Don’t blame welders for Valenzuela fire – lawyer

MANILA, Philippines – The lawyer for the welders working at a Valenzuela factory which was set ablaze on Tuesday, May 19, insisted his clients should not be blamed for the fire that took the lives of at least 72 workers.

According to initial reports from investigators, the Kentex Manufacturing Corporation blaze was triggered by sparks from a welding job, which set afire combustible chemicals which were also stored inside the compound.

But lawyer John Coluso said the welders, employees of Ace Shutters corporation, made sure to ask Kentex employees first if the welding area was safe, and if flammable materials were nearby.

In-assure naman kami at so sinimulan namin ang welding so para sabihin na kami ang dahilan kaya nagkasunog, medyo hindi tamang pananaw diyan dahil sa tagal na ng trabaho bilang welder, first time lang na nagkaroon ng ganitong aksidente,” he said in a phone interview.

(Before the welding project started, we were assured that the area was safe. So to say that we are to blame for the fire, that’s a wrong view of things because an accident of this scale had never happened in the years they’ve worked as welders.)

One of the welders, who has since been placed under the custody of police, has been doing welding jobs for over 15 yeas.

Coluso added it was not the welder’s first job inside Kentex, a rubber slipper factory.

“Isa pang kailangan sabihin dito ay mismong silang welder ang unang malalagay sa panganib kung hindi sila mag-ingat,” he added. (One other thing that needs to be said is that the welders themselves will be put in harm’s way if they aren't careful.)

Police earlier noted that Kentex had long been tapping the services of Ace Shutters for welding jobs and the like.

Coluso’s clients – two welders and a driver employed by Ace Shutters – are among the key personalities interviewed by police in their probe into one of the worst Philippine factory fires in recent years.

Police and personnel from the Bureau of Fire Protection are leading the investigation into the incident. The Philippine National Police (PNP)’s Crime Laboratory, meanwhile, has been tasked with identifying the 69 victims who were burnt “beyond recognition.” –