Survivors ask Ombudsman to probe Roxas, Baldoz over Kentex fire
Survivors of the Kentex fire and their families on Monday asked the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the Department of the 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 filed complaint attached with affidavits of survivors and their families may complement the ongoing fact-finding investigation by the Ombudsman probers over the inferno that elevated the issue of sweatshop working conditions in the country.
The survivors led by the Justice for Kentex Workers Alliance filed a letter complaint 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 complainants asked Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to probe the officials and file charges of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and physical injury and negligence of duty.
DOLE and DILG are being accused of failing 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’ failure to comply with safety standards, said Remigio Saladero Jr., the victims’ lawyer.
Saladero said the complaint did not include Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian and other local government officials because some of the victims’ families took note of their kindness toward them.
“If we take into account yung nararamdaman ng aming kliyente, parang reluctant silang magsampa sa local government, dahil sa kabutihang ipinapakita ng LGU sa kanila, maliban lang sa national government na parang balewala ang kanilang sinapit,” Saladero said.
President Benigno Aquino III earlier pinned the blame on the local government of Valenzuela for granting a business permit and certificate of occupancy to Kentex despite its noncompliance of safety standards and apparent violations of the Fire Code.
Saladero said the criminal and administrative complaint included sworn affidavits of 49 survivors and their families.
Saladero said the families are also set to file charges of estafa and reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and physical injury against the Kentex officials before the Valenzuela city prosecutors’ office on Friday.
In the letter complaint, the complainants painted the dire sweatshop picture of the company to Ombudsman Morales – steel grills and matting for windows, no fire exits, smoke and fire alarms inside the factor, and lack of proper ventilation.
“We are writing to you… because we believe you alone can assist us in the dire situation we are in… We have no other choice but to seek assistance of your good office so that we can obtain the justice that we seek,” the letter read.
In an interview, Kentex driver Danny Atacador said the filing of the complaint was their way of seeking justice for his friends and family who died in the fire.
Danny’s wife Violeta was one of those who burned to death in the Kentex inferno. He said he was out on delivery at the time of the fire.
Atacador lamented that the company’s windows had steel grills and matting as if they were prison cells.
“Nagmistulang kulungan (yung pabrika)… Pati daga, hindi makakalusot dun,” (The factory became a virtual prison. Even rats could not have escape it),” Atacador said.
“Hindi po mangyayari ang ganitong trahedya kung sakaling hindi nila nabigyan ng certificate of compliance ang Kentex. Bakit pumasa ang Kentex sa health and safety standards samantalang walang fire exit at mga bintana, nagmistulang kulungan?… Hindi mangyayari ang ganitong kalagim na trahedya kung wala silang pagkukulang,” he added.
Of the 72 people killed, 69 died of fourth degree burns while three succumbed to inhalation of fumes. The seven-hour fire even killed a son of one of the owners.
President Aquino has vowed that charges would be filed against those responsible as the Department of Justice is investigating the incident in preparation for a preliminary investigation.
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