The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Friday called on the clergy and the Catholic faithful to be the “guardians of our brothers and sisters against modern-day slavery.”
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, also president of the CBCP, made the call on the 9th day since a massive fire destroyed Kentex’s footwear factory in Valenzuela City in Metro Manila early this month where 72 people were killed.
“The Kentex tragedy that resulted in the deaths of several of our countrymen has roused the nation to the reality of modern-day slavery in our country,” he said.
Villegas, moreover, called on authorities to throw the book on people who exploit workers.
He said factories and workplaces “should be subject to relentless inspection and monitoring” and “these should be closed” once signs of exploitation are found.
“There is hardly anything more repugnant to the Gospel’s law of love than the heartless exploitation of the poor and to make capital from their want,” Villegas added.
A daughter of one of the owners of Kentex Manufacturing Corp. on Friday met with the families of the casualties in a dialogue where she sought forgiveness and understanding.
Barbara Ang, who was cut off and berated by some angry relatives seeking justice and demanding compensation and the immediate release of their kin’s remains as she addressed them, broke down and begged for forgiveness.
Ang explained that her family is also going through a crisis and dealing with the loss of a family member from the tragedy, on top of their business loss.
She said they are doing everything to provide help to the victims’ families as she reiterated that the company will not turn its back on its obligations.
“We are here to assure you that we have no such intention and that we have no plans of leaving the country to escape our responsibility of helping those who were affected by this tragedy. In fact, Kentex is currently reaching out to assist the injured and the families of the casualties,” Ang added.
After the dialogue, the families were given flowers, groceries and P6,000 in cash.
Meanwhile, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has filed Senate Resolution 1365 asking the Senate to look into the Kentex fire tragedy.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), meanwhile, has decided to terminate its mandatory conference with Kentex.
DOLE National Capital Region (NCR) Director Alex Avila said he has ordered Kentex’s legal counsel Renato Paraiso to submit their position paper on the case within 10 days or until May 31.
“We have terminated the mandatory conference. We told their legal counsel to respond within 10 days starting today,” Avila added.
Paraiso attended the second mandatory conference last Wednesday but still failed to submit documents required by the DOLE-NCR.
Among the papers needed were the payroll and the workers’ contribution to SSS, PhilHealth and Pag-IBIG Fund.
Paraiso said the documents being sought by the DOLE were destroyed in the fire.
WITH JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA