Families of Kentex fire victims: 'We will not drop claims'

MANILA, Philippines – Nearly two months since a deadly factory blaze killed their loved ones, some families of the 74 workers killed in Kentex Manufacturing Corporation in Valenzuela City vowed not to drop their claims against the footwear factory in exchange for what they considered a measly settlement.

Last month, 57 families already dropped their claims against Kentex in exchange for P151,200 ($3344).

But Ammied Rada, whose 21-year-old sister Gerly and 25-year-old brother Ericson died in the May 13 fire, said he has no plans of dropping the case against Kentex.

"Hindi ko iaatras. Gusto ko makamit ang hustisya para sa mga kapatid ko," he said on Wednesday, July 8, after a second hearing at the National Labor Relations Commission in Quezon City. (I will not drop my claim. I want to obtain justice for my siblings.)

Rada said Kentex had offered the same amount to the 5 complainants who showed up at the hearing, despite earlier demands of P7 million for the victims and P4 million for the survivors.

Rada ridiculed what he considered a paltry sum that Kentex was offering for the horrific deaths of the 74 workers, most of whom had been working in dire conditions inside the factory.

While he vowed not to give in even if Kentex offers a higher sum, he conceded that some of the other families were considering the offer.

"'Yung iba, dahil walang masyadong alam sa mga ganitong kaso, akala nila mataas na ang offer. 'Yung iba naman, taga-probinsiya, mapapalaki lang ang gastos nila dito kung hindi pa nila tatanggapin," said one of the claimants who declined to be named. 

(Some of them, because they don't know much about these kinds of cases, they think the amount offered is already a big sum. Others come from the provinces, so they worry about their expenses here in Manila if they continue to hold out and refuse the offer.)

Rada also criticized the factory's claims that they were not to blame for the fire, which investigation showed was started by sparks from welders hired from another company.

"Namatay sila sa Kentex. Dapat nilang panagutan iyon," he said. (They died at the Kentex factory site. They must assume responsibility.)

The deadly Kentex factory blaze, one of the worst to hit the industrial district in Valenzuela City, has prompted calls to review the Fire Code of the Philippines and conduct inspections of similar factories in Metro Manila.

The footwear factory was also found to have operated even without a fire safety certificate.

The justice department is now studying the filing of criminal and administrative cases over the incident.

Despite the settlement offer, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz earlier said these would not protect Kentex management from any criminal charges.

The deadly blaze is also seen as a setback for the Philippine manufacturing industry, shedding light on widespread occupational safety hazards and health standard violtions in workplaces. – Rappler.com