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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.”

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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.

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Named respondents were Kentex president Beato Ang; general manager Ong King Guan; board of directors Jose Tan, William Young, Nancy Labares, Elizabeth Yu, Charles Ng, Mary Grace Ching; and CJC Manpower Services owner and general manager Cynthia Dimayuga.

The 12 families earlier turned down Kentex’s settlement offer of P136,000 per fatality.

Ammied Rada, who lost his siblings Ericson and Girly in the inferno, said the amount was not enough for the pain it caused.

“I won’t stop until they get the justice they deserve,” he added.

However, Remigio Saladero, the lawyer of the complainants, said nine other families accepted the settlement offer during Monday’s conciliation proceedings.

According to him, several others also made the same decision although he could not say just how many have done so. “The best advice we can give is for [them] not to accept [the offer],” Saladero said.

Although the Supreme Court has previously ruled that victims who agree to a settlement offer may still file charges against offending parties, they will have to shoulder the burden of proof.

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“One, they should prove that they were forced [into accepting the settlement] or the money is not enough to compensate for damages,” Saladero said.

He stressed that someone must be held accountable so that their conviction would serve as a lesson as well as improve the country’s health and safety standards for workers.

Saladero, however, admitted that the trial proceedings could drag on for 20 years as in the case of the 1996 Ozone Disco fire.

It took 18 years before nine people were held liable for the tragedy which left 160 dead and 90 injured. “We have to do the best we can under the circumstances,” Saladero said.

Kentex lawyer Renato Paraiso said his clients were unfazed by the filing of charges, saying they were ready to face the case.

Asked how many families have so far accepted the settlement offer, Paraiso declined to answer, saying only that he would give an update on Friday.

Survivors and the victims’ families earlier filed administrative and criminal complaints in the Ombudsman against several government officials, including Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz.

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TAGS: charges, families, Fire, Kentex fire, Valenzuela fire
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