57 Kentex victims’ kin settle with firm
The families of 57 victims who were killed when a huge fire razed the factory of Kentex Manufacturing Corp. in Valenzuela City have decided to accept the company’s settlement offer, its lawyer claimed on Monday.
In a statement issued 40 days after the May 13 incident which left 72 dead—most of them Kentex workers—Renato Paraiso, counsel for Kentex, said that the 57 families received P151,200 each as compensation. This was broken down into P100,000 worth of death benefits; P30,000 for identifying the victim; P6,200 as payment for the coffin; P10,000 as burial assistance and P5,000 as travel assistance.
“At present, 57 families and kin of victims who died have settled with the management of Kentex. They signed quit-claims, waivers and release documents favorable to the company and its officials only, which means they can still sue other people, companies and agencies who could have caused or were involved in the accident,” the statement read.
Paraiso said the move signified that the firm was intent on fulfilling its promise to help the families of those killed in the fire.
“We continue to send our condolences to the victims. Meanwhile, we are confident that our statement that the fire was an accident and we are free [from] any liability or negligence will be upheld by the investigation,” he added.
For his part, Remigio Saladero, counsel for the fire victims and their families, told the Inquirer that he could not confirm the company’s statement, saying that none of his clients have told him that they would no longer sue the firm.
“Right now, there are still 47 complainants in our case against Kentex. No one has sent me an affidavit of desistance or any document forgiving Kentex,” Saladero said in an interview.
Earlier this month, only nine families were reported to have accepted the firm’s settlement offer.
“We are not surprised at all by this development because companies [usually] reach out to the families and try to get them to sign an out-of-court settlement,” Saladero added.
But according to him, those who decide to settle with the company can still sue Kentex. Earlier this month, the victims filed charges of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide or physical injuries against officials of the company and CJC Manpower Services, which supplied it with workers.
“The Revised Penal Code states that a pardon from an offended party does not extinguish criminal action. We think they can continue to join our case because the compensation awarded them could be credited [to] or debited [from] the claim for civil liability,” Saladero said.
According to him, he has yet to see the supposed quit-claim, waiver and other documents signed by the families concerned. But in case they still want to pursue legal action against the firm, they must prepare to defend themselves.
“The families have to prove that they did not voluntarily accept the settlement because of financial difficulties, for example. But our advice to the victims is [not to accept] the settlement,” he said.
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