Over two weeks after President Benigno Aquino 3rd called the May 13 factory fire as a “a tragedy waiting to happen,” the lawyer of the company on Tuesday announced that the families of 57 of the 72 people who perished in the incident have dropped their claims against Kentex Manufacturing in exchange for a P151,200 settlement.
More are expected eventually to agree to the settlement, said Kentex Manufacturing Corp. lawyer Renato Paraiso.
“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,” he added in a statement.
The fire at the Valenzuela City (Metro Manila) factory that makes rubber slippers claimed 72 lives and sparked outrage over the allegedly unsafe conditions, which contributed to the high death toll.
Labor groups also denounced Kentex for relying on contract laborers who were not paid regular salaries.
Paraiso, however, said the settlement includes a waiver against any further claims against Kentex.
“More or less, we gave them what is due to them,” he told Agence France-Presse.
Paraiso said the settlements were not achieved through coercion, stressing that they were negotiated with Labor department arbiters present to explain consequences to the families.
He added that Kentex was not to blame for the fire since it was started by sparks from welders hired from a third company to repair a gate.
“We have no liability regarding what happened. It is just the moral obligation of the management in looking after the workers,” Paraiso said.
Lawyers for the families of the dead could not be contacted for comment.
The minimum wage for a worker in a large factory is set at P81 a day.
A spokesman for the President said any settlement with Kentex must be respected.
“However, any settlement cannot bind government in as far as investigations on violations of existing rules and regulations are concerned,” said Malacanang deputy spokesman Abigail Valte.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the settlements would not protect Kentex management from any criminal charges.