DOJ, PAO fire up fire victims for legal battle
THE DEPARTMENT 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.
De Lima added that “other dimensions” of the factory fire would also be looked into, including reports that the rubber slippers manufacturer was operating in violation of numerous labor laws.
The PAO also announced that it would offer free legal assistance to the families of the 72 workers should they decide to file a case against those responsible for their loved ones’ death.
PAO chief Persida Acosta said the victims’ kin may take either criminal or civil action against those believed to be liable, adding that her office was scheduled to talk to some of the families today about their legal options.
At the same time, a church-based labor rights advocate urged yesterday the Department of Labor and Employment, the Valenzuela City government and the BFP to thoroughly investigate the factory fire and hold accountable those who committed violations.
“The Church sees violations of occupational health and safety standards that result in workers’ deaths as criminal acts,” the Church People-Workers’ Solidarity (CWS) said in a statement.
It cited Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, which stated that “all violations of the integrity of the human person, all offenses against human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, degrading working conditions where men/women are treated as mere tools for profit…all these and the like are criminal: They poison civilization.”
CWS convener Fr. Gerardo Alminaza said the Kentex fire once again showed the hazards faced by workers in many factories nationwide.
Alminaza further stated that the death of 72 workers showed that the government’s mechanism for labor assessment was “seriously flawed” and exposed the abusive conditions for millions of poor and desperate workers nationwide.
“We call on all relevant government agencies to investigate the incident, including the compliance of the factory with existing safety standards. If violations are found, there must be accountability,” he said. With Jocelyn R. Uy and Rima Granali
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