MILITANT labor group the Bukluran ng Mangaggagawang Pilipino (BMP) in an e-mailed statement called out on the grieving families of the thirty-one victims of the fire that razed the Kentex Manfacturing Corporation located in Barangay Ugong in Valenzuela City to file the appropriate charges against the owner of the sandal company, a certain King G. Ong.
“As we all stand in solidarity with the grieving families for the loss of their loved ones, they must go beyond their anguish and turn their grief into a crusade for justice. For it is only in exacting swift justice for this horrid atrocity and irresponsibility will the victims’ memories be truly honored,” the statement said.
They also said that the donations coming from national and local government officials as well as the victims’ employer, a certain King G. Ong “will never be enough” to recompense the sorrow of loved ones.
The militants also pressed that officials from the labor department and attached agencies as well as local government officials must also be held accountable for the industrial tragedy.
The BMP asserted that the filing of charges will serve as a deterrent to officials to not neglect their duties, similar to the prosecuted city officials of Quezon City responsible for the Ozone Disco tragedy. They also added that it would force erring capitalists to abide by labor standards to the letter.
The group likewise presented their own volunteer legal counsels in assisting the families that would opt to seek justice.
Kentex: Not an isolated case
The socialist group said that the victims of the Kentex fire add up to the growing list of occupational health misfortunes in the past years. Among the companies which landed on the headlines for fatal workplace accidents include Keppel in Subic Bay for the deaths of more than thirty of its employees, Eton Properties in Makati with ten deaths in 2010, the Novo Jeans and Shirts were seventeen stay-in employees perished in Butuan City in 2012 and just last February two construction workers died and another eleven injured when a portion of The Suite building in the Bonifacio Global City collapsed.
Unfortunately, none has been held criminally liable for the neglect and non-compliance of occupational health standards. Almost all of the fire victims were casual employees with no death benefits to claim as per law.
Rooted in a flawed policy
The militants assailed the government for its continued neglect of occupational health and safety issues in workplaces. They cited the Department Order (DO) 57-04 of the labor department as a concrete example of government policies dodging their responsibility to ensure the implementation of labor standards in the workplace.
The DO 57-04 permits factory owners that employ more than 200 workers to conduct “self-assessments” on their occupational health and safety compliance. The militants argued that companies that hire more than 200 workers are most likely employed in perilous occupations, this include the construction, mining and manufacturing industries.
“This Aquino government is a complete travesty when it comes to the welfare of the real producers of his much-publicized economic growth. Not only does Aquino take the credit away from us but enforces outright anti-labor policies that keeps the value of our labor cheap and our right to security of tenure and organization systematically violated forcing us to accept low-paying and precarious jobs, the statement added.
The militants said that the government’s negligence and “legalized” atrocities has only strengthened their resolve to oust Aquino from power and make him liable.