Kentex group runs to Ombudsman, seeks justice

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UNDER FIRE  Families and relatives of victims of a deadly fire at Kentex footwear factory in Valenzuela City (Metro Manila), along with some survivors, troop to the Office of the Ombudsman in Quezon City on Monday to file charges against Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz of the Departmentof Labor and Employment and other DOLE officials over the incident that left 72 factory workers dead last May 13. PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

UNDER FIRE
Families and relatives of victims of a deadly fire at Kentex footwear factory in Valenzuela City (Metro Manila), along with some survivors, troop to the Office of the Ombudsman in Quezon City on Monday to file charges against Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz of the Departmentof Labor and Employment and other DOLE officials over the incident that left 72 factory workers dead last May 13. PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

A group has filed a letter-complaint asking the Office of the Ombudsman to look into the Kentex Manufacturing factory fire in Valenzuela City (Metro Manila) and to file appropriate criminal and administrative charges against several government officials.
The May 13 fire left 72 workers dead.

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The complainants, who identified themselves as members of the Justice for Kentex Workers Alliance, on Monday sought the filing of charges “if warranted” against Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz of the Department of Labor and Employment, Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and DOLE-National Capital Region (NCR) Regional Director Alex Avila.

Also included were DOLE-NCR Labor Law Compliance Officer Joseph Vedasto, Bureau of Fire Protection Director Ariel Barayuga, BFP-NCR Regional Director Senior Supt. Sergio Malupeng Soriano Jr., Valenzuela City Fire Marshal Supt. Mel Jose Lagan and Ed-groover Oculam, chief of the Fire Safety Enforcement Section of Valenzuela City.

Sworn statements of “our co-victims and witnesses” were attached to the letter-complaint, which was dated June 8 and addressed to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

“As things now stand, government agencies are now passing the blame to one another with respect to the liability over the Kentex conflagration,” the group wrote.

“We have no other choice but to seek the assistance of your good office so that we can obtain the justice that we seek,” it said.

In the letter-complaint, the group noted that DOLE issued a Certificate of Compliance to Kentex Manufacturing Corporation last September.

It said Kentex was not given a fire safety inspection certificate for 2014 to 2015 “[b]ut there is a lack of complaint and reporting from the BFP.”
Last Wednesday, Morales said the incident is being subjected to fact-finding investigation.

Danny Atacador, a Kentex delivery driver whose wife perished in the fire, told reporters that “hindi mangyayari ang ganitong kalagim na trahedya kung wala silang pagkukulang. Kaya hinihiling naming sana kung sino ang dapat managot sa Kentex ay dapat talaga maparusahan at makulong [A tragedy this terrible would not have happened if they did not have shortcomings. That is why we are asking that those liable be punished and imprisoned].”

“Unang una, bakit pumasa ang Kentex sa health and safety standards samantalang walang fire exit at mga bintana nagmistulang kulungan [First of all, why did Kentex pass the health and safety standards when it has no fire exit and the windows were akin to prison bars],” he added.

Atacador said, “Pati daga, hindi makakalusot dun [Even rats can’t get through].”

Remigio Saladero Jr., the victims’ lawyer, told reporters, “Our concern is the national government agencies only because in our view they should be the ones held responsible for the health and safety of the workers.”

Saladero said the DILG had declared that they will hold responsible those in the local government who failed to fulfill their responsibility “so we assume that it is up to their discretion to file a case against the mayor and others. If it is found that we should, we can always file supplemental complaint.”

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