The Department of Labor has issued a cease and desist order against the Hoclim Co Construction Corp. after finding violations during the construction of a warehouse in Guiguinto, Bulacan. One of the warehouse walls collapsed on Tuesday, killing 11 people and injuring four.
Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said the fact-finding team she sent to the site already concluded its investigation on the accident.
“The findings include the company’s lack of an approved Construction Safety and Health Program (CSHP) and the employment of a 14-year-old boy,” she said.
The boy, identified as Edmond Bernabe, was among those found pinned to the ground by the collapsed wall. He died on the spot.
Baldoz said her office will hold the construction company liable for their offenses in a construction project for the Number One Golden Dragon Realty Corporation warehouse in Barangay Ilang-ilang, Guiguinto, Bulacan.
As for the health, safety and welfare aspect of the construction project, DOLE Region 3 Director Ana Dione said both firms can be held jointly liable.
The DOLE investigation team found that both the Hoclim Co Construction and the Number One Golden Dragon have no response team or supervising personnel, like an engineer and a safety officer, who could have managed the construction works.
Under R.A. 9231 or An Act Providing for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor and Affording Stronger Protection for the Working Child and under R.A. 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act, the company can be fined P100,000 to P1 million and its officers imprisoned from 12 to 20 years.
The Labor Secretary can also order the immediate closure of both companies if the violation resulted in the death, insanity or serious physical injury of an employed child. This proceeding is summary in nature and can be initiated moto proprio (on its own initiative) or upon a complaint filed by any interested party.
Dione said that Municipal Engineer Arcadio Leover Sulit reportedly gave the assurance that the company will shoulder all the expenses of the families of the dead and the injured workers in relation to the medical and funeral expenses.
As of yesterday, not one officer of either firm can be reached for comment. Neither firm has also sent representatives to the DOLE and other investigating agencies.
Aside from ordering the probe, Baldoz also instructed Dione to ensure that the construction company and the warehouse owner will be held accountable for all the monetary and social benefits due the workers, including underpayment of salaries, unpaid salaries, remittance of all social security benefits, and other monetary claims if the company is found liable.
She also asked DOLE National Capital Region (NCR) chief Alex Avila to locate the Number One Golden Dragon Realty Corp. and the office of its subcontractor in Quezon City and to subject them to an immediate assessment of compliance with labor laws and occupational safety and health standards.
Baldoz also said that the families of those who died or injured in the incident may claim employee compensation benefits with the Employee Compensation Commission (ECC), an attached agency of the DOLE. This can reportedly be done even if the victims are not enrolled with the Social Security System.
“As long as there is an employee-employer relationship, a worker can file a compensation claim with any SSS branch under the Employees Compensation Program,” Baldoz said, directing ECC Executive Director Stella Z. Banawis to assist the workers in filing and facilitating their ECP claims.
In her order, Baldoz required Hoclim Co Construction to show proof of extended benefits/financial assistance to the victims’ families, proof of payment of salaries and remittances for SSS, PhilHealth, and PagIBIG contributions.
She said the cease-and-desist order will stay until the presence of imminent danger is removed and the company shall have complied with all the requirements stated in investigation findings, including the submission of a Revised Work Procedure for Vertical Construction and the conduct of Safety Education for Construction Safety Regulations.
Admitting that the Labor Code of the Philippines does not provide criminal penalty for non-compliance with some safety and health regulations, Baldoz urged Congress to enact a tripartite-endorsed draft law containing heavy penalties for violators of the country’s health and safety laws.