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Lawyer: Welders followed safety protocols at Kentex

/ 05:24 PM May 19, 2015

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.

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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.

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“However, there are some items, which they said are safe, covered by a tarpaulin,” he said, referring to the highly flammable materials placed near the roll-up door Romero was fixing.

“On the basis of that assurance, the welder started the work so I don’t think it’s fair to blame him,” he said.

Ace Shutter employs the welders Kentex hired to fix a roll-up door of the rubber slipper factory in Barangay (village) Ugong.

The welding work allegedly caused the fire, which raged for seven hours and killed 72 workers, when a spark fell on tarpaulin-covered combustible materials nearby.

“If anytime the welder felt that there was something unsafe, definitely they would insist on safety measures. Either they wouldn’t start the work or they would even go back to the company and tell them it isn’t safe because their safety is also at risk,” he said.

On Tuesday morning, Romero accompanied authorities from the Philippine National Police and Bureau of Fire Protection to the factory to reenact the incident.

“He demonstrated to the authorities what he did from the time he arrived in Kentex, before he started the work, all the way up to the occurrence of fire,” Coluso said.

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“So far, based on the reaction of the authorities, I may be wrong but they seem to be of the belief that he did not do anything wrong,” he said.

Vouching for the embattled welder, Coluso said Romero has been an employee of Ace Shutter for 14 years.

He said Romero had been “very concerned about his safety” since the incident. Romero is now under police protection by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

Asked if Romero intends to become a state witness, Coluso said it’s not certain yet whether the government would make him a witness or file charges against him.

“We are cooperating with the government hoping that they will see that we are really in good faith and we didn’t commit any wrongful act and therefore we would be spared from those who will be charged,” he said.

Coluso also said that their company had long been providing services to Kentex since 1996, adding that they have also installed one of the first roll-up doors in the factory.

Prior to the May 13 incident, Ace Shutter, which has been operating for 20 years, also did repair works for Kentex in September last year.

“If we are incompetent or negligent then the tragedy would have occurred in those past instances,” Coluso said. AC

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