors and other local government officials yesterday afternoon in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
“Starting on Monday, there will be abbreviated inspection, wherein inspection teams will check existence of automatic sprinklers, fire exits, so on and so forth. In a month the inspection will be completed,” Roxas told reporters during a briefing after the meeting with the mayors.
* Militant group lambasts Noy for absolving DoLE of any responsibility in Kentex fire:
Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) yesterday slammed the Aquino government for its selective justice system as the group noted President Aquino seems to have no interest in holding Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) officials accountable for the deadly factory fire last month.
Bayan, in a statement, said Aquino seems to be only interested in going after the Kentex Manufacturing management and Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian while protecting his own allies at the labor department.
“Aquino must know that it was the Department of Labor and Employment that issued a labor compliance certificate to Kentex on Sept.14, 2014, supposedly after an inspection by the government agency,” it said.
“Kentex was cleared by DoLE to have complied with occupational health and safety standards. Yet now, DoLE is suddenly without any liability?” the group added.
* Aquino’s tack on Kentex fire deaths ‘selective political gimmickry’ – labor, women’s groups:
“It appears that Aquino broke his silence on the issue more than two weeks after the factory fire to take a swipe at political adversaries at the local level and whitewash the accountability of Labor Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz and Local Government Sec. Mar Roxas for the factory fire.”
Various groups and labor institutions expressed disappointment over President Aquino’s belated report and response on the Kentex factory fire tragedy.
Labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) found Aquino “selective” in his calls for accountability over the Kentex factory fire, saying the president dished out calls for accountability yet failed to include the guiltiest parties in his Cabinet.
After the government concluded its investigation, President Aquino held a press conference June 1, more than two weeks after the fire that recorded an official death toll of 72.
Aquino hinted at going after just the capitalists of Kentex Manufacturing, Inc. and the local government of Valenzuela City.
The latter, through Valenzuela City mayor Rex Gatchalian, immediately reacted against it, claiming they are just abiding by the Bureau of Fire Protection’s recommendations.
* SSS eases procedures for benefit claims of Kentex fire victims:
The Social Security System on Monday said it would relax its rules to fast-track the processing of death and funeral benefits for the victims of the fatal seven-hour fire that hit a slipper factory in Valenzuela City last May 13.
In a statement, SSS said it already had the official list of victims of the fire that killed more than 70 employees of Kentex Manufacturing, Inc., which the agency said it would use as basis for processing and approving claims.
“The master list from the city government of Valenzuela will serve as the death certificate of the 74 victims so we will start processing funeral and death claims,” said Jose Bautista, senior vice president of SSS NCR Operations Group.
* Unions urge labor standards in reassessment of Metro Manila factories:
* 23 factories near Kentex unsafe:
President Aquino on Monday directed the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) to inspect more than 300,000 factories in Metro Manila, stressing the need to prevent a repeat of the fire that destroyed a rubber slipper factory and killed 72 workers in Valenzuela City on May 13.
The President issued a directive after learning that at least 23 other factories in Valenzuela City had not been following fire safety regulations.
Aquino gave BFP inspection teams two to three months to do their job, focusing on the factories’ strict adherence to fire safety regulations.
During a news conference in Malacañang, the President also directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to complete as soon as possible the investigation of the fire at Kentex Manufacturing Corp. in Valenzuela City and file criminal and administrative charges against all those liable for the blaze that cost the lives of 72 workers.
Kentex was one of 24 factories in Barrio Ugong, Valenzuela. The President said the BFP inspected the 23 other factories there and found them all to be violating fire safety regulations.
* Aquino orders investigation to prosecute Valenzuela officials involved in factory fire:
The government is determined to prosecute all those liable for the Kentex factory fire, including certain officials of the city government of Valenzuela, President Aquino announced on Monday.
The President said Valenzuela local government officials should have not issued permits allowing the operation of the the factory due to glaring violations not only of the country’s labor laws but also of fire safety standards.
“Since they started in 1996, they have not complied with the requirements of the Fire Code and this was a tragedy waiting to happen,” the President said in Filipino about the fire that razed down a footwear factory in Valenzuela City and left 72 persons dead.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* Kentex workers: Where is justice?:
“We seek for justice. We demand for financial support and most importantly for work to fulfill the needs of our family. What is the government’s plan for us? How can we survive when we have nothing?”
Catherine Rivera, one of the workers of Kentex, said in an interview while she and co-workers were filing labor cases against the company at the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).
Rivera, 30, had worked for one year at Kentex. Two of her siblings died in the May 13 fire that gutted the factory. She said she received “insufficient financial support.”
Along with her co-workers, Rivera said they are still saddened and pained because of what happened to their family members. For them, she said, she and her co-workers wanted to get what is just.
“The government should be doing something for us. Actually, we should not be appealing to them because they are accountable. Some of our family members died, but we are still alive and they are acting like we had also died — we still have to provide for our families, but how can we achieve that without having a job?” she said in Filipino.
* PNoy: Kentex ‘sub-contractor’ a 19-year-old student:
Besides fire safety violations, the government is also looking at the labor offenses in the Kentex Manufacturing Corp. factory in Valenzuela City that burned down last month.
President Benigno Aquino III announced this on Monday in a press conference in Malacañang on the May 13 Kentex fire that killed 72 people.
Aquino said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has investigated the labor code violations of Kentex and its supposed sub-contractor.
* PNoy: Valenzuela execs to face raps over Kentex fire:
President Benigno Aquino bared on Monday that Valuenzuela City government officials will face charges over the deadly Kentex Manufacturing Corp. factory fire last month.
During a press briefing in Malacañang, Aquino said the Valenzuela City government should have not allowed the Kentex factory to operate since it lacked a fire safety inspection certificate (FSIC).
Aquino said the Kentex factory was not issued an FSIC because it did not have the required automatic fire sprinkler system, fire detection and alarm system and protected fire exits.
“There were people in the Valenzuela City government who gave them a permit and the certificate of occupancy. That is an established fact,” Aquino said.
* Valenzuela mayor: Fire inspection not required for business permit:
The local government of Valenzuela City on Monday insisted that they had legal basis in allowing Kentex Manufacturing Corp. to operate despite its lack of a fire safety inspection certificate (FSIC).
During a press briefing aired on television, Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian cited the joint circular of the Department of Interior and Local Government and Department of Trade and Industry signed in 2010, which states that a FSIC is not required to obtain a business permit.
Gatchalian also cited a DILG memo, signed in 2011, which allows LGUs to issue a provisional business permit and then tasks the Bureau of Fire Protection to inspect establishments. The BFP is later on expected to report to the LGU if there is any negative finding.
* PNoy orders inspection of 300K NCR shops, hints at prosecution of Valenzuela execs over Kentex fire:
President Benigno Aquino III said Monday he had ordered relevant agencies to inspect 300,000 establishments in the National Capital Region, as he dropped broad hints local officials in Valenzuela City – celebrated by the World Bank as a business-friendly city – could face criminal charges for the May 13 Kentex slippers factory fire that killed 72 people.
In a rare press conference seen as uncharacteristic for a President, Mr. Aquino went into the minutiae of an interagency fact-finding report on the cause of the fire and the huge casualty, including serious regulatory lapses that allowed the factory to keep operating despite violations of fire safety and occupational and labor standards.
He declined to name the officials who could be liable, but took pains to defend the record of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), which he contrasted with City Hall’s act of issuing Kentex its annual permits despite the absence of a Fire Safety Inspection Certificate in 2014.
Aquino conceded, though, that certain BFP personnel were ordered to explain why an FSIC was issued Kentex in 2012 – when, the President said, it would have been unlikely for Kentex to already have fire sprinklers and proper exits and other safety features that were not found by the team that inspected it in 2014.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* Labor group dares PNoy to certify bill criminalizing OSH violations:
The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) today challenged President Benigno Aquino III to certify as priority legislation of his administration the bill providing for criminalization of violation of occupational safety and health (OSH) standards.
“PNoy’s declaration that there needs to be an ‘integrated multi-disciplinary approach’ in response to the Kentex factory fire are highfalutin words good for bureaucrats but abstract to workers who want to see concrete action and political will from the government,” averred Rene Magtubo, PM national chair.
It was reported that last Wednesday that President Aquino met officials from the Labor Department and other agencies regarding the government’s response to the Kentex fire.
Even earlier Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz pushed for the enactment of pending bills that mandate stiffer fines and jail terms for employer breach of workplace safety standards.
“We welcome Secretary Baldoz’s support for bills criminalizing OSH violations but until her boss PNoy certifies as urgent such pending legislation, they remain so much noise signifying nothing,” Magtubo insisted.
PM had been vocal in calling not just for justice for workers killed and injured in the Kentex fire but for labor inspection and enforcement reforms. As an immediate reform, Magtubo called for deputizing labor leaders as additional labor inspectors. PM is also pushing for criminalization of OSH violations as a potent deterrent.
* Aquino told: Kentex not the first, promises not enough:
National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno told Pres. Noynoy Aquino today that the fire which gutted the factory of Kentex Manufacturing, Inc. last May 13 is not the first factory fire under the chief executive’s watch and that general promises would not suffice to stop similar incidents from happening.
The labor group was reacting to Aquino’s statement last Thursday that what happened in Kentex, which resulted in the death of more than 72 workers, should not happen again and that his government is taking a so-called “integrated multidisciplinary approach” to the problems exposed by the factory fire.
KMU said Aquino has failed to change policies that resulted in the Kentex fire despite factory fires that occurred earlier: the May 2012 fire which killed 17 female workers in Novo Jeans and Shorts in Butuan City and the April 2014 fire which killed eight workers in Asia Micro Tech in Pasay City.
“By speaking as if Kentex is the first major factory fire under his term, Aquino is showing his insincerity with regard to upholding workers’ safety and rights. He refuses to acknowledge his government’s failure to review policies on this matter and he stops at making general promises,” said Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chairperson.
* Youth among the dead at Kentex:
For Suprimo Lugana, 19 years old, working at Kentex was just one among a series of non-permanent jobs he had had in his young life; little did he know that it would be his last.
“If only his bones got broken, it would have been alright with us,” said a woman who accompanied a teenaged wife of one of the victims at the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) Tuesday, May 26.
They went to file labor cases against Kentex Manufacturing Corp. that day.
“Justice is what we’re after,” said Jennifer Novora, 36. She introduces herself as half-sister of one of the victims.
At her side was Rowena Hije, 16, wife of Kentex fire victim Suprimo Lugana, 19 years old. Hije and Lugana had been married for just a year and two months when he died.
Like other relatives of workers in Kentex, Hije and Novora had rushed to Kentex after they saw the thick smoke and heard the fire sirens and it did not seem to be dying out easily.
They live in a rented dormitory just near the factory.
Outside Kentex premises they waited and waited for the workers, most of whom never made it out alive.
Meanwhie, they said those who waited outside and the survivors who managed to scamper out before the chemicals exploded circled the compound feeling frustrated and helpless.
* No more repeat of Kentex tragedy, Noy vows:
Make sure that laws on fire safety are strictly enforced to prevent a repeat of the Kentex tragedy.
President Aquino issued this directive to Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas during their meeting on Wednesday, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said yesterday.
“The President wants an integrated multi-disciplinary approach to make more responsive our legal framework and make answerable all owners of establishments that hire workers,” Coloma told a press briefing.
He said there should be conscious efforts to ensure the safety as well as the health and well-being of employees of industrial firms.
* Kentex survivors, families demand justice, assistance:
Some survivors said there were victims who were so incinerated they just became part of the “debris” that were cleaned out and disposed of in sacks by a crew of “rescue” workers from the city government and firefighters.
We could not just let what happened pass,’” said Kenny Guerrero, 28, a delivery crew of Kentex’s Havana rubber slippers products.
Almost two weeks since the Kentex factory fire in Valenzuela that officially killed at least 72 workers, the surviving workers now without jobs and the family of those who died are still grappling with the implication of a preventable tragedy.
They trooped to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) on Tuesday, May 26, in one of their efforts to seek justice for what happened.
Guerrero, one of the 22 workers who came to file a case against the Kentex owners and the agency who employed them as longtime contractuals, has worked in Kentex for years. “I’ve had friends there and a brother-in-law who died in the fire,” he said.
He remembers them vividly every night, he said, and he has trouble going to sleep. He especially took pity on their children.
Whenever he sees the bereaved families, he notes how they still appear to be dazed and shocked.
He went to the office of the NLRC wearing a black T-shirt on which was written their call in white: “#Justice for Kentex workers,” on top of an illustration of a pair of slippers.
* After Valenzuela fire, PNoy orders review of PHL’s workers’ safety standards:
Following the Valenzuela factory fire earlier this month that killed 72 people, President Benigno Aquino III has directed government agencies to conduct a “comprehensive” review of occupational safety standards in the country.
During a meeting in Malacañang on Wednesday afternoon, Aquino ordered labor, local government and health officials to propose how to give teeth to the country’s laws on occupational and fire safety.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told reporters on Thursday that Aquino is open to amending occupational safety laws to make them more responsive to workers’ needs.
“Ang nais ng Pangulo ay iyong integrated multidisciplinary approach para mas maging mahigpit o responsive yung ating legal framework at mapanagot natin lahat ng mga may-ari ng mga establisyimento na nag-eempleyo ng mga manggagawa,” Coloma said at a press briefing.
The Palace official said Aquino emphasized during the hearing that a deadly fire in a commercial establishment should never happen again.
* DOLE told: Justice for Kentex workers goes beyond compensation:
Responding to the Labor Department’s order to Kentex Manufacturing, Inc. and CJC Manpower Services to pay P7.8 million in underpaid wages to 99 workers, national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno said that justice for those who died and survived in the factory fire goes beyond the issue of compensation.
The labor group also said that the Department of Labor and Employment should not confine itself with Kentex and CJC and should go after all capitalists, especially the big ones, and manpower agencies that engage in labor-only contracting and in contractualization in general.
“This amount, even by the Labor Department’s admission, is not enough as compensation.
At the same time, justice for Kentex workers goes beyond compensation.
Those who are responsible for the death of many workers should be held accountable and jailed,” said Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chairperson.
* Kentex factory fire shows contractualization should be banned completely:
The law states that “labor-only contracting” is illegal but “job contracting” is legal. The factory fire in Kentex shows that “labor-only contracting” can be undertaken by capitalists under the guise of “job contracting” and the DOLE would only find out when it’s too late and many workers have already died.
For us workers, what this means is that contractualization should be banned completely, whether in the guise of “job contracting”or in the blatant form of “labor-only contracting.”
It would be of no use to workers, and it would even be used against us, if attempts are made to retain contractualization in the guise of making it look like “pro-worker.”
* Noy tackles fire safety issues with BFP, gov’t execs:
Following the tragic Valenzuela fire that left 72 workers dead, President Aquino met yesterday with the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and other concerned government agencies to come up with policies that could provide more stringent fire safety measures.
The meeting, which was attended by Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II – the BFP being under the DILG’s supervision – was specifically called by Aquino, said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.
“The President wants to be apprised (of the facts and developments of the case). While some people may view it as a local incident, to us, it’s not because it goes into safety measures that should be enforced in industrial spaces,” Valte said.
Malacañang also expressed support to proposals that would criminalize violations of fire and building codes as well as health safety standards.
* Why the Philippines’ Deadly Factory Fire Will Not Be the Last:
The deaths of 72 workers at a sandals factory in the Philippines earlier this month is sadly not shocking news; risk of mass death is practically considered a regular cost of doing business in the regional factories.
But the blaze coincides with two grim anniversaries for Global South labor: the death of more than 1,100 workers in the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013, and the subsequent launch of a landmark safety program for Bangladesh factories.
Today, it all adds up to a tragically uneven record of reform in Asia’s low-wage, high fashion manufacturing system.
Conditions at the Kentex Manufacturing facility in Valenzuela, which produced shoes for the domestic market, were painfully familiar, according to auditors and news reports: workers were reportedly paid well below minimum wage, worked half-day shifts, and braved toxic fumes without proper protective gear inside poorly ventilated, often sweltering factories.
Research on the disaster by a coalition of NGOs, including the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development and the trade union Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) found that the factory compound was effectively a death trap, lacking basic fire alarms and fire exits, with “only two gates, one… for people and the other… for delivery trucks.
The factory windows are covered with steel grills and chicken wire which could not easily be destroyed even during emergencies.”
Many struggled to escape by breaking the windows (sealed, the company’s lawyer later explained, to prevent “stealing”), a few jumped from the second floor and some had to scale the walls since the trucks were blocking their path.
KMU tells The Nation via e-mail that corporate impunity is abetted by “free trade” across the region:
Multinational manufacturers and foreign investors play a huge role as to why violations of workers’ health and safety in the workplace are violated…. The Philippine government courts their approval for its major economic and employment policies, making it appear that the country is dependent on them for employment and overall economic activity.
The liberalization of trade under the dominance of the US has had the effect of worsening the race to the bottom of underdeveloped countries when it comes to workers’ wages, job security and trade-union rights. We have every reason to believe that this is the direction of the US’ new free trade agreement with various Pacific Rim countries.
According to the labor rights group Workers Assistance Center (WAC), improving factory conditions must involve not only tightening internal regulations—the deeply understaffed labor department runs primarily on “voluntary” compliance by factories—but also seeking international accountability:
* DOLE hastens release of SSS benefits of Kentex fire victims:
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Employees’ Compensation Commission (ECC) have ordered the immediate release of the benefits due the victims of the tragic fire that gutted the sandal factory owned by Kentex Manufacturing Corporation in Valenzuela City last May 13.
ECC Executive Director Stella Zipagan-Banawis said they have issued Board Resolution No. 15-05-21 mandating the immediate granting of the Employees’ Compensation (EC) benefits to the workers.
“The ECC, through the said board resolution, directed the Social Security System (SSS) to immediately process and release the corresponding EC benefits to the workers, who survived the tragedy, and/or to the families of workers, who died in the fire,” said Banawis.
Under the resolution, the ECC said the SSS has agreed to do away with the submission of several documentary requirements in the processing of EC benefits.
The resolution said the submission of the list of casualties issued by the City Government of Valenzuela will be enough.
* Kentex is no aberration:
The general public, even the government, expressed shock over the death of more than 72 workers in a fire that gutted the factory of Kentex, makers of local rubber slippers Havanas.
Labor Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz vowed to look into the liability of Kentex and run after CJC Manpower Services, the firm supplying workers for Kentex.
This after news reports revealed that Kentex violated the Fire Code resulting in the death of the workers who were trapped inside the building, and that the workers are contractuals; they have been receiving wages below the minimum wage and were not enjoying the benefits that they were supposed to receive under the Labor Code.
But the Department of Labor and Employment and the Bureau of Fire Protection were put in a spot when the lawyer of Kentex revealed that the company was issued certificates of compliance by both government agencies.
Added to this, the lawyer of Kentex was right in saying that it is the job of the labor department to run after manpower agencies that do not comply with labor standards.
Actually, it is the labor department’s doing that these manpower agencies, which supply workers providing essential services to companies, exist in the first place.
* Infamous Blaze*: On Kentex workers and the struggle of labor:
This is no way to die. That was my initial reaction upon reading the news on a factory fire that killed 72 people who made rubber slippers for a living.
This is among the worst documented fires in contemporary times in terms of casualties. In 2001, fire gutted a budget hotel killing 75 people. Much earlier, 162 people died in a big fire that gutted the Ozone disco in 1996.
Witnesses and survivors report that victims were screaming for help behind iron grills that barred them from escaping through the windows.
The iron grills were installed to protect the owners of Kentext from theft.
Yet the 72 workers on account of a system that reduces labor to a mere function of time had nothing to protect themselves from the theft of surplus value that capitalists practice every working day.
The iron grills that trapped the workers to death weren’t even a metaphor for the iron law of wages that kept workers’ pay to a minimum.
They were the logical conclusion of capitalist accumulation, a process that cannot take place without taking away all value that comes from labor to the point of sucking the life out of labor itself.
* Kentex ordered to pay workers P7.8M:
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Central Luzon issued on Sunday a cease-and-desist order against the subcontractor of Kentex Manufacturing Corp. for engaging in “labor only” subcontracting.
The Valenzuela City-based firm and CJC Manpower Services, which holds office in Meycauayan City, Bulacan, are also expected to receive a compliance order directing them to pay an initial P7.8 million to 99 workers who were unpaid.
The beneficiaries were hired a month before a fire at the Kentex factory killed 72 workers on May 13, according to a statement issued by the DOLE Central Luzon office. It was not immediately known if the 99 workers included those who died in the deadly fire.
The labor department earlier said that CJC was an unregistered manpower service firm.
“A compliance order will be issued against Kentex and CJC Manpower Services directing them to pay the amount due the workers under the Labor Code as amended and other labor laws.
Kentex will shoulder the liabilities as the direct employer [since] CJC Manpower Services [is] a ‘labor only’ contractor,” Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said in the statement.
* NAPC: Valenzuela officials, DOLE, BFP ‘guilty of negligence’ for Kentex tragedy:
The National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) said that aside from the Kentex Manufacturing Corp., officials of Valenzuela City, Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), and Department of Labor and Employment should be held liable for the death of 72 people, 69 of whom were workers.
In a statement, Edwin Bustillos, Sectoral Representative of NAPC Formal Labor and Migrant Workers Sectoral Council, said that it is “incredible” that all safety and labor violations of Kentex have not been addressed by BFP, DOLE and the Valenzuela City despite the various inspections they conducted on the slippers factory.
“It is incredible that with all the supposed multiple and regular ‘inspections’ conducted by the City Hall, BFP, and DOLE, yet their ‘inspectors’ have miserably failed to notice the very obvious fire hazards posed by the building and the very open violations of management of the general labor standards and occupational safety and health standards,” Bustillos said.
“The violations of Kentex on safety and health standards were left unnoticed by regular inspections by City Hall, the BFP, and the DOLE.
The local officials of Valenzuela are guilty of negligence of duty,” the statement read.
* ‘Kentex owners still in Phl’:
The daughter of one of the Kentex Manufacturing Corp. owners has assured the government that the businessmen are still in the Philippines, contrary to some reports that they have fled the country.
Barbara Ang, daughter of Kentex shareholder Veato Ang, said her father and his business partners have no plans of leaving the country despite the razing of the Valenzuela slipper factory, which killed 72 workers on May 13.
Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian also stood by his promise to punish any local official who issued the business permit to Kentex even without a fire safety inspection clearance.
He reiterated though that the local government followed national guidelines in issuing the permit and that local officials did their responsibilities based on the laws and circular guidelines.
read more. & to read.
* Anti-Arson Task Force continues to probe Valenzuela fire tragedy:
The Inter-Agency Anti-Arson Task Force (IATF) held a walk-through at the slipper factory of the Kentex Manufacturing Corp. in Valenzuela City to continue its investigations on the fire tragedy that killed 72 persons.
According to Supt. Renato Marcial, spokesman of IATF, the walk-through, conducted with the Scene of the Crime Operative (SOCO), served as an update to and a part of the investigation to find out the liable party behind the tragedy.
Marcial reported that the condition of the building remained unsafe for the team and the search for the missing bodies would continue after the building had been demolished.
“It is too dangerous for the members of the task force to continue the inspection, especially that there’s a possibility the building might disintegrate,” Marcial said.
* Lawmaker wants review of Labor Code’s ‘contractualization’ provisions after Kentex fire:
The deaths of 72 people in a fire at a Valenzuela City slipper factory have exposed the need to review the the country’s Labor Code and plug up loopholes that have allowed businesses to hire contractual workers, a lawmaker said Sunday.
Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles, chairman of the House committee on Labor, said his panel had established in its hearing last week that many of the workers at Kentex Manufacturing Corp. were subcontracted through unlicensed manpower pooling firm CJC Manpower Services.
The committee also discovered that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) conducted three inspections through its labor law compliance officers (LLCO) at the Kentex facility but failed to verify the background of the manpower agency that supplied the workers.
* ‘Welding near flammable chemicals caused Kentex fire’:
The Inter-Agency Anti-Arson Task Force has released the results of its investigation on the massive fire that killed 72 people in Kentex Manufacturing Corporation in Valenzuela City on May 13.
According to Fire Supt. Renato Marcial, spokesperson of the probe team, investigation showed that fire started when sparks from a welding machine set ablaze flammable chemicals inside the factory.
This was based on interviews with survivors, employees, the company’s owners, and the welders working in the factory.
The key accounts came from welder Oscar Romero and factory supervisor Steve Chua.
The task force is now in the process of determining who should be held responsible in the fire, including the owners and administrators of the factory, negligent officials of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and the local government of Valenzuela City.
* Labor sets up hotline after Kentex tragedy:
The Department of Labor and Employment has opened a round-the-clock desk hotline to answer complaints in the workplace as part of the government’s intensified information and education campaign to raise awareness and understanding of safety and health concerns in the workplace in the aftermath of the recent Kentex factory fire that killed 72 people and injured many others.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz directed the Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) and the Employees Compensation Commission (ECC), both attached agencies of the DOLE, to assign personnel to man their respective hotlines.
She also urged workers and concerned citizens all over the country to actively participate in this campaign by reporting to the DOLE the presence or existence of risky and unsafe conditions and practices in all establishments so that the DOLE can take immediate action.
read more. & read more.
* Kentex had no fire alarm – probers:
The 72 dead workers of Kentex Manufacturing Corp. could have survived the fire that hit the slipper factory on May 13 if fire alarm systems were installed, a task force looking into the tragedy said yesterday.
Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) spokesperson Renato Marcial, who led the Inter-Agency Task Force walk-through Saturday morning said the production and office areas of the factory were not equipped with alarms that could have warned the workers.
As it appeared, the workers were only alerted when “a supervisor” shouted about the fire to the production and assembly sections where most of the workers were trapped, he said.
read more. & read more.
* Kentex, subcontractor could be ordered to pay P7.8M in underpaid wages – DOLE:
Kentex Manufacturing Corp. and its subcontractor CJC Manpower Services could be made to pay P7.8 million in underpaid wages for 99 workers deployed to the rubber sandal maker.
Labor secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said in a statement Saturday that the Department of Labor and Employment’s regional office in Central Luzon may issued a compliance order requiring payment of wages owed to the workers next week.
“A compliance order will be issued against Kentex and CJC Manpower Services directing them to pay the amount due the workers under the Labor Code, as amended, and other labor laws.
Kentex will shoulder the liabilities as the direct employer, CJC Manpower Services, being a ‘labor-only’ contractor,” she said.
Baldoz said the amount does not yet include overtime pay, night shift differential, 13th month pay, holiday pay, vacation and leave pay, refund of cash bond, and social security benefits.
“It also does not include the amount due the workers of Kentex itself, which will be the subject of another compliance order to be issued by DOLE National Capital Region Director Alex Avila,” Baldoz explained.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* DOLE issues cease-and-desist order on Kentex subcontractor:
The Department of Labor and Employment has issued a cease-and-desist order against CJC Manpower Services, the subcontractor of Kentex Manufacturing Corporation, whose manufacturing facility burned down on May 13, 2015.
Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said DOLE Regional Office 3 ordered CJC Manpower Services to “cease and desist from recruiting, supplying, and/or deploying workers to companies and employers effective immediately”.
She said CJC was found to be engaged in “labor-only” subcontracting.
At least 72 people were killed in the fire.
Most of the victims are said to have suffocated to death from the smoke.
to read. & read more.
* Kentex’s sub-contractor ordered to stop operations:
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has ordered CJC Manpower Service, the sub-contractor of Kentex Manufacturing Corporation, to stop operations after a joint assessment showed it committed various labor violations.
Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said their DOLE Regional Office No. 3 ordered CJC Manpower Services to “cease and desist from recruiting, supplying, and/or deploying workers to companies and employers effective immediately.”
She said CJC was found to be engaged in “labor-only” subcontracting.
“Regional Director Ana P. Dione has issued today a cease and desist order against CJC Manpower Services. A copy of the cease-and-desist order was furnished the business licensing office of the City of Meycauayan, Bulacan, with a recommendation to cancel the business permit of CJC Manpower Services without prejudice to the filing of appropriate criminal charges against the owner and other responsible officer and personnel,” said Baldoz in a statement released yesterday.
* Kentex fire victims cope with loss of loved ones:
As flames engulfed Kentex Manufacturing factory, Gelson Logrono, who lives near the area, ran toward the burning building and screamed for his wife Bernardita’s name, hoping she would survive the fire.
But his wife did not respond.
“When I heard there was fire, I immediately ran to the factory. I went to a staircase nearby and called out my wife. But no one came out of the building,” said a reticent Gelson in Filipino as he and his son lit a candle for the victims of the May 13 inferno in front of the factory ruins in Barangay (village) Ugong.
With Gelson and his eight-year-old only son was Bernardita’s brother, who also mourns for the death of his two sisters who are both working for Kentex.
They went back to the building, where 72 persons died during the fire, after they joined other families of victims in filing charges against Kentex before the National Labor Relations Commission for violating labor standards.
read & see more.
* Families reject Kentex apology:
A daughter of one of the owners of Kentex Manufacturing Corp. apologized yesterday to the families of the victims of the fire that gutted the firm’s slippers factory and killed 72 people in Valenzuela City on May 13.
Some of the relatives, however, rejected her apology and felt that the owners were not sincere.
Barbara Ang, eldest daughter of Kentex shareholder Veato Ang, met the victims’ relatives at about 9 a.m. at the assembly hall in Barangay Ugong in Valenzuela City yesterday morning.
Ang said that she personally sought forgiveness from the families of the fire victims as part of the company’s moral obligation to the relatives who lost their loved ones during the fire in Barangay Ugong.
She said the families of the victims deserve to hear the owners’ apology since the workers were the company’s responsibility and under their care when the fire happened.
* Kentex owners sorry for fire but ‘not saying it’s our fault’:
Facing grieving families more than a week after the huge fire that hit the Valenzuela City factory co-owned by her father, Barbara Ang asked for forgiveness and more patience, saying her family was also shaken and still reeling from the tragedy.
“This is not the best time to point fingers at those who should be blamed or are at fault,” said Ang, the eldest child of Veato Ang, one of the shareholders of Kentex Manufacturing Corp., whose management is facing investigation not only for the May 13 inferno but also for questionable labor practices at its rubber slipper factory in Barangay Ugong.
“We are all going through the same thing. This is also our darkest hour,” she said, adding that her 80-year-old father was “shocked” and hospitalized upon learning about the fire. “We’re just glad that he did not suffer a stroke.”
* VIDEO | Emotional encounter between Kentex owners, fire victims’ kin:
Some cried unabashedly, others voiced their frustration.
Such was the scene during a very emotional encounter when families of victims of the fire met for the first time on Friday with the owners of Kentex Manufacturing Corp., the slipper factory that burned down in Valenzuela City that left 72 people dead on May 13.
Crycil Pontillas, a widow who lost her husband in the fire, could not help but voice her anger.
“Bakit hindi niyo kami diretsuhin… magkano ibibigay niyo sa amin? Pinapaikot niyo lang kami. (Why can’t you tell us outright…how much will you give us? You’re only giving us the run-around),” Crycil shouted angrily while crying.
Barbara Ang, a daughter of the owner Kentex, answered that the fire incident is still under investigation and asked for her understanding.
But Crycil, not controlling her tears, said, “Hindi niyo kami naiintindihan. Sarili niyo lang ang iniisip niyo (You don’t understand us. You’re only thinking of yourselves)!”
At that point, Barbara went to her side, embraced her and comforted her. All that Barbara could repeatedly say to her was sorry while the widow told her that she was left with two children and her youngest was just six months old. And then they both cried.
read more. & read-see more.
* DOLE asks workers to report unsafe workplaces:
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) asked the public to help promote health and safety in the workplace by reporting to them the presence of risky and unsafe conditions and practices in all establishments.
“The public can help us in our campaign to foster safe and healthy workplaces by reporting to us all risky, dangerous, and unsafe working conditions and practices so we can take fast action.
Occupational safety and health is a two-way street. It cannot be that the government only has the responsibility,” Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said in a statement.
However, she appealed to the public to avoid making prank calls.
“While we will exert effort to verify even anonymous tips, we also request reporters or tipsters to please avoid making prank calls,” said Baldoz.
The labor chief already directed the Occupational Safety and Health Center and the Employees Compensation Commission, their attached agencies, to assign personnel to man their respective hotlines/helpdesks and answer queries and complaints on health and safety in the workplace.
* Probers establish fire safety violations in Valenzuela warehouse:
Authorities have established several violations of fire safety regulations at the Kentex Manufacturing Corp. factory and warehouse that was gutted by a seven-hour fire last week.
The inter-agency task force on Friday conducted its last “walk-through” of the premises with the Bureau of Fire Protection using a 3D laser scan equipment to generate a three-dimensional layout of the factory, including precise measurements of the site.
Probers found that the factory did not have enough emergency exits and had no sprinkler and alarm systems.
Second, highly flammable chemicals were found to have been mishandled.
Also, the building was found to have no safety officer and no BFP permit for welding operations in the premises.
* Senate investigation on Valenzuela fire sought:
Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr., chairman of the Senate Local Government Committee, sought yesterday a parallel probe on the deadly fire at Kentex Manufacturing Corporation in Valenzuela City last May 13.
In his Senate Resolution 1365, Marcos asked the Senate leadership to direct an appropriate committee to look, in aid of legislation, into the circumstances that led to the May 13 fire that razed the slipper company.
Early this week, the House of Representatives began its probe into that deadly conflagration.
Marcos stressed the need for legislative measures to enhance and strengthen occupational safety and health standards.
Initial reports showed that the slipper factory had violated safety standards and several labor laws.
* Fire victims’ kin, survivors sue Kentex:
Survivors and relatives of the victims of the massive fire that killed 72 people in Kentex Manufacturing Corporation in Valenzuela City filed a lawsuit against the company on Friday afternoon.
The lawsuit was filed before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), the office responsible for labor disputes.
According to Atty. Remegio Saladero Jr., who represents 4 survivors plus 3 relatives of those who died in the fire, they filed money claims against Kentex for violating labor practices such as not following the minimum wage, not providing the required holiday benefit package, overtime pay, non-payment of Social Security System (SSS) premiums and other benefits.
Although Saladero only represents seven victims, he said at least 52 other victims plan to file similar cases against Kentex.
The victims and the owners of the company are scheduled to meet during the first hearing set on June 9.
* Daughter of Valenzuela factory owner says sorry to kin of fire victims:
Before the families of nearly 70 workers who died in a footwear factory fire in Valenzuela City, the company owner’s daughter asked for forgiveness and a little more patience.
“I think they deserve to hear ‘sorry’ from the owners. But we are not saying it’s our fault. This is an accident,” Barbara Ang, eldest daughter of one of Kentex Manufacturing Inc.’s shareholders, told reporters after the dialogue with the families.
Seventy-two people, including the son of one of the owners and a part-owner, were killed on May 13 as fire gutted the 3,000 square-meter slippers factory with three adjoining buildings on Tatalon Street in Barangay Ugong.
“Their families died while working for us. I think it is our moral obligation to ask for forgiveness,” Ang said.
* Workers recall escape from Kentex inferno:
Survivors of a fire that engulfed a slippers factory in Valenzuela City yesterday urged the government to give justice to the death of their 72 colleagues, as they recalled how they managed to escape from the burning building.
Aljon Peron, 22, told The STAR that he was putting on straps to slippers at the assembly section on the second floor of the Kentex Manufacturing Corp. warehouse last May 13 when his co-workers at the production section in the ground floor began shouting.
Peron said “very thick smoke” from the building’s ground floor drove him and his colleagues to panic.
With his supervisor Jun Panado, partner Aiza Atezado and a certain Nick, Peron said he checked two stairs where they could possibly escape – one linking the two floors of the building and the other leading outside – but both were already engulfed in flames.
“We heard our co-workers shouting. They were saying a fire had started on the first floor. We checked the stairs but the fire ate them up so we decided to destroy the glass windows of the factory and jump onto the canteen’s roof. From there, we jumped again to the roof of a Kentex truck before we finally reached outside,” he said in Filipino.
* Group: Baldoz must resign over Kentex fire:
* Kentex: We will do our obligations to victims’ families:
* VIDEO | Task force reconstructs events at Kentex before and during fire that killed 72 workers:
The interagency task force on the May 13 Kentex factory fire that killed 72 workers on Thursday reconstructed the scene and events before the deadly blaze began.
They put a scaffolding near the roll-up door that a welder was tasked to fix on that fateful day. It was established that a spark from the welder’s torch had landed on one of the hazardous chemicals stockpiled in the factory.
The task force also took pictures of the top view of the factory, and got a clear idea of the areas where various chemicals used to make the rubber slippers were stockpiled.
Fire Superintendent Renato Marcial of the IATF said the exercise proved quite helpful as it provided a “very clear” idea of why the fire broke out and how it spread, and what needed to be done to redress similar situations.
* Kentex owners warned of arrest:
Valenzuela City Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo warned yesterday the owners of a slippers factory razed by fire that 72 workers that they face arrest if they continue to ignore the inquiry of the House of Representatives’ labor committee.
“If they ignore our invitation, we will issue a subpoena,” he said. “If they ignore that, then we will cite them for contempt and order their arrest. It would be easy to locate them because we have their addresses.”
A second invitation to the directors and officers of Kentex Manufacturing Corp. would most likely be issued, he added.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Gunigundo turned over to labor committee chairman Karlo Nograles documents on Kentex that he had obtained from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
* Senators call for review of occupational safety and health standards:
Three senators want a review of the country’s fire code and occupational safety and health standards to prevent a repeat of the tragic fire that hit a slipper factory in Valenzuela City, killing 72 people.
Senators Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Cynthia Villar , and Juan Edgardo Angara stressed the need to enhance and strengthen the existing laws on safety and health in the workplace following what the International Labor Organization described as a preventable accident.
In Senate Resolution 1365, Marcos sought an inquiry on the circumstances that led to the May 13 fire that razed the Kentex Manufacturing Corporation.
The Department of Labor and Employment earlier said Kentex had passed safety and health inspection in September 2014, or eight months prior to the incident.
* DOLE: Kentex fire survivors entitled to employee compensation benefits:
Kentex Manufacturing Corp. workers who survived the May 13 fire that gutted the firm’s slippers factory in Valenzuela City are entitled to employee compensation benefits even if they are not members of the state-run Social Security System, or SSS.
This good news was announced on Thursday by Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldos as she called on all Kentex fire survivors to visit the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) office in Caloocan City, and “register as Kentex employees.”
The DOLE office is on the 5th Floor of the Araneta Square Center in Monumento Circle.
In a statement, Baldos assured the fire victims that “as long as there is an employer-employee relationship, a worker can file an employee compensation benefits claim from any SSS branch.”
* Kentex fire: House panel finds lapses on part of DOLE inspector:
The House labor committee investigating safety violations in the fire at a Valenzuela City a rubber slipper factory has found lapses on the part of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) inspector sent to assess the company’s labor standards compliance.
The panel chair, Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles, said the Labor Law Compliance Officer who inspected Kentex Manufacturing should have realized at the outset that its manpower provider, CJC Manpower Services, was not registered.
* Slack inspection of Kentex factory unraveled at House inquiry:
The Valenzuela City footwear factory of Kentex Manufacturing Corp., which was razed by fire last week that killed at least 72 workers, was inspected by Department of Labor and Employment officers on three occasions from January to March last year before it was issued a certificate of compliance with general labor standards and operational safety and health standards in September.
But at the House committee hearing into the accident Wednesday, lawmakers found that the manner in which the inspections were conducted was lax, with one Labor Laws Compliance Officer (LLCO) disclosing certain indicators that would have exposed the problematic operational safety and health conditions were not listed in the assessment checklist, which was why he did not look into them.
Asked by Valenzuela City 2nd District Representative Magtanggol Gunigundo if he checked whether there were sprinkler systems in the factory, LLCO Joseph Vedasto replied: “based on the checklist,” Kentex had “sufficient fire extinguishers.”
* Workers’ group bats for labor inspection reforms:
A militant labor group yesterday warned of another tragic workplace incident, similar to what happened to the razed factory of Kentex Manufacturing Corporation unless the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) plugs the holes in the implementation of its labor inspection system.
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) chairman Leody de Guzman demanded the overhaul of the existing Labor Law Compliance System (LLCS) after it failed to prevent the Kentex incident.
Seventy-two Kentex factory workers perished during the fire, which authorities attributed to the footwear company’s violation of fire code and occupational safety and health standards.
“The labor department shall not be able to avert another Kentex from happening if major policy changes and reforms are not installed,” De Guzman said.
* Justice for the 72 workers killed at the Kentex fire:
Workers in the Philippines have a myriad of problems and struggles to overcome:
low or unstable wages, meagre or unreliable benefits, abusive or insensitive employers or management, no job security or contracts, anti-worker and anti-union laws and policies, union-busting, unjust terms and conditions of employment, which may include inhumane working environment or a workplace that blatantly violates the mandated occupational safety and health standards (OSHS).
Which brings us to yet another horrible and senseless industrial tragedy on 13 May, that could have been prevented if the OSHS and other related measures were strictly implemented, regularly reviewed and constantly drilled.
The death toll in the seven-hour fire that engulfed the footwear factory of Kentex Manufacturing Inc., in Valenzuela, a northern suburb of Manila, has reached 72.
Likewise, were the two front entrance and back doors, as well as the supposed fire exits, sufficient enough and appropriately located?
And considering the number of workers trapped on the factory’s second floor, was there any possible violation of the building’s required occupancy limit?
* For promoting ‘killer workplaces,’ Baldoz told to resign, face probe:
A day after the 7-hour factory fire in Kentex slippers factory in Valenzuela, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz echoed its company lawyer’s claims that Kentex is “certified compliant” with labor standards and occupational health and safety standards.
A week later, after 72 people were confirmed trapped and killed in the no-fire exit, no-fire drill and no-fire alarm factory, and with relatives and survivors telling the media of labor standards violations by Kentex management, labor groups noted Baldoz’s change of tune.
“It would be foolish to believe the Labor Department’s claim that Kentex violated labor and safety standards after their inspection,” said Joselito Ustarez, vice-president of labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), one of the groups that immediately conducted a fact-finding mission in the gutted factory and among the survivors.
* Why labor groups want DOLE chief to resign:
Labor groups want Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz to resign as DOLE resumes its probe into last week’s fire at the Valenzuela factory of Kentex Manufacturing.
* Labor group challenges business sector to speak on Kentex tragedy:
The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) today challenged the business sector to speak on the fire at Kentex Manufacturing Corp. that killed at least 72 people, almost all of whom were factory workers and many of whom were women.
“Compared to the prominent role of employers in support of the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law, they are noticeably absent in the calls for justice and reform in the wake of the tragic Kentex fire.
Would Jaime Zobel de Ayala and Manny Pangilinan link up arms with labor leaders to call for jailing the immoral owners of Kentx and the criminalization of workplace safety violations?,” asserted Judy Ann Miranda, PM secretary general.
Yesterday, PM together with labor groups affiliated to the coalition Nagkaisa! trooped to the Kentex factory to hold a site inspection and spray paint the gutted factory and nearby establishment with the message “Sweatshop ito: NAKAMAMATAY!” The action was part of PM’s campaign to seek justice for the Kentex workers and demand labor reforms.
* Factory workers victims not just of fire, but of govt’s ‘anti-worker policies’ – Anakbayan:
The 72 workers who died in a fire last week at the footwear factory of Kentex Manufacturing Corp. were victims not just of an accident that could have been prevented, but of the government’s “anti-worker policies” as well, the youth group Anakbayan said in a statement Wednesday.
“The 72 Kentex workers who died are not merely victims of a fire accident; they are the victims of the current Aquino’s anti-worker pro-capitalist government. Aside from the Kentex management, the Aquino administration and DOLE who are creating and implementing anti-worker policies should also be accountable,” Anakbayan national chairperson Vencer Crisostomo said in a statement.
The group lamented the contractual status of many of the Kentex workers, with reports saying they received only P220 a day, way below minimum wage.
At the House committee hearing into the incident on the same day, Bureau of Fire Protection and Department of Labor and Employment officials attested to the lack of, among other things, regular fire drills, a sprinkler system, and a fire alarm system in Kentex when assessed the safety of the factory at different times last year.
* Photos affirm painful truth for fire victims’ families:
For now, it’s the closest they could get to a painful closure.
The families of the 72 workers who died in last week’s Valenzuela City factory fire were shown photos of personal belongings recovered from the May 13 inferno, enabling some of them to confirm their loss ahead of the DNA test results.
A teary-eyed Irenea Pohanes slowly raised her hand when a slide showing a watch and necklace engraved with a woman’s name was flashed on a screen. Yes, she said, they belonged to her 20-year-old niece Jerlyn Calago.
“I don’t know what to say and think when I saw them,” Pohanes later told the Inquirer on Wednesday during the gathering of the families at City Hall, where the local government also handed out additional cash assistance at P83,300 each.
* DOLE knew Kentex hired illegal subcontractor, says lawmaker:
A lawmaker accused the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) of being lenient in its issuance of a compliance certificate to Kentex Manufacturing Corp., the owner of the slipper factory where 72 people were killed during a seven-hour fire on May 13.
House labor and employment committee chair Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles said that DOLE issued a compliance certificate despite knowing that Kentex had declared that it had only 46 employees when it actually subcontracted almost 200 workers from the CJC Manpower Services, which was not registered with DOLE.
* Relatives identify victims’ belongings, moved to tears:
All they had left were a wedding ring, a receipt for money transfer, an ID card and a few other ordinary things. But these items confirmed to family members that their wife or son or daughter was among the 72 workers killed in the May 13 fire that gutted a slippers factory in Valenzuela City.
Family members broke down when shown photos of the belongings retrieved from the victims, all of whom were burned beyond recognition.
They were later allowed to see the actual items.
Emotions ran high yesterday morning at the Valenzuela City social hall, as the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) flashed on a white screen the photos of the victims’ belongings that were recovered from the gutted slipper factory.
The remains were being identified through DNA testing, dental records and their personal belongings.
Sr. Supt. Emmanuel Aranas, crime laboratory deputy director for operations, said cadavers and items recovered from them would be released to the claimants after the final identification process and upon presentation of necessary documents.
* Kentex owners no-show in probes:
Owners of the Valenzuela City slippers factory where a fire last week killed 72 people did not show up at yesterday’s inquiry called by the House of Representatives committee on labor and at a conference in the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
The House panel chaired by Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles had invited Beato Ang, president of Kentex Manufacturing Corp.; Ong King Guan, general manager; and Charles Ng, member of the board of directors. None of the three showed up, but a lawyer representing Ng attended the hearing.
“I will discuss with my committee members the next course of action we will take to compel the attendance of Kentex owners in this investigation,” Nograles said.
* No representatives from Kentex at House hearing into Valenzuela fire:
No one from the footwear company Kentex Manufacturing Corp. attended the House committee hearing Wednesday on the fire which gutted its two-storey factory in Valenzuela on May 13 and killed 72 workers.
The only person connected to Kentex who was present at the hearing of the Committee on Labor and Employment was Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, the legal counsel of one of the company directors, Charlie Ng, whom Topacio called “a passive investor” with no participation in the day-to-day operations of the factory.
Topacio assured the lawmakers that Ng would be present at the next hearing, and that he would obtain for the committee any information it needed.
Earlier on Tuesday, another co-owner in the factory, Terence King Ong, who sustained burns while helping in the first attempt to put out the fire – he also lost his son Tristan in the blaze – apologized to the famillies of the dead and the survivors, and pleaded for forgiveness from his hospital bed.
Ong told News5 he hoped he would be given a second chance to make amends for the tragedy.
* Kentex reps show up without documents:
Representative of Kentex Manufacturing Inc., the owner of the sandal factory in Valenzuela City where 72 workers were killed in a tragic fire last week, finally showed up in a mandatory conference called by the labor department yesterday but didn’t bring documents to prove the firm has not violated labor laws.
DOLE-National Capital Region Director Alex Avila said he told Atty. Renato Paraiso, Kentex’s legal counsel, to submit the needed documents this Friday.
“Magsa-susmbit sila by Friday ng additional documents and information from their end as part of the ongoing investigation being conducted by DOLE-NCR,” Avila said, adding the documents needed include the payroll and the firm’s computations of the workers’ Social Security System and PhilHealth benefits.
Another lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, showed up in a hearing conducted by a House committee on the tragedy. Topacio, representing Charlie Ng, one of the directors of Kentex, said the company received the House invitation only last Tuesday and designated him to attend the hearing.
Valanzuela City Rep. Rex Gatchalian also failed to attend the hearing since he was at the one-stop assistance caravan for the victims’ families. In a letter sent to Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, who chairs the panel, Gatchalian, a former congressman, vowed to attend the next hearings.
* Kentex, DOLE blamed for poor factory conditions:
Members of the militant Kilusang Mayo Uno troop to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Manila as they question working conditions at the Kentex Manufacturing factory that allegedly led to the death of 72 people.
Poor safety conditions are suspected as one of the reasons behind the high number of casualties in the fire.
* Review of labor laws eyed following fatal factory blaze:
The Senate committee on labor and employment is now mulling a review of the country’s occupational safety and health policies in the wake of the tragic factory fire in Valenzuela City that killed at least 72 workers.
Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, acting chairman of the Senate panel, said the committee is also looking into the possibility of updating the country’s labor laws in order to give it more teeth against business and manufacturing companies violating the law.
In a related development, a Catholic prelate believes the Department of Labor and Employment is also responsible for the factory fire that claimed the lives of the factory workers.
“The labor department (Department of Labor and Employment) said Kentex Manufacturing Corp. passed the Labor Law Compliance System just last year and yet, initial reports after the fire immediately found pertinent labor violations of Kentex,” Angara said referring to the rubber slippers factory that was engulfed by flames last May 13.
* DOLE lapses blamed for Kentex deaths:
The lawmakers have blamed the lapses in the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) inspection of safety and labor standards at the Kentex footwear manufacturer as among the factors that caused the fire that killed 72 workers in the firm’s factory in Valenzuela City.
* Kentex operated without fire safety clearance – BFP :
Kentex Manufacturing Corporation, the company that owns the gutted two-storey slipper factory where 72 workers died, was operating without a fire safety clearance, an official of the Bureau of FireProtection (BFP) said.
At the hearing of the House of Representatives committee on labor and
employment, BFP National Capital Region officer Capt. Ian Lunas said the BFP never issued a fire safety compliance certificate to Kentex.
The firm’s factory in Valenzuela City began operating in 2014 up to the date of the fire incident on Wednesday last week, May 13.
“Kentex Manufacturing Corporation has no fire safety compliance certificate from the BFP for 2014 and 2015,” Lunas said.
* Lawyer: Valenzuela factory owners unaware manpower provider was unregistered:
The owners of the factory that was gutted by fire in Valenzuela City were unaware that the manpower agency that provided its manpower requirements was unregistered with the Department of Labor and Employment.
Atty. Renato Paraiso, the lawyer of Kentex Manufacturing Corp., said his clients didn’t know that CJC Manpower Services failed to register with the government.
DOLE-National Capital Region Director Alex Avila on Monday said Kentex may be considered “direct employers” of the victims after CJC was found to be unregistered.
* Lawmakers grill DOLE execs over issuance of compliance certificate to Kentex:
Lawmakers on Wednesday grilled Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) officials for allegedly being lenient in the issuance of labor compliance certificate to Kentex Manufacturing Corporation, owner of the gutted slippers factory in Valenzuela City where 72 people died.
At the hearing of the House of Representatives’ committee on labor and employment, DOLE regional director for National Capital Region Alex Avila said the DOLE issued compliance certificate to Kentex on Sept. 14, 2014 after the department’s Labor Law Compliance Office (LLCO) found the company to have
complied with all its recommendations regarding labor health and safety standards.
“Yes, they have a valid certificate of compliance. This was after our LLCO conducted three site inspections at the Kentex factory and found the company to have complied with all the recommendations of the LLCO,” Avila said.
* House starts probe of deadly Valenzuela factory fire with a moment of silence:
The Joint Committees on Labor and Public Order and Safety of the House of Representatives commenced on Wednesday its investigation in aid of legislation on the Kentex Manufacturing fire incident that happened in Valenzuela City on May 13.
A moment of silence was offered for the fire victims at the onset of the public hearing.
Resource persons from different agencies including the Department of Labor and Employment, Social Security System, Bureau of Fire Protection, Philhealth and International Labor Organization attended the said inquiry.
However no representatives of the fire victims were able to come.
On the part of Kentex Manufacturing Corporation, owner of the footwear factory that was gutted by fire, only Atty.
Ferdinand Topacio showed up to represent Charlie Ng, one of the directors of Kentex.
The investigation was called for to determine who is responsible and accountable for the incident in
order to lay down more efficient urban fire safety regulations and prevent the occurrence of a similar tragedy in the future.
* Task force to expose fire traps:
Workers’ groups on Monday pressed for the Department of Labor and Employment to create a tripartite task force to pinpoint factories that have been violating labor laws and prevent a similar incident in Valenzuela that caused the death of 72 workers and exposed the unsafe conditions many other workers find themselves in.
Trade Union Congress of the Philippines spokesperson Alan Tanjusay said his group submitted the proposal to Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz calling for the outright closure of factories found violating labor laws.
“The lives of Kentex workers are the heavy price for the complete breakdown of government’s labor laws enforcement and for the employers’ patent disregard to the mandatory laws on wages, social protection benefits and the statutory basic workplace safety guidelines,” Tanjusay said.
The militant Partido ng Maggagawa echoed the TUCP view, saying there are many other sweatshops and possible firetraps in Valenzuela and elsewhere.
PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza demanded the immediate prosecution of the owners of Kentex Manufacturing and its subcontractor CJC Manpower Services in connection with the factory fire.
The TUCP official said the factory workers’ deaths depict the abominable culture of indifference among many public servants and profit-oriented employers to enforce existing guidelines that uphold workers’ basic rights and well-being.
* Fire in Philippines footwear factory kills 72:
72 workers died in a fire in a slippers factory in Valenzuela City, Philippines, on 13 May.
With no proper fire exits and barred windows, workers had no means of escape.
As the fire started, workers in the rubber footwear factory were trapped on the second floor as bars on the windows stopped them from getting out. There was a lack of fire exits and staff had not received proper fire training.
72 workers were killed, and the death toll may go up as bodies remain on the second floor of the burned-out factory.
The fire is though to be caused by welding carried out close to inflammable chemicals.
Kentex Manufacturing Inc. produces flip-flops and rubber slippers for domestic market and employs around 300 workers.
According to reports, the company hires workers through a “fly-by-night” subcontractor, CJC Manpower Services, an agency not registered at the labour department. Out of more than 300 workers in the factory, only 54 are regularly employed.
* Valenzuela City gov’t to give P30K to fire victims’ kin:
The Valenzuela City government is set to distribute this morning financial assistance to the families of 72 workers who died in a fire at a slippers factory.
Aside from the P30,000 each to be given by the city government, the victims’ families will also get financial aid from different government agencies and private individuals and entities.
Earlier, Mayor Rex Gatchalian said he is disappointed with the financial support that will be given to the fire victims’ families by the factory owner, Kentex Manufacting Corp., calling it “negligible.”
“The 15 days plus five additional days salary is negligible compared to what the families lost and went through. Though monetary amount can equal the lives lost, Kentex should have considered values that will help the families get back on their feet.
* DOJ, PAO fire up fire victims for legal battle:
The departrment of Justice (DOJ), the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) and a church-based labor rights group yesterday added their voices to the mounting calls for charges to be filed against those responsible for the factory fire that killed 72 workers of Kentex Manufacturing Inc. in Valenzuela City last week.
According to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, criminal, civil and administrative cases await those responsible for the tragedy.
“There are indications based on media reports that that factory [was] a sweatshop, meaning the workers there [were] working under less-than-ideal conditions and this may have contributed to the magnitude of that tragedy. So somebody should be held liable,” De Lima told reporters Tuesday.
She said the DOJ was just waiting for the reports to be submitted by the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and the Valenzuela City government and their recommendations on who should be held responsible for the tragedy.
* Militant workers rally as DOLE execs meet with Kentex reps:
Militant groups, along with relatives of the 72 Kentex fire victims, stage a protest rally in front of the DOLE building in Intramuros, Manila on Wednesday, May 20, while a meeting between labor officials and Kentex Manufacturing Corp. representatives is ongoing.
Policemen have been deployed in the area to control the situation.
* Kentex inferno warrants Baldoz’ resignation – KMU:
One week after the factory fire that killed more than 72 workers, national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno called on Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz to resign, blaming the collusion between the capitalists of Kentex Manufacturing, Inc. and the Labor Department for the death of many workers.
The labor group pointed to Baldoz’ admission, made one day after a seven-hour fire gutted the factory located in Valenzuela City, that Kentex was given a “Certificate of Compliance” by the Department of Labor and Employment on September 18, 2014 for allegedly complying with occupational health and safety standards and general labor standards.
“The Labor Department under Baldoz colluded with the capitalists of Kentex in violating occupational health and safety standards, which resulted in the death of many workers.
Baldoz should be held accountable for this crime and she should resign,” said Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chairperson.
* Tension anticipated as DOLE meets with owner of gutted factory:
Manila Police dispatched its forces to the regional office of the Department of Labor and Employment-National Capital Region ahead of the expected arrival of militant groups as the labor department meets with representatives of Kentex Manufacturing Corporation.
Atty. Renato Paraiso, lawyer of Kentex which owns the factory gutted by a huge fire in Valenzuela City, arrived before 10 a.m. Wednesday for the second mandatory conference called by DOLE.
Kentex did not attend the first meeting as it was not issued a formal notice, Paraiso said.
* Kentex wants vindication, insists it was an ‘accident’:
The lawyer of Kentex Manufacturing Inc. said the company “suffered a total business loss.”
Despite this, he said the owners’ families and friends have pooled their resources together for the initial compensation of survivors and kin of the victims in the massive fire last week, said Kentex lawyer Renato Paraiso.
In a press conference, Paraiso said the company “suffered a total business loss. They have no funds to compensate the employees, but the family and their friends pooled money for the immediate relief of employees.”
Each kin and employee, whether regular or agency-employed, was given P8,000 back pay and P5,000 assistance over the weekend.
He said he has yet to look into other company assets. As it is now, he said it’s hard to communicate with family members of the owners because they were also victims of the fire.
* Kentex owners face imprisonment – DOLE:
The owners of Kentex Manufacturing Inc. face possible imprisonment for various offenses, including violations of labor regulations that could have aggravated the conditions which caused a fire that killed 72 people in the firm’s factory in Valenzuela City last March 13, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reported yesterday.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said based on initial findings of DOLE investigators, Kentex appeared to have committed various labor violations that carry a long list of penalties, including imprisonment.
“If found liable for the fire that cost the lives of 72 and injuries to scores of others, Kentex and its subcontractor will be sanctioned as provided under the Labor Code,” Baldoz noted.
According to Baldoz, the DOLE is focusing its investigation on the labor standards and occupational safety aspects of the fire that gutted the Kentex slippers factory in Barangay Ugong in Valenzuela.
* VIDEO | Kentex factory owner seeks forgiveness; welder insists place was cleared for him to work in:
Speaking from his hospital bed, one of the owners of Kentex Manufacturing Corp., the footwear factory where 72 trapped workers were burned to death in a 7-hour fire, is seeking forgiveness from the families of the dead and the survivors.
Terence King Ong was on the second floor of the warehouse when the fire began, and quickly spread. He tried to help put out the fire, but in vain, and in the process suffered burns in the back, arms and cheeks.
His son Tristan was among the 72 dead in the fire, described by some as the worst industrial fire incident in memory.
Ong’s eyes misted as he said, speaking softly from behind a face mask: “Nanghihingi ako ng sorry sa lahat ng biktima, sa mga nasawing buhay. Sana’y mabigyan ako ng isa pang pagkakataon [I want to say sorry to all victims, to those who lost their lives. I hope I can be given a chance to make amends].”
He said it was “very painful” and he was “very stressed, mentally shocked.”
* Justice secretary confirms people responsible for slipper factory fire will be prosecuted:
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has confirmed the Department of Justice (DoJ) will prosecute people responsible for the fire in a slipper factory in Valenzuela City that left 72 people dead.
“Some people should be held liable,” De Lima said, adding her agency will wait for results of the investigation of Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Fire Protection before it could act on last week’s incident.
“In terms of filing proper charges against, for example, the owners of the factory, the DoJ can always come in at the proper time, especially there are already initial results of investigation,” she explained.
Criminal, administrative and civil charges could be filed against several persons after investigation.
De Lima cited an existing memorandum of agreement where the PNP is tasked to probe man-made disasters while the National Bureau of Investigation, which is under the DoJ, is assigned to natural disasters.
“This one is fire so whether it’s accidental or not, we can consider that as man-made, and therefore under jurisdiction of PNP,” she said.
She added PNP investigators are also expected to determine if the factory was indeed a sweatshop and had “less than ideal working conditions that may have contributed to the magnitude of that tragedy.”
* BFP: Gutted Valenzuela factory may have had no fire safety clearance:
The slipper factory and warehouse that was destroyed in a seven-hour blaze that killed more than 70 persons in Valenzuela last week appears to have no fire safety evaluation clearance form the Bureau of Fire Protection, GMA News reported on Tuesday.
“Initial investigation revealed na mukhang wala (fire safety evaluation clearance). The reason why the inter-agency task force was activated is to really verify this report,” said BFP spokesman Renato Marcial in a text message.
According to a report on “24 Oras”, investigation showed that there were two fire exits from the second floor of Kentex Manufacturing Corp.’s factory and warehouse in compliance with the country’s fire regulations.
* Task force reenacts events that allegedly led to the Valenzuela factory fire:
The Inter Agency Anti-Arson Task Force on Tuesday had the welder, whose activities allegedly started the Valenzuela City factory fire that killed 72 people, reenact his actions just prior to the fire breaking out, GMA 7 news program “24 Oras” reported.
The welder’s activities allegedly set fire to a stack of stored chemicals, with the fire eventually gutting the entire factory.
However, the welder’s legal counsel, Atty. John Caluso, insisted that his client’s activities were carried out with the approval of the factory management’s, Kentex Manufacturing’s, approval.
read & see more.
* CCC calls for investigation after factory fire Philippines:
Clean Clothes Campaign calls on the government of the Philipines to carry out a full and detailed investigation into the circumstances surrounding a fire at a Manila slipper factory, which killed at least 72 workers on May 13th 2015.
The fire, which is believed to be the worst factory fire to hit the Philippines, broke out after sparks from welding equipment, being used to fix an outside roller door, came into contact with highly flammable chamicals, which were stored nearby.
Workers were trapped on the second floor of the building, unable to escape from windows that were covered in bars and chicken wire. The heat of the fire made identification of bodies exttremely difficult and at least 20 workers remain unaccounted for.
The factory, Kentex Manufacturing Incorporated, was located in Valenzuela City and was producing rubber slippers for sale and distribution in the Philippines.
The families of the victims of factory fire in the Philippines have formed the Justice for Kentex Workers Alliance, and are resolved to fight for their loved ones.
CCC is also demanding that the government prosecute those responsible for the deaths and provide full compensation to the families of those killed and injured. Finally, CCC supports calls from labour rights groups for the government to compel factory inspections to be carried out by qualified inspectors independent from the industry itself.
* Palace bats for criminalization of occupational safety violations:
Malacañang on Tuesday urged lawmakers to criminalize violations on occupational safety laws even as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said it would look into the possible occupational safety and health standards (OSH) violations of Kentex Manufacturing Corp., which may have contributed to the large number of fatalities recovered from its factory in Valenzuela City when it was razed last week.
Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said there is a need to update the occupational safety laws, noting that its last enactment was in 1978. “Napakahalagang pairalin iyong kaligtasan ng mga manggagawa sa ating mga pagawaan [It is important to ensure the safety of our factory workers],” Coloma said in a radio interview Tuesday.
* Valenzuela fire sparks renewed calls to scrap contractualization:
The fire that razed a slippers factory in Valenzuela City can be a used by lawmakers as “rallying point” to push for the passage of the Security of Tenure (SOT) bill, a party-list solon said on Tuesday.
Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello, who authored the bill, said his colleagues in the House of Representatives can cite the tragic incident that killed 72 workers for Congress to consider its passage into law.
“Mamamatay ‘yan sa committee (level) unless gamitin natin yang Valenzuela fire as rallying point. And then there will be a chance to pass the committee on 2nd and 3rd reading,” Bello said in a media briefing in Quezon City.
The SOT essentially limit the number of those non-permanent or contractual workers to 20 percent while 80 percent will be regular workers who could organize themselves into a labor union.
Bello said there is a lot of pressure exerted by big businesses to prevent the SOT from being passed by Congress, keeping majority of the workers in the manufacturing industry as contractual laborers.
* PAO offers legal aid to kin of footwear factory workers who died in fire:
Families of the 72 workers who died in the fire that destroyed a footwear factory in Valenzuela City will be provided legal aid by the Public Attorney’s Office.
PAO chief Persida Acosta said she talked to Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian on Tuesday to offer free legal assistance.
“We will discuss with the families their legal options at the City Hall,” Acosta said.
The families could take criminal or civil action, she said.
* Kentex fire: Probers looking at ‘sweatshop’ angle:
The Department of Justice (DOJ) will prosecute those responsible for the factory fire in Valenzuela that killed 72 people, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Tuesday.
De Lima said they are waiting for the outcome of the investigation being conducted by the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“I am sure depending on the outcome of that [PNP] investigation, the PNP will recommend the prosecution of those that may be criminally, administratively and civilly liable,” de Lima told reporters in a chance interview.
* Blame game on for Kentex tragedy?:
Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian defended the provisional permit the local government issued to Kentex Manufacturing Inc., which he said was later sent to the Bureau of Fire Protection for endorsement.
In a statement, Gatchalian said the city government was merely following a joint memorandum circular issued by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of the Interior and Local Government in 2010 seeking to cut red tape in business transactions with government offices.
The circular urges local government units to put up one-stop shop processing centers while also acknowledging the right of the LGUs to issue provisional business permits.
* Lawyer: Welders followed safety protocols at Kentex:
Before the deadly fire at Kentex Manufacturing Corp. last May 13, the welders who were hired to repair a roll-up door at the factory asked the company’s representative if it was safe to do welding works at the area.
They were told it was safe and they started the repair works.
Lawyer John Coluso, legal counsel for Ace Shutter Corporation, revealed this as he maintained on Tuesday that welder Oscar Romero “just performed his job” without violating any safety measures.
“In fact, before actually doing the welding, he even asked a representative of Kentex, whether the place is safe, there were no flammable materials and they were assured that there was none,” Coluso said in a phone interview with INQUIRER.net.
* Welder, 3 possible witnesses in Kentex fire placed under police protection:
Three people who could stand as “vital witnesses” in the deadly fire in a Valenzuela City factory have been given police protection.
Aside from the witnesses, police placed under protection the welder who reportedly received death threats after the blaze that gutted the Kentex Manufacturing Corp. killed 72 people.
“Not only the welders but also those who can be vital witnesses in this case are on extended police protection but we can’t disclose where they are held,” PNP spokesperson Senior Superintendent Bartolome Tobias said in a press briefing on Tuesday.
* Kentex to waive rights if it doesn’t show up at DOLE probe:
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz warned the owners of the slippers factory in Valenzuela City, which caught fire last week, killing 72 workers, against snubbing the second mandatory conference set on Wednesday (May 20), saying a no-show would mean they were waiving their right to be heard.
In a statement on Tuesday, Baldoz said Kentex Manufacturing Inc. did not attend the first mandatory conference on Monday despite receiving official notice from the DOLE-National Capital Region.
“The second conference is on Wednesday. If the company fails to attend, then, it will be construed that it has waived its right to be heard,” said Baldoz.
* VIDEO | Footwear company Kentex snubs DOLE hearing:
Owners of Kentex Manufacturing Corp., the footwear company whose two-story factory was gutted by fire resulting in the death of 72 workers last week, failed to appear before a mandatory conference on Monday despite receipt of invitations from the Department of Labor and Employment.
DOLE Labor Communications director Nicon Fameronag denied the statement of the Valenzuela-based firm that they were not informed about the conference, which was the reason why they were not able to attend the meeting.
“That is not true na hindi nakatanggap ng formal invitation ang Kentex to the mandatory conference — may tumanggap ng (someone received) two notices; we will observe due process,” he said.
Fameronag explained that the purpose of the mandatory conference was to give all parties a chance to explain their side.
“It is a due process to hear all the concerned parties about the accident, primarily labor standards and occupation safety and health compliance,” he said.
* DOLE: Slipper factory violated labor laws:
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has discovered several violations committed by the owner of the slipper factory in Valenzuela City which caught fire last week, leaving 72 workers dead.
DOLE-National Capital Region Director Alex Avila said Monday that aside from engaging the services of a non-DOLE registered subcontractor, Kentex Manufacturing Inc. also underpaid its workers, failed to remit their Social Security System (SSS) and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) contributions and enforced illegal salary deductions.
Avila added that these were their findings based on the mandatory conference they held on Monday with Kentex subcontractor CJC Manpower Services and a brief dialogue with relatives of the fire victims as well as survivors.
* Kentex factory fire: DNA tests to take 2 months:
It may take two months before the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory finishes identifying those killed in the fire that hit a slipper factory in Valenzuela City last Wednesday.
“Today, we are starting the extraction of DNA from tissues which may last two months,” Senior Supt. Emmanuel Aranas of the PNP Crime Laboratory said on Monday.
* Valenzuela fire prompts Palace to call for review of occupational, fire safety laws:
After over 70 people were killed in a factory fire in Valenzuela City last week, Malacañang on Tuesday called on Congress to revisit the country’s laws on occupational and fire safety.
In an interview in state-run radio dzRB, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said there is already a need to “update” the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which was enacted in 1970.
Congress should explore the possibility of criminalizing violations to occupational safety standards, Coloma added. “Walang criminal penalties na nakatakda kaya’t tila baga walang ngipin iyong batas.
Hindi naman magiging epektibo kung walang naitakdang penalty na magiging deterrent o pipigil sapaglabag dito,” the Palace official said in the radio interview.
* Kentex owner’s son among fatalities in factory fire:
One of the owners of Kentex Corporation has denied they had left the country.
Terence King Ong spoke to ABS-CBN News and said, they too are victims of last week’s fire in Valenzuela. King Ong sustained severe injuries while his family is still grieving after the blaze claimed the life of his son, Tristan.
* Kentex factory fire victims remembered:
* Razed factory had no fire permit:
The Valenzuela City government issued a provisional business permit to Kentex Manufacturing Corp. even without a fire safety inspection certificate from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).
Some 72 people were killed after a fire gutted the Kentex Manufacturing Inc. slipper factory in Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela on May 13.
The special inter-agency task force investigating the fire has required BFP officials in Valenzuela to determine why Kentex was able to operate despite the firm’s failure to get a fire safety inspection certificate, an official said yesterday.
BFP spokesman Renato Marcial told The STAR that the bureau had required Valenzuela BFP officials to submit all the documents of Kentex to the inter-agency task force to verify the initial report that the company has no fire safety inspection certificate but was able to operate.
read more.& read more.
* Solon wants probe on Valenzuela factory fire:
read more.& read more.
* Welding job near combustible chemicals approved by Kentex secretary –welder:
The welder blamed for last week’s deadly fire in a slipper factory in Valenzuela City said he has the go-signal to work on the warehouse’s door, a report on “24 Oras” said Monday.
The welder, identified as Oscar Romero, said the go-signal came from the secretary of Kentex Manufacturing Corporation, the report said, citing his extrajudicial confession.
A GMA News source revealed that the extrajudicial confession stated that Romero, a welder-leadman of Ace Shutter Corporation, was tasked to fix the roll-up door of Kentex factory’s main entrance.
* Task force to crack down on sweatshops sought:
Labor group Trade Union Congress of the Philippines – Nagkaisa (TUCP-Nagkaisa) on Monday called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to form a tripartite labor inspection task force to crack down on sweatshops nationwide.
The group said the task force should start in Metro Manila, particularly in Valenzuela City where a slippers factory burned down last week, killing 72 persons, TUCP spokesperson Allan Tanjusay said.
The factory is owned by Kentex Manufacturing Corp.
* Kentex complied with labor standards, safety measures – lawyer:
* VIDEO | Walden Bello assails PNoy failure to show up, comfort kin of 72 factory fire casualties:
The failure of President Benigno Aquino III to show up and comfort families of the 72 Valenzuela factory workers who died in the country’s worst industrial fire has drawn flak from his former ally, Prof. Walden Bello.
In a statement, Bello noted Aquino’s absence even as Palace officials earlier issued general statements that heads will roll; while national government agencies like the Labor and Interior and Local Governments departments scrambled to respond to observations of lax regulation.
Bello wondered aloud how Mr. Aquino – who a couple of years ago rushed to a mall after the Martilyo Gang struck; and on a separate occasion, to the upscale Serendra condominium complex after a gas explosion where one person died – could have been absent from the Valenzuela fire aftermath.
“The fire that hit the Kentex manufacturing plant in Valenzuela produced the worst factory fire in the country’s history.
Some 72 workers, majority of them women, perished in the blaze, but the President didn’t show up to comfort survivors and the families of the dead after the tragedy,” said Bello, who earlier resigned his congressional post as representative of the Akbayan party-list, which remains loyal to the administration.
* Workers bring Kentex case to the public:
Workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno set up an exhibit at the Plaza Miranda this afternoon in order to explain the circumstances surrounding the fire that gutted footwear factory Kentex Manufacturing, Inc. last May 13 as well as the situation of the workers there.
The labor group said it aims to encourage the public to speak up and act in seeking justice for the more than 72 workers who died in the factory fire and the many workers who survived the resulting inferno.
“Many workers have died in the workplace but no one has been found guilty and imprisoned for this crime.
That’s why we are calling on workers and the public to speak up and act in seeking justice for the dead and injured workers,” said Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chairperson.
* Baldoz has no right to preside over Kentex mess – KMU:
Workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno, together with the families of workers who died in the fire that gutted the factory of Kentex Manufacturing Inc., picketed the Labor Department’s NCR office Manila this morning in time for a conference convened by the agency with the company’s management and the latter’s manpower agency.
The labor group, which was joined by other progressive organizations under umbrella alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or Bayan, said Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz does not have a right to preside over any meeting pertaining to the factory fire, citing her agency’s certification of Kentex as compliant with occupational health and safety and general labor standards.
“Sec. Baldoz does not have a right to act as if she is a neutral arbiter in the case of the Kentex fire. She has colluded with the Kentex management in giving the company a certification for allegedly complying with labor and safety standards,” said Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chairperson.
* For Valenzuela fire victims’ families, ‘justice, not money’:
This was the opinion of Justice for Ozone Victims Foundation Inc. (JOVFI) president Joseph Stephen Santos when the Inquirer sought his comment on the blaze which struck the Valenzuela City slipper factory on May 13, leaving 72 workers dead.
JOVFI represents the families of 162 victims killed in the March 18, 1996, Ozone Disco fire in Quezon City, among them Santos’ cousin.
It also helped the kin of the 75 people who perished in the Manor Hotel blaze in Quezon City in 2001 when they sued the hotel owner and government officials concerned. The three are considered the worst fires in recent Philippine history.
Asked what advice he could give to the families of those killed in the Kentex factory fire, Santos said: “They need to persevere. No amount of monetary compensation should be enough if they really want justice.”
Should they decide to file cases against the factory owner and Valenzuela City officials who allowed the establishment to operate, he urged them “to organize, as they would be filing a class suit.” He also warned them to “load up on patience.”
* Identification of Valenzuela fire victims to take a month, says PNP Crime Lab:
It may take a month before most of the victims of the Valenzuela warehouse fire are identified through DNA testing, an official from the PNP Criminal Laboratory said Monday.
Of the 72 people who died from last week’s deadly fire in Barangay Ugong, 69 were burned beyond recognition.
Senior Superintendent Emmanuel Aranas said specimen collection from blood relatives is still ongoing. The specimens would be compared to the cadavers recovered from the burned factory, he added.
* Owner of Valenzuela factory gutted by fire won’t attend DOLE meeting:
* SSS to set up help desk at Valenzuela City Hall for fire victims, kin:
The Social Security System will setup a help desk at Valenzuela City Hall on May 20, Wednesday, to assist survivors and the families of those who died in last week’s Kemtex factory blaze.
The help desk will be set up at the city hall’s audio-visual room and will be open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Beneficiaries are advised to bring pertinent documents such as pay-slips, employment contracts and valid IDs to file their SSS claims. Injured employees should present their medical certificates.
* Kentex: Not our job to go after manpower agencies:
It’s the government’s job to ensure that fly-by-night manpower companies and labor contractors are not operating their businesses, the lawyer of Kentex Manufacturing said.
In an interview with radio dzMM, lawyer Renato Paraiso said: “With all due respect, I think they should be the ones monitoring these fly-by-night agencies. The only obligation of Kentex is if an agency has a business permit. We can’t go beyond that… They are the ones enforcing the law.”
News agency Agence France-Presse earlier quoted Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz as saying that the owners of the factory that was gutted down by a fire on Wednesday were “immoral”. The fire claimed the lives of 72 factory workers.
Baldoz described CJC Manpower Services, Kentex’s subcontractor, as an unregistered and fly-by-night company.
“They are not only illegal, they are immoral. This employer, they don’t have a sense of social responsibility,” Baldoz was quoted as saying.
* Valenzuela to inspect 1,675 factories in 21 days:
Four audit teams will go around Valenzuela City in the next 21 days to inspect the work and safety standards in 1,675 factories.
Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian said 1,675 factories in Valenzuela will undergo auditing if they are following fire safety, building, occupational and safety, and business permit standards.
“The target is 80 sites per day. The target is to do the audit in 21 days,” he said.
Some 72 workers died in a fire that gutted a footwear factory in Valenzuela City last Wednesday.
* Workers must be occupational safety watchdogs – DOLE:
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) admitted yesterday that it does not have the personnel to monitor most safety and health violations by employers and urged workers to help report such violations.
The DOLE made the appeal following the death of at least 70 workers in a fire last Wednesday after they were trapped inside a building that had limited fire exits.
At the same time, the government is also stepping up the inspection of buildings, schools, and student dormitories to ensure that safety regulations are complied with.
* Palace, DOLE eye criminalizing work safety violations:
Malacañang yesterday supported proposals to criminalize violations of fire and building codes and occupational safety standards following the fire that gutted a slipper factory in Valenzuela City, killing 72 mostly contractual workers.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the executive department supported the position taken by Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz on such proposals.
“We reiterate the strong stand taken by the government through the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on the need to criminalize non-compliance with laws and regulations pertaining to occupational safety and health,” Coloma said.
He said the latest fire incident made it “imperative” for stringent laws.
* “Jail Kentex, subcon owners!”—labor group:
The militant Partido Manggagawa (PM) is calling for the criminal prosecution of the owners of Kentex Manufacturing and its subcontractor CJC Manpower Services.
To highlight this call, some 50 PM members will troop this morning to the main office of the Department of Labor and Employment as Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz summons the representatives of Kentex and CJC for a mandatory conference.
“Workers who are caught jaywalking can be jailed. The owners of Kentex and CJC deserve no less a penalty for the massacre of some 70 workers and injuries to dozens more. The owners of Kentex and CJC are not just immoral but criminal. Justice for Kentex workers cannot be served by giving P13,000 in assistance to the families,” declared Wilson Fortaleza, PM spokesperson.
In the rally today, PM members will carry placards with messages like “Kentex, CJC: Kriminal di lang immoral,” “Contractualization kills” and “Labor rights violations kill too.”
PM vows to continue pressing for justice for Kentex workers who were killed and injured in the factory fire last week. Earlier, PM together with the Nagkaisa labor coalition held a candle lighting protest at the Kentex factory. More actions are slated for the coming days.
* Welder in Valenzuela fire turned over to police:
The welder who accidentally caused the fire at a sandal factory in Valenzuela that left 72 people dead last May 13 has been turned over by the Valenzuela City Police Station to the Criminal Investigation and Detection-NCR office at Camp Crame even as concerned agencies continued to probe the cause of the deadly blaze.
Supt. Ariel Fulo, spokesman of the Northern Police District-Special Investigation Task Group (SITG), said the welder, who was not identified, voluntarily surrendered last Friday after he, his helper and driver received threats from relatives of the fire victims. Only the welder sought police protection.
* Valenzuela to open one-stop help center for kin of Kentex fire fatalities:
A one-stop shop that will address the immediate needs of the families of the victims who died in a factory fire in Valenzuela will be set up by the local government on Wednesday, exactly a week after the tragic incident that took the life of 72 individuals.
Mayor Rex Gatchalian said that the one-stop shop, which will be put up at the audiovisual room on the third floor of city hall in Barangay (village) Karuhatan, will not only give assistance to the families but also shed light on a number of questions on their mind.
“Our mandate is to help the families get back on their feet,” Gatchalian told the Inquirer in a phone interview Sunday. “There are so many local and national agencies [which] can help them, [hence] we are putting them under one roof. We don’t want to inconvenience [the families].”
* PHL pushes job safety laws after deadly factory fire:
Philippine officials called Sunday for criminal penalties for factory owners who violate safety standards days after a deadly fire at a footwear plant claimed 72 lives.
Occupational safety standards were adopted by the Asian nation in 1978 but lack teeth because parliament has failed to pass a law imposing penalties against violators, Labour Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said.
“I (can) not overemphasise its importance — and the timeliness of our plea to our lawmakers — in the light of accidents in our workplaces, some of which have injured and claimed the lives of our workers,” she said in a statement.
read more. & read more.
* In wake of deadly shoe factory fire in Manila, UN urges global action to make workplaces safe:
The International Labour Organization (ILO), in a statement issued in the wake of this week’;s deadly shoe factory fire in the Philippine capital, noted “often such accidents are preventable” and offered its assistance to improve safety and health conditions in the workplace.
“I was greatly saddened by the news of the deaths of dozens of workers in the shoe factory fire in Manila,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said. “On behalf of the International Labour Organization (ILO), I extend my condolences to the bereaved families and share in their sorrow.”
“Once again, we find ourselves mourning workers whose lives have been cut short as a result of workplace accidents,” Mr. Ryder said. “Often such accidents are preventable.”
* Only P13,000 per fire victim? Mayor mad as firm vows more:
Valenzuela City Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian assailed the “negligible” compensation package so far released by Kentex Manufacturing Inc., owner of the slipper factory that burned down on May 13 and left over 70 workers dead in one of the biggest fires in the country in recent memory.
The mayor expressed his dissatisfaction even as the company, through its lawyer, started handing out P13,000 in cash for each family of the dead and injured on Saturday. The amount represents a 10-day “back pay” of P8,000—regardless of the employees’ status as regular or casual—and additional assistance at P5,000 per family.
“There is no amount of monetary [compensation] that can equal the lives lost. But they should have been given an amount that can help them get back on their feet,” Gatchalian said in a statement. The amount allotted by Kentex, he said, was “negligible compared to what the families went through.”
* DOLE: Criminalize non-compliance of work safety standards:
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is urging Congress to hasten the passage of bills criminalizing non-compliance of safety standards in the workplace amid the tragedy that has befallen 72 workers in a Valenzuela footwear factory last week.
In a statement, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz said: “We urge our lawmakers to seriously see our plea for the enactment of these measures in a positive light, and that is, for the ultimate welfare and protection of our workers and the delivery of labor justice by punishing heartless employers.”
* Congress urged to put ‘more teeth’ in occupational safety regulations:
Following the deadly fire at a slippers factory in Valenzuela City last Wednesday which claimed 72 lives, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is asking Congress to amend the existing regulations concerning occupational safety and health which do not contain a provision on criminal penalties.
In a statement issued on Sunday, Labor secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz said that there is a need to amend the Occupational Safety and Health Standards promulgated in 1978 to make it attuned to the changing workplace environment.
“We urge our lawmakers to seriously see our plea for the enactment of these measures in a positive light, and that is, for the ultimate welfare and protection of our workers and the delivery of labor justice by punishing heartless employers,” Baldoz said.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* Kemtex blaze should signal end of labor contractualization – BMP:
A labor group is demanding an end to the practice of contractualization in the wake of the fire at a slippers factory in Valenzuela City that left 72 persons dead.
The Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino also demanded accountability for labor officials and those of Valenzuela.
Noting that many of those who died in the inferno that razed Kemtex Manufacturing Corp. Wednesday were contract workers, the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino called for the scrapping of Department Order 18-A, for being “instrumental in legalizing contractualization” as well as “a circumvention of our right to security of tenure and for its failure to ensure to uphold the rights of the workers.”
“The death of 72 workers is conclusive enough to declare that DO 18-A is a catastrophe in terms of upholding labor rights, (as) it also leads to dereliction of duties and (is) a source of corruption and collusion between corrupt labor and local government officials and unscrupulous capitalists,” Gie Relova, BMP’s Metro Manila leader, said.
* Mourning the unnamed: Father, daughter attend entombment of unidentified Valenzuela fire victims:
Working under that Friday afternoons’ oppressive summer heat, workers from the Valenzuela City government prepared to bury the remains of 49 of the 72 victims of the Kentex sandal factory fire.
The white coffins, each of them numbered, were brought to the apartment-type tombs at the city’s public cemetery.
However, this will not be the victims’ final resting place.
These still unidentified victims will be entombed at the apartments temporarily until they have been positively IDed by their families.
* Heads will roll – Palace:
Task force formed to probe Valenzuela ‘inferno’
An Inter-Agency Anti-Arson Task Force (IATF) has been formed to investigate the fire that razed a footwear factory in Valenzuela City last May 13 and killed 72 workers as Malacañang assured yesterday that heads will roll for those who will be found to be lenient in implementing labor and safety standards.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is intensifying efforts to ensure that labor standards are being observed in the wake of the fire that razed the Kentex Manufacturing Corporation factory in Valenzuela City.
“The Labor Department is intensifying their inspections when it comes to the industrial work places like the one in Valenzuela,” Valte said.
“In fact, they already have initial reports on Kentex and she (Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz) was saying that they (Kentex owners) have been engaging the services of a non-DOLE registered subcontractor, so we’re looking at another violation,” she said.
read more. & read more.
* Groups lambast DoLE, BFP for absolving factory owners of any responsibility in fire:
Labor groups which conducted their own fact-finding mission on the deadly Valenzuela fire that gutted a factory resulting in the death of 72 workers yesterday slammed the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) for virtually absolving the owners of Kentex Manufacturing of any responsibility over the tragedy.
In a joint statement, the fact-finding team composed of three labor NGOs — the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, and the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development — and the national labor center of Kilusang Mayo Uno which visited the area on May 14 said contrary to the pronouncement of labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, they found glaring violations of standards pertaining to general labor conditions and to occupational health and safety.
Earlier, Baldoz had declared that the factory, owned by Beato Ang and Ong King Guan, passed an inspection on compliance with general labor standards and occupational health and safety standards that was conducted by the DoLE in September 2014.
The BFP reportedly also gave the factory a fire safety inspection certification.
* Kentex welder gets death threats:
The welder from the slippers factory in Valenzuela City that was gutted by a deadly blaze on Wednesday has sought protective police custody.
Police said the welder turned himself in, claiming he has been receiving death threats following the fire.
Workers who survived the blaze pointed to the welder as having started the fire after his welding equipment produced sparks that ignited the chemicals stored inside Kentex Manufacturing Inc.
20150514 * The Philippines factory fire was a planned massacre of women workers:
A new collection of specters haunts the earth today: 72 workers killed yesterday in a slipper factory fire in the Valenzuela district of Manila.
There was no accident. That fire and those workers burning to death are part of the brutal architecture of industrial production. Every report covers up more than it reveals, and the workers, charred beyond recognition, wait for nothing now.
The fire “started” when sparks set off an explosion. The slaughter of the innocents began long before the spark. The windows were covered, sealed tight, by metal gratings. Even now, the local mayor isn’t sure the building had any fire escapes.
“Dionesio Candido, whose daughter, granddaughter, sister-in-law and niece were among the missing, said iron grilles reinforced with fencing wire covered windows on the second floor that `could prevent even cats from escaping’.”
Those workers – daughters, granddaughters, sisters-in-law, nieces – were deemed less valuable than cats, and far less valuable than the chemicals, the machinery, and the slippers in the building.
* Valenzuela mayor: Factory pays wages below minumum:
Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian aired his disappointment over Kentex Manufacturing Corp.’s offer of financial assistance for families of workers killed in a fire that gutted a rubber slipper factory Wednesday.
In an radio interview Saturday, Gatchalian said factory management offered the kin victims’ wages worth only 20 days.
“Ilagay mo na sa minimum wage pero alam na natin na below minimum wage ang ibinibigay nila sa ibang empleyado,” Gatchalian claimed in a dzMM interview. “Magkano lamang ho ‘yun.”
He said the corporation’s executives should have extended an amount that will allow the families to start in life anew.
“Sana kinonsider nila ‘yung economic assistance nila para makatayo ulit ang mga pamilya sa sarili nilang paa,” Gatchalian said.
The major also alleged that the workers suffered from poor working conditions, lack of benefits and poor wages prior to the tragedy that claimed the lives of 72 and injured scores of others.
* Human rights groups call for justice for factory fire victims:
Human rights groups have demanded justice for the victims of the deadly fire that hit a factory in Valenzuela City on Wednesday morning.
In a candle-lighting activity at University of the Philippines Diliman on Saturday, human rights advocates Karapatan and Hustisya called for accountability over the death of at least 70 employees of Kentex Manufacturing Inc.
The groups wanted the factory owner and concerned agencies to be held liable for allowing the employees to work “under such unsafe working conditions.”
The Department of Labor and Employment said it would look into possible violations of Kentex in the labor code, including reports that the factory engaged the services of a subcontractor not recognized by the labor department.
The special inter-agency task force, including members from the national police, the fire-fighting service, the justice and health departments, have been given two weeks to finish their investigation, said spokesman Renato Marcial.
“Definitely, if someone deserves to be punished, they will be punished,” he told AFP.
The blaze in a two-storey footwear factory in an industrial suburb of the Philippine capital on Wednesday has highlighted the unsafe working conditions for many in this poverty-stricken nation.
read more. & read more.
* House probe on deadly Valenzuela factory fire sought:
The House Committee on Labor is set to conduct an investigation into the occupational-safety practices of Kentex Manufacturing Corp., after a fire burned down its Valenzuela slipper factory, killing at least 72 of its workers, its chairman said over the weekend.
House Deputy Majority Leader and Liberal Party Rep. Karlo Alexei B. Nograles, chairman of the panel, said that his committee is set to investigate the incident on May 20.
“This horrific fire should serve as an eye-opener for employers to be mindful of the safety of their employees at all times. I can hardly understand the high number of casualties, despite the alleged existence of fire exits. It should be worthy to find out if the best practices in occupational safety are observed by factories like Kentex,” Nograles said.
read more. & read more.
* Gov’t vows stricter workplace inspection, fire standards:
EU cites poor labor conditions in Valenzuela City factory
Following a European Union (EU) statement on the deadly Valenzuela City factory fire that indicated “poor labor conditions,” Malacañang on Saturday promised that the government was intensifying efforts to implement stricter inspections in the workplace to avoid similar incidents.
In an interview with Radyo ng Bayan, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) remained committed in ensuring the safety and welfare of industrial workers and laborers in general.
“I believe that this is not missed by Labor Secretary [Rosalinda] Baldoz, and that she did already say that they’re going to intensify inspections and intensify investigations on violations on matters such as this,” Valte said.
* Workers call for May 18 National Day of Mourning for Kentex:
National labor center Kilusang Mayo called on workers and the public today to mark May 18 as National Day of Mourning for the 72 workers of Kentex Manufacturing Incorporated who perished in the worst factory fire in Philippine history last May 13.
The labor group said the day would be a time for the outpouring of grief for the dead workers, the expression of solidarity with the families who are seeking justice, the call for justice for the dead workers, and the call for safe workplaces for Filipino workers.
KMU noted that the government of Pres. Noynoy Aquino has so far failed to declare such a national day of mourning, and that the chief executive himself has failed to address the nation, let alone speak up, on the issue.
“We are calling on all workers and Filipinos: Let us mark May 18 as our National Day of Mourning for the dead workers of Kentex.
We have been grieving and calling for justice in our individual ways since this tragedy happened; now let us grieve and call for justice together,” said Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chairperson.
read more. & read more.
* Valenzuela offers more help to factory fire victims:
The local government of Valenzuela City is sending out a group of lawyers to assist families of fire victims who will be receiving money from Kentex Manufacturing Corporation on Saturday.
“Sabi sa akin ng barangay captain, mamayang hapon raw ang pay off. Sabi ko I will make sure our city lawyers make themselves available to the families for consultation mamayang hapon. Ayoko na baka papirmahin sila ng kung ano-ano nang di nila nauunawaan,” Mayor Rex Gatchalian said in an interview with radio dzMM.
Gatchalian said Kentex and the families of the victims met on Friday.
He only learned about it from the victims’ families and barangay officials.
* VIDEO | Valenzuela fire survivors’ SSS contributions not remitted by agency:
Employees who survived the fire in the footwear factory in Valenzuela City discovered that the agency that deployed them there failed to remit their monthly contributions to the Social Security System even though these were deducted regularly from their salaries.
They identified the agency as CJC Manpower Services, a subcontractor whose services were engaged by Kentex Manufacturing Corp., manufacturer of rubber slippers in Barangay Ugong.
Some employees of CJC discovered that since 2010, the employment agency had only remitted their contributions to the SSS for five months.
Gilbert Mallari, liaison officer of CJC, admitted that they were delayed in remitting to the SSS the monthly contributions of the workers they deployed to Kentex.
The SSS assured that employees of the slippers factory can claim work-related benefits. Joey Bautista, senior vice president of SSS, explained that a company that didn’t remit monthly contributions will be held liable, further saying that “they can be fined and they can be imprisoned”.
* DOLE chief Baldoz says Kentex Corp. engaged services of illegal subcontractor:
The Department of Labor and Employment said on Friday that Kentex Manufacturing Corp., a manufacturer of rubber slippers in Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela City, has violated the Labor Code for engaging the services of a subcontractor not registered with DOLE.
“I need to say this in the wake of this deadly fire accident.
The company has engaged, and is engaging, the services of an illegal subcontractor, a violation of the Labor Code, and therefore, it is responsible for the subcontractor’s workers,” said Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz in a statement.
Initial report of DOLE-National Capital Region (NCR) director Alex Avila submitted to the DOLE chief has identified the subcontractor, CJC Manpower Services, based on MacArthur Highway, Calvario, Meycauayan City, Bulacan. CJC was formerly known as Panday Management and Labor Consultancy.
* Factory where 72 died suspected of breaking law:
A factory where a fire killed 72 people violated employment laws, the country’s top labor official said Friday, as more witness reports emerged about the victims being trapped behind iron grill bars shouting for help.
The workers who died Wednesday fled to the second floor of the two-story rubber slipper factory but iron grills on windows prevented their escape, according to a relative and witnesses.
A congressman said Friday that the building lacked fire sprinklers. Workers at a nearby factory told ABS-CBN television that people watched helplessly as many of the victims were begging for help from the windows as flames and black smoke engulfed the building.
At least 104 workers at the Kentex Manufacturing Corp. were recruited by an illegal sub-contractor, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said. She said owners will be summoned to answer the charges next week.
Officials couldn’t say how many workers were at the factory in Valenzuela city, a northern Manila suburb, because records were lost.
* Kentex lawyer: We followed labor standards:
Kentex complied with labor standards and has the certificate to show for it, the lawyer of the slipper company hit by a fire that claimed 72 lives on Wednesday said, in response to Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz’s statement describing the company’s owners as “illegal” and “immoral” for violating the Labor Code.
The labor official said Kentex used a “fly-by-night” subcontractor to hire workers, some of whom perished in the seven-hour fire.
Lawyer Renato Paraiso said it was “unfair” to tag the company as illegal and immoral, without knowing all the details that led to the blaze that also claimed the life of the owner’s son, Tyron Ong. Owner Ong King Guan suffered third-degree burns and was still recuperating in the hospital, he added.
“We have certificates showing that we are paying the right salaries and remitting (contributions) to the Social Security System and Philippine Health Insurance Corp.,” the Kentex lawyer told the Inquirer in a phone interview on Friday.
* Factory welder faces death threats, seeks protective custody:
A welder from the slippers factory that was gutted by a deadly blaze on Wednesday is now under the protective custody of police.
According to the Northern Police District, which held a case conference on Friday, the welder turned himself over to authorities, saying he has been receiving death threats following the fire.
Workers who survived the blaze had said that the fire erupted after a welding equipment produced sparks and ignited chemicals stored nearby.
Seventy-two workers were killed in the incident.
Valenzuela police chief Supt. Roderick Armamento said based on the initial information they got from the welder, volatile materials like chemicals and powders were usually delivered near the roll-up door he had been working on.
* Labor chief: Slipper firm owners ‘immoral’:
Not only illegal but also immoral.
This is how Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz described the owners of the Valenzuela City slipper factory gutted by a fire that claimed 72 lives Wednesday, saying they violated labor laws and standards, and illegally exploited their workers.
“They are not only illegal, they are [also] immoral. This employer (does not) have a sense of social responsibility,” the Department of Labor (DOLE) official said. “Such kind of employer (does) not have the right to engage in any business,” she added.
Citing the report of DOLE-National Capital Region Director Alex Avila, Baldoz said Kentex Manufacturing Inc., which produced cheap sandals and slippers for the local market, “has engaged and is engaging the services of an illegal subcontractor … a violation of the Labor Code.”
Local authorities said the seven-hour fire that tore through the factory was caused by welding carried out close to inflammable chemicals. The fire trapped scores of workers on the second floor, with steel bars over windows preventing their escape.
read more. & read more. & read more.
* Baldoz immoral for defending Kentex capitalists – KMU:
Reacting to Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz’ statement that the owners of Kentex Manufacturing Incorporated are “immoral,” national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno said that it’s the government official who’s immoral for trying to defend the capitalists in her statement one day after the fire that gutted the factory.
KMU said that Baldoz also showed no “social responsibility” when she claimed that Kentex “is compliant with general labor standards and occupational health and safety standards” and when her agency gave the company “a Certificate of Compliance on 18 September 2014.”
* Santiago bats for stiffer penalties against violators of fire safety laws:
Stronger penalties against violators of fire safety laws should prevent a repeat of the warehouse fire that killed 72 workers on Wednesday, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said, adding that she would file a resolution to make building owners criminally liable for the death, injury or damage to property resulting from the fire.
Under present laws, failure to comply with the fire and building codes would merit fines, the closure of buildings, and revocation of permits.
But under Santiago’s bill, owners and lessors of residential or commercial buildings who violate fire safety laws would face the penalty of reclusion perpetua, and would have to indemnify the building’s occupants for injuries they suffer: from P200,000 for slight physical injuries, to P1 million to the family if the occupant dies in the fire.
* Valenzuela fire investigation findings out in 2 weeks – Mar Roxas:
The Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and Bureau of Fire Protection will release their findings on the Valenzuela City factory fire, in which 72 people were killed, in two weeks, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said on Friday.
Roxas, who was in Leyte to inspect Yolanda rehabilitation projects, said the investigation would try to find out how survivors were able to escape the blaze, while the fatalities were trapped in the second floor. “Bakit sila hindi nakalbas gayong tatlo ang hagdanan – isa nasa exterior, dalawa ang nasa loob?” asked the secretary.
* Factory owners’ lawyer holds dialogue with fire victims:
Authorities continue to investigate the fire that razed the Kentex Footwear factory in Valenzuela last Wednesday.
Factory owners have also initiated a dialogue with victims of the blaze and their families. But as this report tells us, the owners were not present at the dialogue and sent their lawyer in their place.
* Factory fire puts spotlight on working conditions in Philippines:
A fire that killed 72 people in a rubber slipper factory in the Philippines on Wednesday has shone a spotlight on what trade unions say are the often unsafe working conditions in Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing country.
The fire, which gutted the two-storey factory in the capital, Manila, started when sparks from a welding machine set ablaze flammable chemicals. It was one of the country’s worst industrial fires.
Labor groups said lax implementation of safety rules and a lack of site inspections by the government were among the reasons why the Kentex Manufacturing Inc factory became a death trap.
“There is a culture of complacency in government,” said Alan Tanjusay, spokesman of the Associated Labor Unions-TUCP, the biggest grouping of workers unions in the country.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz initially said Kentex had complied with general labor, safety and health standards. But on Saturday, she said Kentex had illegally subcontracted workers from an unregistered agency.
* Lessons of Rana Plaza still not learned: UN expert group:
The United Nations Working Group on business and human rights on Friday said “the lessons of the Rana Plaza disaster have still not been learned.”
The experts’ warning comes after a new tragedy in the global garment industry involving the death of more than 70 factory workers in a fire in a shoe factory in Manila this week, according to a message received here from Geneva.
“The tragic death of factory workers, mainly women, is a stark reminder of the urgent need for action to protect workers in the garment industry, despite of the Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety, created two years ago, on the same date as the Manila shoe factory fire,” said Michael Addo, who currently heads the expert group.
Under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, states have the primary duty to protect human rights against abuses by business actors.
Fulfilling this duty requires the state to enact, and enforce in practice, legislation and regulations to ensure that businesses respect human rights.
Companies also have a responsibility to respect human rights, which means taking necessary actions to prevent and address any human rights harm with which they may be involved.
This includes risks to the rights of workers in their own operations and along global supply chains.
“We urge states and the business community to be more pro-active to ensure safe working conditions for workers in the garment and textile industry, to avoid a continuous repetition of these preventable tragedies,” he stressed.
* Will fire victims wait 20 years for justice?:
If families of victims of the Valenzuela slipper factory fire are to look at the Ozone Disco tragedy in determining how much time it will take for justice to be served, will they have to wait 20 years before those who should be held liable are sentenced to jail?
Worse, they may have to wait even longer for the sentence to be served, considering that two decades of trial in the Ozone fire did not include Supreme Court appeals.
In November last year, the Sandiganbayan sentenced seven former officials of the Quezon City government to a maximum of 10 years in jail for causing undue injury to the victims of the March 1996 Ozone Disco fire.
Mostly teenagers who were partying, some 162 persons died while at least 93 others were injured in the blaze that received the same, if not more, media attention as the Valenzuela fire is now getting.
Over 70 persons died in the factory and warehouse tragedy where chemicals and rubber used to make slippers fueled the blaze that trapped workers inside the two-story establishment.
* What compliance?| Kentex’s many violations caused biggest factory fire casualty – labor NGOs:
Even as Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian, Kentex legal counsel Renato Paraiso and Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz are telling the mainstream media about the factory owners’ compliance with labor standards, building requirements and fire and safety requirements, the death of 72 people, as of the last count, because of the fire and the tales of how the workers were treated at work are drawing outrage and calls for justice.
Following a fact-finding mission on Kentex by non-government labor institutions, they concluded that the death of the workers in the 7-hour factory fire in Valenzuela two days ago, May 13, resulted from the violations of occupational health and safety standards committed by the management of Kentex Manufacturing, Inc.
These violations were evidenced by the appearance of the burnt structure and the accounts of surviving workers, the non-government Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD) said in a statement emailed to media. With them in the mission were the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research and the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU).
Seventy-two people died and several others are still missing after the Kentex factory burned down.
IOHSAD took special note of the fact that majority or 69 workers died on the second floor of the building, where they could have been able to pass through a fire escape if one had been functioning.
* ‘Kentex workers exploited’:
CANDLELIGHT VIGIL – Members of militant labor groups hold a candlelight vigil at the gate of Kentex Slippers factory in Valenzuela City where 72 workers perished in a fire on Wednesday. Candles are symbolically lit to help the dead find their way in darkness. The group is also pressing for sanctions on the owners of the factory. (Mark Balmores)
Baldoz says conditions in burnt factory were not only ‘illegal, they’re immoral’
“This employer – they don’t have a sense of social responsibility,” Baldoz told AFP in an exclusive interview.
Seventy-two workers died when a fire tore through Kentex’s two-story factory, which produced cheap sandals and slippers for the local market, in an industrial district in Valenzuela City.
Welding that was being carried out close to inflammable chemicals ignited the fire, according to local authorities.
Nearly all of those killed were trapped on the second floor of the factory, with steel bars over windows ensuring they could not escape.
NO FIRE SAFETY TRAINING
The company had provided no fire safety training to their employers, according to survivors of the blaze, as well as victims’ relatives and unions.
* Probes start on factory fire:
Authorities have started the investigation into last Wednesday’s fire that razed a rubber slipper factory and killed 72 people in Valenzuela City, while lawmakers want a congressional inquiry on the possible lapses committed by officials.
The government’s Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) started its investigation yesterday by gathering evidence to determine the circumstances that contributed to the tragedy.
An official privy to the investigation said the IATF would question the owners of the factory and to find out the type and amount of chemicals stored in the building.
“So far one of the owners, Steve Chua, has indicated intention to cooperate in the investigation but as of now he has yet to meet with IATF agents,” the official said.
The same official said the investigators have started to focus on two of the three warehouses that were totally gutted while the third warehouse, which was partially burned, was where most of the victims were trapped to death.
* Factory lawyer assures workers, fire victims of salaries, benefits:
The management of the footwear factory in Valenzuela City hit by a deadly fire on Wednesday has promised it would release salaries and other benefits to its employees and their families by Saturday.
Speaking before the victims’ families, Renato Paraiso, lawyer of Kentex Manufacturing Inc., said all employees, whether living or not, would receive their salaries in addition to overtime pay and three to five days’ worth of wages tomorrow.
“Tomorrow we are going to give the salaries of all employees, whether dead, injured, or survivor,” Paraiso said in Filipino. “Whatever benefits are in accordance to the law, we are going to grant them.”
Medical and burial expenses will also be shouldered by the management, Paraiso said.
“We are asking for your patience because we are also having difficulty in looking at the records. We don’t want to act without basis. We want you to receive the salaries and benefits that you deserve,” he added.
* VALENZUELA FIRETRAP | ILO leads call for tougher industrial safety checks:
The head of the International Labor Organization (ILO) on Friday weighed in on the widespread concern over industrial safety in the Philippines, calling for tougher measures after the deadly factory fire that killed at least 72 trapped workers, in a zone that had once been hailed by the World Bank as a business-friendly model.
Director-General Guy Ryder, in a statement, expressed great sadness over “the news of the deaths of dozens of workers” in the slippers factory fire in Valenzuela City in Bulacan.
“Once again, we find ourselves mourning workers whose lives have been cut short as a result of workplace accidents” that, he stressed, are “often … preventable.”
Everyone “has the right to work in a safe and healthy environment, regardless of the industry they are in or the type of work that they do,” Ryder added.
* Workplace dangers stalk Pinoy workers–ILO:
The death of more than 70 workers in a footwear factory in Valenzuela City is just one of the dangers faced by Filipino workers in the Philippines, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).
ILO Director General Guy Ryder said the safety of workers cannot be overemphasized enough in light of these tragedies. He said these kinds of tragedies are preventable.
“Once again, we find ourselves mourning workers whose lives have been cut short as a result of workplace accidents. Often such accidents are preventable,” Ryder said.
“Everyone has the right to work in a safe and healthy environment, regardless of the industry they are in or the type of work that they do,” he added.
The Delegation of the European Union (EU) to the Philippines, for its part, expressed concern over the poor labor conditions of workers in the country.
The EU said workers in the country continue to be subjected to the lack of proper safety standards that might have contributed to the shocking high number of victims in tragedies such as the Valenzuela fire.
Nonetheless, the delegation welcomed the investigation, launched by the authorities to determine the cause of this tragic factory fire.
read more. & read more.
* Valenzuela fire exposes abusive conditions in PHL factories:
The deaths of 72 people in a fire that gutted a footwear factory in the Philippine capital has exposed abusive conditions for millions of poor and desperate workers across the nation.
The tragedy, in a long row of gated factories in an industrial hub of Manila on Wednesday, was one of the country’s deadliest workplace accidents.
But the exploitation of the workers at the factory, where lax safety standards caused the fire, is anything but unusual across the Philippines, according to the government and unions.
* Owner of factory in Valenzuela fire violated Labor Code – DOLE:
* PHL fire death trap highlights sweatshop abuses:
The deaths of 72 people in a fire that gutted a footwear factory in the Philippine capital has exposed abusive conditions for millions of poor and desperate workers across the nation.
The tragedy, in a long row of gated factories in an industrial hub of Manila on Wednesday, was one of the country’s deadliest workplace accidents.
But the exploitation of the workers at the factory, where lax safety standards caused the fire, is anything but unusual across the Philippines, according to the government and unions.
* On Baldoz’s statements on the Valenzuela fire:
We condemn Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz for her claims in her statement “on the Kentex Manufacturing fire incident” published in the official website of the Aquino government.
We seriously doubt her claim that “Kentex Manufacturing Corporation has been found to be compliant with general labor standards and occupational safety and health standards” and that the company received a “Certificate of Compliance” on 18 September 2014.
We believe that Baldoz is simply making this up to make it appear that her agency has not been remiss in holding labor inspections. She is also trying to make it appear that the company’s capitalists are not criminally liable for the death of 72 workers.
Baldoz’s claims are unmasked as lies by initial results of the fact-finding mission undertaken by pro-labor institutions:
The company employs more than 100 agency-hired contractuals who receive P202 as daily wage. It is illegal for a company to give contractuals wages less than the legally-mandated minimum.
Regular employees who have been working for the company for 20 to 25 years have been receiving the minimum wage.
The company’s workers have also often complained of high temperature inside the company’s premises.
How can Baldoz claim that Kentex is “compliant with general labor standards”?
* Senator Santiago: Fire safety laws should have more teeth:
Amid public outrage over the fire that killed dozens in Valenzuela City, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on Friday pushed for the approval of a bill that would make building owners criminally liable for failure to comply with fire safety laws.
“Disasters such as the one in Valenzuela are unacceptable when we have laws that are supposed to minimize fire hazards and rule out fire traps.
The only explanation is that these laws are not feared. We should give them more teeth,” Santiago said in a statement.
* Roof of Valenzuela slipper factory collapsed due to intense fire:
The steel trusses of the roof collapsed due to the intense heat of the blaze that killed at least 72 people.
to read-see more.
* Factory fire death toll hits 72; others still missing:
They were seen waving frantically by their loved ones from the second floor pleading to be rescued.
But they were trapped on the second floor by windows with iron grills and wire netting that not even cats could escape through, said a father searching for his missing daughter.
A mother, seeing rows of burned bodies while looking for her missing son, refused to believe he was dead, insisting he might be among those brought to a hospital.
Fire authorities said investigators would look into why the factory workers were unable to escape from the second floor when there was supposedly a “sufficient exit” that included a wide stairway to the back of the building leading to the outside.
* Lack of exits part of Valenzuela warehouse fire probe – mayor:
The warehouse hit by a fire in Valenzuela City may have had insufficient exits to accommodate the number of workers it had, particularly on the second floor, Mayor Rex Gatchalian said Friday.
In a phone interview on GMA News TV’s News To Go, Gatchalian said the Bureau of Fire Protection is conducting the investigation on the incident, which killed 72 people, and will likely look into occupation requirements, such as the seeming lack of fire exits at the second floor and its uneven ratio to the number of workers there.
“I think ‘yan ‘yung pinupunto ng fire marshals. Depende rin doon sa inaprubahang number ng manggagawa sa loob.
It’s a ratio—kung ilan ‘yung nagtatrabaho and the number of staircases and exits. So angtinutumbok nila ngayon, maaaring doon sa pumasang permit ay para sa bente o ilang tao lamang, pero dinagdagan ‘yung empleyado sa loob without the necessary occupational requirement,” he said.
* Kin of Valenzuela fire victims: Why was there no plan to rescue trapped workers?:
Now who’s to blame for the seven-hour inferno in a slippers factory in Valenzuela City that killed at least 72?
While officials are looking into the possible liability of the company and the welders, some families and relatives could not help but wonder why the fire fighters failed to rescue their loved ones on the second floor of Kentex Manufacturing Inc.
Of the casualties, 69 bodies were found in the assembly section on the second floor of the factory on Tatalon Street in Barangay Ugong, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas told families at the Barangay Maysan Hall on Thursday.
* VIDEO | Kin can hardly identify 72 victims of Valenzuela fire; DNA samples taken:
Relatives of the 72 victims of the fire that razed a slippers factory in Valenzuela City had a hard time identifying the remains that were brought to the covered court of Barangay Maysan while police Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) took DNA samples from the bodies of the victims Thursday.
Because these were severely burned, the charred remains were “beyond recognition”, according to Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas.
Of the 72 bodies, only six or seven can be identified from the rings or necklaces they wore, Roxas said.
* WATCH: Aerial footage of Valenzuela factory gutted by fire:
Aerial footage of the heavily-damaged slipper factory of Kentex Manufacturing Inc., which was gutted by fire on Wednesday morning, May 13.
The video was taken using a drone piloted by Philippine Daily Inquirer chief photographer Rem Zamora.
read & see more.
* Justice, labor enforcement reforms demanded in wake of Kentex factory fire:
The militant Partido Manggagawa (PM) called for stronger labor enforcement and labor inspection in response to the deadly fire at the Kentex factory in Valenzuela that has already claimed the lives of 72 people.
Members of PM together with the labor coalition Nagkaisa trooped to the Kentex factory today to demand immediate justice and labor reforms.
“Heads must roll and justice must be served for the needless deaths and injuries to workers,” insisted Renato Magtubo, PM chairperson.
PM lambasted employers for cutting corners in occupational safety in order to raise profits and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for the lax implementation of labor and safety standards.
The deaths of Kentex workers comes on top of the loss of lives in several construction sites amidst the current real estate boom. “While capitalists were scrimping on protection for workers and DOLE was sleeping on its job of enforcement, workers are dying in the workplace,” Magtubo elaborated.
* Philippine fire factory owners ‘immoral’: labour chief:
The Philippines’ labour chief on Friday described the owners of a footwear factory where a fire claimed 72 lives this week as “immoral”, telling AFP they illegally exploited their workers.
Labour Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the owners of Kentex Manufacturing had broken employment laws that were meant to guarantee minimum salaries, pensions and social security.
“They are not only illegal, they are immoral. This employer, they don’t have a sense of social responsibility,” Baldoz told AFP in an exclusive interview.
Seventy-two workers died when a fire tore through Kentex’s two-storey factory, which produced cheap sandals and slippers for the local market, in an industrial district of the Philippine capital on Wednesday.
* ‘It was a death trap’ 72 bodies pulled out from burned factory:
From daybreak till early afternoon yesterday, police collected the remains of workers who were trapped in a burning rubber slipper factory last Wednesday. When the search finally ended, the body count stood at 72, with most of the fatalities burned beyond recognition.
Survivors, grieving relatives and labor groups described the building housing the Kentex Manufacturing Inc. as a death trap with sweatshop conditions and poor fire safety standards.
Fire investigators found victims gripping window grills in a futile attempt to get out. Many of the victims died embracing each other.
Most of those retrieved were trapped on the second floor after the blaze broke out before noon on Wednesday.
Officials said identification of the fatalities through DNA testing could take months.
Fire investigators retrieved the body of the last fatality at 2:05 p.m. A total of 69 bodies were recovered on the second floor of the burned factory. The number of fatalities exceeded the 65 earlier reported missing by police.
* DOLE: Firm owes fire victims; labor group urges kin to sue:
As the death toll rose to more than 70 in the May 13 fire that razed a footwear factory in Valenzuela City, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said the families of the dead and the injured workers should receive all the benefits their company owes them, on top of the financial aid coming from the government.
The DOLE on Thursday said it would conduct its own probe of the workplace tragedy even as a militant labor group offered legal assistance and urged the grieving families to file criminal charges over the “industrial inferno.”
* ‘We don’t expect survivors’:
Valenzuela blaze death toll rises to 72; someone will be charged, Espina vows
At least 72 people have been confirmed dead in a huge blaze at a footwear factory in Valenzuela City, officials disclosed yesterday as angry relatives and workers described sweatshop conditions, including dismal fire safety standards, at the workplace.
“We don’t expect survivors from those (trapped) inside the building but we are hoping some were able to jump out,” Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian said. “We are doing this retrieval as fast as we can.”
Firefighters and police pulled dozens of corpses out of the ruins of the two-story building yesterday, a day after the blaze trapped terrified workers with apparently few exits and no fire safety training.
“Many of those retrieved were reduced to skulls and bones,” Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, the Philippine National Police officer-in-charge, said during an emotional press conference, as local authorities confirmed 72 people had died.
* Valenzuela City mayor confirms 72 workers die in slippers factory fire:
Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian yesterday confirmed at hastily called press briefing 72 people, mostly factory workers, perished in a massive Wednesday fire that razed a slippers factory in the city.
Gatchalian and acting Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina assured the public a thorough investigation is being conducted to punish those who will be found criminally liable for the tragedy.
“At this time, it will be too early to point fingers as we are now more focused on extending the much-needed assistance and support to the victims and their families. We just wait for the result of the investigation so that we can be able to hold those criminally liable for the tragedy,” Gatchalian said.
As of 1 p.m. yesterday, the retrieval team of the city’s Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and the Scene of the Crime Operatives (Soco) retrieved a total of 58 people in the ruins of the factory owned by Kentex Manufacturing Inc. located on Tatalon Street, Barangay Ugong as the bodies of 14 more workers have yet to be dug up as they were still waiting for the arrival of mighty cutting tools to slice through fallen steel trusses that collapsed and buried the bodies.
Gatchalian said the charred bodies of the victims were taken to a morgue near Maysan Barangay Hall for forensic processing and identification by the PNP Soco team.
Quoting an initial BFP-police report, Gatchalian said the fatalities included relatives of the owners of the factory.
* Gruesome sight greets fire probers:
Piles of charred bones and skulls indicating the victims hugged each other as the deadly fire started to gobble them up greeted policemen as they retrieved bodies from the gutted rubber slipper factory yesterday in Valenzuela yesterday, making identification virtually impossible.
Police said the death toll from the blaze has risen to 72, majority of them found at the second floor of the Kentex Manufacturing Corporation in Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela City, although estimates by local government and fire officials have been in conflict since Wednesday, complicated by the difficulties of retrieving bodies from the wreckage.
While authorities conducted clearing operations inside the gutted building, police vowed swift action against those responsible for the tragedy, with PNP acting chief Leonardo Espina saying: “Definitely there will be charges here, because people died.
Regardless of whether it was an accident or arson, people died. We are just determining what exactly happened so that we can clearly define what charges to file.”
The blaze reflects poor occupational health and safety standards that are a challenge for Southeast Asia’s fastest growing nation to tackle, analysts say.
* Statement: Labor Secretary Baldoz on the Kentex Manufacturing fire incident:
Statement of Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz
I express my deepest sympathies to the families of the 54 workers who were killed and of the still undetermined still missing in a fire at the Kentex Manufacturing Corporation in Valenzuela City yesterday.
This is a sad day for the DOLE, a workplace tragedy that diminishes us all. We pray for the peaceful repose of the souls of the victims.
The DOLE will ensure that the victims and their families will receive social and labor justice.
Through the Bureau of Working Conditions, the Occupational Safety and Health Center, and the DOLE National Capital Region, the DOLE will conduct a fast investigation to get to the bottom of the accident, with the view of establishing accountability and responsibility.
At the moment, we cannot enter the accident site/premises and conduct an investigation because we have deferred to the Bureau of Fire Protection and the Philippine National Police’s Scene of the Crime Operations (SOCO) Unit, which have primary responsibility in this kind of incident.
We will follow suit after fire and police authorities have concluded their mopping up operation and investigation. Our Labor Laws Compliance Officers are on stand-by at the factory.
Initially, from field reports of our regional office, we knew that the deadly fire was caused by welding works in the main gate of the factory.
As of press time, the DOLE-NCR is still coordinating with company management with regards the latter’s financial obligations to the victims and the benefits it will provide to their families.
I have tasked Regional Director Alex Avila to review the existing collective bargaining agreement of the workers’ union and the company to determine the benefits due to the workers.
The families of each of the worker who died in the tragedy will receive P20,000 in funeral benefit and death pension benefit, depending on the worker’s last salary, from the Social Security System which holds in trust the ECC trust fund.
For the survivors who need to be hospitalized, they will be entitled to medical or hospital benefits and sickness benefit of up to 120 days at a maximum of P200 per day.
Those who were injured are entitled to free rehabilitation, and as may be necessary, prosthesis.
The ECC also has livelihood and skills training for those who may not be able to work anymore. For those who may suffer from disability because of the tragedy, the ECC will process fast their ECC pension or lump sum compensation depending on the disability.
* Welding work sparked Valenzuela factory fire, says survivor:
Echoing earlier reports, a worker who survived the deadly fire that hit a footwear factory in Valenzuela City said the blaze was allegedly caused by welding work.
In a report by Radyo Inquirer, Junjun Galas, who worked at Kentex Manufacturing Inc. for three years, said a spark from welding work started the fire that reached rubber materials and highly flammable chemicals.
“Someone was doing welding work then the spark fell and turned into blaze, and the tank just exploded,” Galas said in Filipino. “The fire spread through the slippers we were making.”
The survivor said there was no fire exit on the second floor of the building where most of the casualties were reportedly trapped, adding the windows had grills.
“There’s a door in the second floor but it was always locked,” he said.
* Labor dept’s neglect of health, safety blamed in ‘biggest fire casualty’ at slippers factory:
The workers had nowhere to jump to, and they also could not have escaped the building because of the steel windows, the thick glass, and a layer of chicken wire.
Working for a living became deadly to the mostly women workers of Kentex manufacturing Corp. in Valenzuela on Wednesday, May 13.
A fire broke out at the factory and it took seven hours before it was put down. Many of the workers were feared to have been trapped inside.
“They’re mostly skulls and bones now, they have nary a flesh left,” Candido Dionisio, 62, told a radio-TV reporter of DZMM in Filipino after he was seen coming out of the still smoking burnt factory early morning of May 14, a day after the fire.
Dionisio has four relatives working at the factory when it was gutted, one is 19 years old and the rest are in their twenties. He said they were working under a piece-rate payment system. They were still missing as of this writing.
He expressed fears that from the looks of it, “there is no way the dead can be identified.”
From what he saw, they are now just piles of skulls and bones, a mass of skeletons piled on top of one another by the windows at the second floor of Kentex factory.
“Not a single worker should die in the workplace, even when a fire breaks out,” the labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno said in a statement May 14.
The group demanded justice for the fire victims.
* Survivors blame barred windows, lack of safety drills for Valenzuela fire deaths:
Authorities said Thursday that 72 died when a fire tore through a slipper factory in Valenzuela City, as survivors blamed barred windows for the disaster and lamented on sweatshop conditions in the workplace.
Nearly all of those killed in Wednesday’s five-hour blaze were trapped on the second floor of the two-storey building, unable to break steel bars over the windows, according to survivors and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.
“They were screaming for help, holding on to the bars,” factory worker Randy Paghubosan, one of the few on the ground floor who escaped, told AFP as faint
smoke still billowed from the ruins on Thursday.
“When we could no longer see their hands, we knew they had died… they died because they were trapped on the second floor,” he said.
* IN PHOTOS: Factory turns into inferno in Valenzuela:
A fire that gutted Kentex rubber slipper factory in Valenzuela City on Wednesday trapped workers who fled to the second floor in hopes of escaping.
What awaited them was inferno, however, and no survivors were found after the fire was put under control by authorities who rushed to the scene.
read & see more.
* Factory owners assure aid for Valenzuela City fire victims:
The owners of the slipper factory of Kentex Manufacturing Inc. in Valenzuela City have assured that they will extend financial help to the victims of the fire that razed the establishment.
Valenzuela Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian, in a televised press briefing, said the owners of the factory had been working closely with the city government and the families of the victims.
“Mayor, we will help our employees with regard to identification, burial and medical expenses. We will not turn our backs from our obligation,” Gatchalian quoted the family as saying.
* Valenzuela City fire marshal relieved of post:
The Valenzuela City fire marshal has been ordered relieved of his duties while the police and fire officials probe the factory fire in the city that killed at least 72 persons on Wednesday.
Supt. Mel Jose Lagan and Senior Insp. Ed-groover Oculam, chief of the fire safety enforcement section, were administratively relieved of their posts effective Thursday afternoon, Bureau of Fire Protection spokesperson Supt. Renato Marcial said in a text message.
The relief order came just hours after Lagan spoke in a press briefing with Valenzuela City Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian and Philippine National Police officer in charge Deputy Director Leonardo Espina at the city hall earlier on Thursday.
“It’s a normal procedure especially when there is an investigation going on which will also delve into whether or not there are some lapses committed in the performance of their duties,” Marcial said.
read more. & read more. & read more.
* Death toll in Valenzuela factory fire rises to 72:
The death toll from the fire that hit a footwear factory in Valenzuela City on Wednesday morning has risen to 72.
A Radyo Inquirer report said the number of charred bodies being recovered from the burnt factory of Kentex Manufacturing, Inc. already reached 72 as of Thursday afternoon.
State of Calamity will be declared in Valenzuela, the report said.
As of posting, retrieval operations being conducted by the local government is still ongoing.
As forensic officers worked to identify the dead and reconcile their names with those listed as missing, questions were being raised if the factory followed fire and building safety standards.
Dionesio Candido, whose daughter, granddaughter, sister-in-law and niece were among the missing, said iron grills reinforced with fencing wire covered windows on the second floor that “could prevent even cats from escaping.”
He said he was allowed by authorities to enter the gutted building, where he saw charred remains “piled on top of each other.”
Local media reports quoted relatives as saying their kin sent frantic text messages asking for help from second floor, but contact was lost shortly after.
* Anger as toll in Valenzuela factory inferno climbs to 72:
Seventy-two people have died, so far, in a huge blaze at a footwear factory in Valenzuela City and 26 others remain missing, authorities said Thursday, as grieving relatives described sweatshop conditions and poor fire safety standards.
Rescue workers pulled dozens of corpses out of the ruins of the two-story building, many of whom were believed to have been trapped on the second floor after the blaze broke out just after noon on Wednesday.
“Many of those retrieved were reduced to skulls and bones,” acting Philippine National Police chief Leonardo Espina said during an emotional press conference, as city authorities confirmed that 45 bodies had so far been found.
“Someone will definitely be charged because of the deaths. It doesn’t matter if it’s an accident, people died. Right now, we are investigating to clearly define what happened. For sure, someone will be charged.”
The Philippine National Police has deployed more forensics examiners to assist the Bureau of Fire Protection retrieve and identify the victims’ remains.
Espina also ordered scene of the crime operations teams from the National Capital Regional Police Office and the PNP national headquarters to reinforce the 40 SOCO personnel already at the scene of the fire who are helping retrieve and identify victims’ remains.
read more. & read more.
* More than 70 dead in Valenzuela factory fire:
The death toll in a rubber slipper factory fire in Valenzula City climbed to 72 on Thursday, a fire official said.
Fire Senior Superintendent Sergio Soriano Jr. said Thursday afternoon that the death toll was based on bodies recovered from the site, most of which were found on the second floor of the building.
Mayor Rex Gatchalian of Valenzuela City said around 11:45 before said another 26 people were still missing in the gutted Kentex Manufacturing Corp. building and feared dead
He said at least 30 people had been injured and expressed hope that some of the missing may have escaped.
“The city government is still praying and hoping that the 26, some of them, must have gotten out earlier in the morning and had gone to relatives and have not logged on at city hall. So we are still hoping that the number 26 will still go down,” Gatchalian said in a televised press briefing.
read more. & read more.
* Over 60 feared dead:
Workers trapped in burning Valenzuela slipper factory
A spark from a welder’s tool started a six-hour fire that gutted a two-story slipper factory in Valenzuela City before noon yesterday while more than a hundred employees were working.
A survivor said she heard a loud explosion before the fire spread on the second floor where more than 60 employees were working.
Relatives of the workers who were trapped inside the burning Kentex factory building burst into tears when Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian, quoting fire officials, revealed that none of those on the second floor survived.
Chemical and materials used in making slippers are reportedly stocked on the second floor of the building.
A relative of a factory worker rushed to the scene while Gatchalian was meeting with worried family members to relay a text message she received from a trapped relative that they were huddled on the second floor.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* Justice for the workers of Kentex! Justice for Filipino workers!:
We express our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the workers of Kentex Manufacturing Incorporated who died in a factory fire yesterday.
We are one with you in mourning the untimely and unjust deaths of our fellow workers.
Latest reports say that 35 workers died, while 65 workers went missing in the fire along Tatalon Street in Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela City. We are calling for an immediate and full accounting of the names of the workers who died in the accident.
Our hearts are crying out for justice for the workers of Kentex. Not a single worker should die in the workplace, even when a fire breaks out.
The number of workers who died and the number of workers who went missing clearly indicate that occupational health and safety standards have been violated by the capitalists of Kentex.
We demand their immediate prosecution for this crime.
This is not the first factory fire which killed many workers under the government of Pres. Noynoy Aquino.
Last May 9, 2012, 17 workers of Novo Jeans and Shorts in Butuan City died when a fire broke out.
Last April 30, 2014, eight workers of Asia Micro Tech in Pasay City died when a fire broke out. This is also not the first time that workers were killed at the workplace. More than 40 construction workers have died under the Aquino government.
* Hundreds trapped in Valenzuela warehouse fire, 63 feared dead:
Workers trapped in second floor of burning factory
At least 63 workers are feared to have died as hundreds of employees were reported trapped after fire hit a slipper factory in Valenzuela .
An official of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in Valenzuela said as of 2 p.m. on Wednesday that 5 were confirmed dead.
A factory security guard claimed that about 200 workers had been trapped at the second floor of the factory.
One of the survivors, identified only by her first name as Emma, said only those working in the first floor were able to escape as soon as the fire engulfed the factory.
read more. & read more.
* 31 workers killed in Valenzuela factory inferno; 34 others missing:
Fire fighters recovered 31 bodies in a slippers factory that was gutted by fire before noon in Valenzuela City on Wednesday, but 34 more are missing and feared to have been trapped and burned alive.
Mayor Rex Gatchalian said Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) officials had told him the factory, which contained various flammable chemicals, had been completely burned and it was unlikely that those on the second floor could have escaped.
Gatchalian said firefighters entered the burnt-out building to find an undetermined number of bodies.
They were unable to count the dead inside, but found no survivors, he said.
“None of those trapped inside survived,” Gatchalian announced to wailing relatives outside the factory.
He added that firemen could not immediately determine how many bodies had been inside, but relatives told officials up to 63 of their kin working in the factory at the time were unaccounted for.
Gatchalian urged the relatives to check again whether the missing kin were among those who had managed to escape the blaze.
“I’m not saying all (the missing) are dead. We’re still hoping they were able to jump out,” he added.
Workers who survived the fire, as they were posted on the ground floor and rushed out in time, said over 60 of their co-workers were on the second floor. The access to the second floor was one of the areas first consumed by flames that suddenly engulfed the factory after certain volatile chemicals caught fire from sparks believed to have come from a welder’s torch nearby.
* Update: 35 killed in fire at Valenzuela slipper factory:
“More or less” 35 people were killed in a fire that gutted a slipper factory of the Kentex Manufacturing Inc., in Valenzuela City on Wednesday, local fire authorities said.
Supt. Crisfo Diaz, deputy director of the Bureau of Fire Protection’s National Capital Region office, said on Wednesday night, “more or less 35 were dead.”
Based on investigation, “they died due to suffocation until they were burnt as fire gutted the structure,” Diaz said.
Diaz said the building was “stable,” and the fire was put out by 6:47 p.m.
He also said the second floor did not collapse despite the load of the steel roof falling.
Families and relatives of fire victims were brought to the barangay hall in Maysan, Valenzuela, near the funeral parlors and morgues where the bodies were brought for identification.
The Bureau of Fire Protection has started investigating the cause of the fire. Valenzuela City Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian said the city government would hold liable those responsible for the fire.
read more. & read more.
* Dozens feared dead in slipper factory fire in Valenzuela:
A fire gutted a rubber slipper factory in a suburb of the Philippine capital Wednesday, possibly killing dozens of workers who ran to the second floor in hopes of escaping only to become trapped by inferno, officials said.
At least three bodies have been recovered and fire officials said there were no survivors found after the fire was put under control, said Mayor Rex Gatchalian of Valenzuela city, north of Manila.
Relatives reported 65 people missing, and Gatchalian said only seven people managed to escape the fire. There could be others who are listed as missing but were able to escape, he said.
District Fire Marshal Wilberto Rico Neil Kwan Tiu said he was among the first to reach the second floor of the gutted building after the fire and saw “numerous bodies,” many charred beyond recognition.
Radio reports quoted relatives as saying their kin were able to send text messages saying they were on the second floor, but contact was lost shortly after.
Gatchalian said the fire apparently was ignited by sparks from welding works at the factory’s main entrance door, triggering an explosion of the chemicals used to make the slippers.
read more. & read & see more (video). & read more. & read more. & read more.
* Philippines factory fire: Live updates:
Many feared dead after a blaze ripped through a footwear factory in a suburb of Manila
Many people are feared to have been killed in a horrific blaze at a shoe factory in a suburb of Manila.
More are missing after the blaze broke out earlier today.