Still in jail, Pasay sweatshop boss slammed by biz group
In a rare move, the country’s largest umbrella organization of employers joined calls to prosecute one of their kind, in connection with last week’s “sweatshop” fire that killed eight female workers in Pasay City.
Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines president Edgardo G. Lacson said the group “strongly condemns” the incident, noting that “it is unconscionable that in this modern day and advanced era, there are still owners who apparently operate sweatshops and go around the law.”
In a statement on Thursday, Lacson said the owner of Asia Metro Tech Inc., which operates from a house at 317 P. Samonte Street, Barangay 47, Zone 6, Pasay City, “should face the consequence of his act (and) the force of the law.”
He was referring to 68-year-old Juanito Go, whom police had charged with negligence resulting in multiple homicide and physical injuries for the May 30 fire, and also with human trafficking, a nonbailable offense. Also charged was Go’s son-in-law and property manager, Joey Cabrera.
The Chinese businessman and his son-in-law remained in detention as of Thursday, according to Supt. Alex Fulgar, deputy chief for operations of the Pasay police.
“No one is above the law, not even employers who wantonly disregard laws and prescribed standards—such as the Building Code and Labor Code, specifically on labor and safety standards—at the expense of workers’ life and limb,” Lacson said.
According to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Asia Metro Tech, which assembled and reprogrammed electronic gadgets like cell phones, DVD players and tablets imported from China, did not have a business permit.
An investigation showed that the workers were locked up in the two-story house when the fire struck. The eight women died of suffocation in one of the upper rooms, while the others managed to escape through a wall opening for an air-conditioning unit.
According to barangay officials, Go had been operating the business for two years, and several workers had complained that they were not being allowed to leave for their home province.
The workers were reportedly paid only P2,500 to P3,000 a month, forced to work 12 hours a day and given only four days off a year.
Also on Thursday, DOLE officials said the families of the fire victims as well as the survivors may file for claims in the Employees Compensation Commission (ECC) even if they were not enrolled by their employer in the Social Security System (SSS).
“As long as there is an employer-employee relationship, a worker can file a compensation claim in any SSS branch,” Acting Labor Secretary Ciriaco Lagunzad said.
Lagunzad said an ECC Quick Response Team would be sent to Negros Oriental to visit the grieving families and assist them in filing for claims.
The fire survivors are currently staying in a social welfare center in Muntinlupa City. With a report from Niña Calleja
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