Human Rights Groups Call for the Release of Political Prisoners,

Hold Candlelighting, Demand Justice to Kentex Fire Victims

 

UP Sunken Garden

 

May 16, 2015

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Press Statement

May 16, 2015

 

Reference:      Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831

                        Angge Santos, Media Liaison, 0918-9790580

 

Hands off human rights defenders! Free all political prisoners!

 

Quezon City, Philippines – Today, KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights and Hustisya join 95 organizations in more than 43 countries in the Global Civic Day of Action spearheaded by Civicus World Alliance for Citizen Participation.

 

Gathered at the UP Diliman Sunken Garden in Quezon City, rights defenders and relatives of political prisoners distributed flyers and mounted a photo booth to raise awareness on the plight of the 527 political prisoners in the country. They called on the Philippine government to stop the attacks against human rights defenders by state forces.

 

Amado Cadano, father of political prisoner Guiller, said the Aquino government arrests and detains people like his son who helps farmers in their struggle for land to silence them and derail the causes they believe in. “My son is not a criminal. He chose to help organize farmers in Nueva Ecija because he believes he should give something back to the people who supported his education at the State University,” Cadano said.

 

Karapatan and Hustisya also highlighted the case of Maria Miradel Torres, a member of women’s group Gabriela arrested in June 2014. Torres was pregnant when she was arrested and detained on trumped up criminal charges. She gave birth to a baby boy Karl in November 2014. The motion to quash the charges filed by Torres, through her counsels, was dismissed by the Regional Trial Court in Infanta, Quezon last month.

 

“The testimonies against Torres were inconclusive and the witness against her has zero credibility precisely because she had nothing to do with the crime. To release her on humanitarian grounds is just. Torres should have the chance to raise her child in an environment that is far from the inhuman jail condition,” said Cristina Guevarra, Hustisya Secretary General.

 

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay scored the government’s continuing arrest and detention, surveillance, and disappearance of human rights workers and indigenous people’s leaders.

 

Military intelligence agents recently harassed and tried to forcibly enter the group’s regional office in Davao City, where Karapatan staff members and human rights defenders at risk were staying. Karapatan Southern Mindanao assists peasant leaders and their families from Paquibato, Davao City in filing complaints against soldiers of the 69th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) for threats and harassment in their community.

 

On April 30, 2015, Manobo John Calaba, 28, of tribal organization KIDUMA was abducted by members of the Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) of the 38th IBPA assigned as company guards of the DM Consunji Inc. in Barangay Sabanal, Lebak, Sultan Kudarat. The SCAA is a paramilitary group trained by the military to protect private companies especially those engaged in logging and mining. Calaba remains missing to this day.

“Attacks against persons who, and groups that, stand for the people’s right to speak out and take action against injustices should stop,” Palabay said.

 

At 6p.m., the groups light candles for the 72 workers of Kentex Manufacturing Incorporated who perished in a factory fire on May 13, the worst in Philippine history. ###

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Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights

2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District

Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101

Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146

Web: http://www.karapatan.org


KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties.  It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign. 

 

     
     
     
           
     
     
     

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Stop absolving human rights violators, Karapatan tells DOJ

Submitted on Tue, 05/12/2015 - 13:14 

 “The government should stop the practice of freeing high-ranking military officials from accountability just because they are well-placed in the bureaucracy,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General. 

Justice for Capion Family 

Palabay referred to the February 11, 2015 resolution of the Department of Justice that excluded Lt. Col. Alexis Noel Bravo from the list of respondents of the three counts of murder of the Capion family, one count of attempted murder, and violations of some provisions of the RA 9851 (The Philippine Act on Crimes against International Humanitarian Law). 

Bravo is commanding officer of the 27th military battalion responsible for the massacre of anti-mining activist Juvy Capion and two sons John Mark Capion, 8, and Jordan, 13; and the attempted murder of Vicky Capion, the five-year-old daughter.

The resolution signed by DOJ Undersecretary Leah Tanodra-Armamento only recommended the filing of charges against 1st Lt. Dante Jimenez and 12 other members of the 27th IBPA. The massacre happened on October 18, 2012 in the village of Fayahlob, Bgy. Kimlawis,  Kiblawan, Davao del Sur. Juvy Capion was three-months pregnant at the time of her death. 

Palabay said the DOJ also did the same in 2013 when it dropped the charges against Brig. Gen. Eduardo Año, former intelligence service chief and now 10th Infantry Division Commanding Officer, who was among the respondents for the arbitrary detention, murder, and obstruction of justice on the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos. In 2014, the Justice Department also exonerated former AFP Southern Luzon Commanding General Lt. Gen. Alan Luga from the torture charges filed by security guard Rolly Panesa.

“This practice completely disregards the principle of command responsibility and good governance. High officials should be held accountable for violations of their units directly under their command,” Palabay said.  

Arrest the members of the 27th IBPA

On March 23, 2015, the Digos City Regional Trial Court issued the Information for murder charges against the 13 members of the 27th IBPA for the massacre of the Capion family after finding probable cause. 

“We urged the Court to immediately issue a warrant of arrest against the members of the 27th IB-PA and put them behind bars. It has been almost three years since the massacre. They should not be allowed to harm more civilians to protect big business interests like the XStrata-Glencore-SMI mining company,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan. 

The Court, in its decision dated March 23, 2015 said the accused were “conspiring confederating and mutually helping one another, with intent to kill, with treachery and taking advantage of their superior strength, armed with guns, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and shoot” Capion and her sons and daughter. 

The RTC issued the Information after more than two years since the Capion family, through Juvy Capion’s father Sukim Malid, filed murder charges on March 6, 2013 against Lt. Col. Bravo, 1Lt. Jimenez and 12 other members of the 27th IB-PA. 

Five months later, on August 5, 2013 Prosecutor Jayson Banjal, with the concurrence of Provincial Prosecutor Artemio Tajon, dismissed the charges for lack of sufficient evidence to establish probable cause. The Capion family’s legal counsel on October 25 filed a Petition for Review with the aim to reverse the August 5 resolution.  

On February 11, 2015, the Department of Justice reversed the August 5, 2013 resolution of the Provincial Prosecutor of Digos, Davao del Sur. The Resolution however exonerated Lt. Col Alexis Bravo, the Battalion Commander of the 27th IB-PA simply because “he was not in the crime scene.” 

“We expect not just a speedy trial but also the eventual inclusion of Lt. Col. Alexis Bravo into the case. His men could not have acted without his order,” said Palabay

 

     
     
     
           
     
     
     

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Manobo activist disappeared while with Consunji company guards, feared dead


Submitted on Fri, 05/15/2015 - 11:16
 

An officer of organization Kisasabanay Dulangan Manobo (KIDUMA) was invited inside the Consunji compound in Brgy. Sabanal, Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat, and never came out.

"We demand from the BS Aquino government to immediately surface John Calaba and hold members of the paramilitary group SCAA (Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary) accountable for his disappearance," Lorena Santos, secretary general of Families of Desaparecidos for Justice (Desaparecidos) said. 

John Calaba is the Public Information Officer of KIDUMA, an organization opposed to the logging and mining projects of David M. Consunji, Inc. (DMCI), which displaced peasants and Manobo tribes away from their farms and ancestral land. The SCAA, created especially for the protection of mining companies, serves as Consunji’s company guards.  

In the morning of April 30, 2015, Calaba, 28, was sitting in front of his house at Brgy. Salangsang, Lebak, Sultan Kudarat when members of the Consunji company guards namely, Christopher dela Cruz, Loloy Aquino and Jayjay Cruz approached him. The men invited Calaba to the outpost of Consunji guards at Brgy. Sabanal to eat roasted chicken. Calaba went with them. Prior to the incident, the guards have been persistent in befriending Calaba.

Timoteo Asong, a worker at the water reservoir also owned by the Consunji Company saw Calaba at the outpost eating. Calaba even invited Asong to eat with them. Some 20 minutes later, Asong heard gunfire coming from the outpost. The sporadic gunfire lasted until around 10:00 am.

When the villagers went to the outpost, the guards shouted not to get near claiming there are “enemies” and they might get caught in the crossfire. The villagers were told to go home. At around 10:30 a.m., when the gunfire subsided, Marcial Usong, also a resident at Sitio Salabantaran saw six company guards near the outpost, carrying something wrapped in canvass and was loaded into an elf truck. The elf truck left a trail of blood.

“Residents, however, had the impression there was no real fire fight between the company guards and whomever they considered their enemy,” said Santos. Since April 30, nobody has seen John Calaba come out from said outpost.

"Efforts to get more details on the incident and to check on a report that a resident in a nearby village saw a corpse buried are hampered by the heavy presence of military and company guards,” added Santos. 

The DMCI is known to use the Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) as its private goons. The Armed Forces of the Philippines, specifically the 38th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army, train the members of the SCAA.
 

     
     
           
     
     
     

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Court denies mother's plea for release

Submitted on Tue, 05/12/2015 - 13:44 

"While the whole world celebrated Mother's Day, a mother in jail, Miradel Torres, dreads the day she and her more than five-month old baby Karl will be separated," Karapatan secretary general, Cristina Palabay said. That day will most probably come when this little boy turns exactly six months on May 19.

Torres, a political prisoner who was falsely charged with murder and frustrated murder, lost hope of immediately getting out of jail with her baby when, on April 13, 2015, the Quezon Regional Trial Court Branch 65 denied Torres' counsels' motion to quash for “want of merit,” citing the testimony of Pfc.  Mc Ronald Bamba. "From the foregoing testimony of victim-prosecution eyewitness Pfc. Ronald M. Bamba, probable cause exists," Presiding Judge Arnelo C. Mesa said.

Pfc. Bamba is a member of the Alpha Company, 16th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, said to be one of the victims of the ambush from which Torres’ case was based. 

"The testimony of PFC Bamba is unbelievable and inconsistent. First, he failed to directly name Torres in his testimony. Second, he based the names he enumerated in his affidavit supposedly from the roll call done by the armed men whom he claimed ambushed them. It is unlikely that armed persons, after a firefight, will do a roll call of their names. It is also unlikely that Bamba will be able to remember more than 20 names involved in the firefight several years after, and under such circumstances," Palabay said. "It is more logical to believe that the Philippine Army invented PFC Bamba's story to prosecute their perceived enemies and imprison them," Palabay said. 

The same sworn statement was used against political prisoners Renante Gamara, Raul Camposano and Randy Vegas. Gamara, a consultant for the National Democratic Front, is detained at the Custodial Center of Camp Crame while Camposano and Vegas are detained at Daet, Camarines Norte. "As a result, women like Miradel has to struggle to keep her child while proving her innocence in court," Palabay said.

Now, Torres will remain at the Taguig City Jail while her baby will be separated from her. Torres has to give up breastfeeding her baby. Torres and her baby stay in a 4 x 5 meter cell, which was used as infirmary, with four others. Now that there are cases of tuberculosis at the TCJ Female Dorm, Torres and the other occupants will have to move out and squeeze themselves in a much more cramped cell.

"A mother would fight to care for her child, but Torres’ detention deprives her and the child to be together, in violation of the established international human rights instruments covering nursing mothers and rights of children," Palabay said. 

Torres was four months pregnant and suffering from threatened abortion when arrested last June 20, 2014 in Lucena City, Quezon Province. The court allowed Torres to stay at the Philippine General Hospital after birth on November 19, 2014 to recover and give way to breastfeeding. After two months, she and her baby was brought back to the Taguig City Jail (TCJ). Fellow women political detainees at the TCJ plan to have Torres’ baby baptized before the said separation.

Karapatan reiterated its call to free release Torres on just and humanitarian grounds. ###
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Probe Miradel Torres’ case, Karapatan asks UN Sub-comm on Prevention of Torture

Submitted on Thu, 05/14/2015 - 12:32 

Karapatan welcomed the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (UN SPT) scheduled country visit to the Philippines on May 25 to June 3, 2015. Karapatan also urged the UN SPT delegation to visit and look into the conditions of political prisoners, especially Miradel Torres, a breastfeeding mother of a five-month-old baby detained at the Taguig City Jail. 

 

 

"We appeal to the UNSPT delegation headed by Mr. Malcolm Evans to also investigate the violations of the rights of the detainees as most of them face trumped-up criminal charges and are suffering from inhuman conditions and repression in detention centers," Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said. 

 

On April 13, 2015, the Quezon Regional Trial Court Branch 65 denied Miradel Torres’ motion to quash information for charges of murder and frustrated murder. The RTC cited the testimony of Pfc.  Mc Ronald Bamba as basis that “probable cause exists." Pfc. Bamba is a member of the Alpha Company, 16th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, said to be one of the victims of the ambush from which Torres’ case was based. 

 

PFC Bamba’s testimony, however, failed to directly name Torres. The inclusion of Torres’ name in Bamba’s affidavit came from his recollection of the roll-call supposedly done by Torres’ leader after the firefight happened. “It is unlikely that armed persons, after a firefight, will do a roll call of their names. It is also unlikely that Bamba will be able to remember more than 20 names several years after, and under such circumstances," Palabay said. 

 

The UN SPT delegation visits places of detention in specific countries to examine the condition of prisoners' detention, their daily life, and how they are treated. It also studies relevant legislative and institutional framework and other issues related to the prevention of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners. 

 

In a letter addressed to Mr. Evans signed by Palabay and Karapatan Chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan said it looks forward to the visit as an opportunity for torture survivors to air out their experiences.  

 

Karapatan also urged the UN SPT to visit political prisoners in Special Intensive Care Area-1 (SICA-1) at Camp Bagong Diwa who recently filed complaints at the Office of the Ombudsman and at the Taguig Regional Trial Court against jail warden Michelle Ng-Bonto for violations of RA 7438 that pertains to the rights of detained persons. 

 

As of March 31, 2015, there are 527 political prisoners documented by Karapatan; 220 of them are arrested under the current BS Aquino administration. Torres is among the 43 women political detainees while there are 42 are elderly and 60 are with ailments. “Karapatan also documented 110 victims of torture, despite the existence of the Anti-Torture Law. But none of the state perpetrators of torture were brought to jail,” said Palabay. ###    
 

     
     
     
     
           
     
     
     
           

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On the Kentex Factory Fire

Statement of the fact-finding team

16 May 2015

 

Seventy-two (72) workers, many of whom were women, were burned to death and 20 more are still missing in the biggest factory fire that hit the Philippines – the fire that gutted the factory of Kentex Manufacturing Incorporated last May 13, 2015. The company, located along Tatalon Street in Barangay Ugong in Valenzuela City, manufactures rubber slippers for sale and distribution in various parts of the Philippines.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz claimed that the factory passed an inspection on compliance with general labor standards and occupational health and safety standards that was conducted by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on September 2014.  The Bureau of Fire Protection reportedly also gave the factory a fire safety inspection certification.

Kentex 3


However, the fact-finding team which was composed of labor NGOs namely, the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), and the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD), and the national labor center of Kilusang Mayo Uno, which visited the area on May 14, found glaring violations of standards pertaining to general labor conditions and to occupational health and safety. It is most likely that these violations caused the tragic and massive loss of lives in the recent fire.

These violations include:

→ Mishandling of the chemical Super Seal, which is used as a rubber emulsifier. Survivors of the fire whom the Team interviewed said that the fire started on the ground floor of the two-storey building when the welding spatter from roll up door being repaired by an outside contractor reacted with the chemical that wasunsafely placed on the factory’s floor and was not kept in a separate and safe stockroom.
 

This clearly violates Rule 1943.07 on storage of the  Occupational Safety and Health Standards of 1989. The Rule provides that “(1) Significant quantities of commodities with fire hazards greater than ordinary combustible commodities shall be separated from the main bulk by fire walls.”


→ Absence of proper labeling and awareness of the nature of the said chemical. Workers, including the welder who was fixing the gate of the factory compound, were not aware that the chemical is highly flammable as it was not properly labeled. Survivors also said that when smoke started to rise from the sacks of the chemical where the welding spatter fell, there were workers who poured water, which only caused the fire to become bigger. The fire was already huge when the workers attempted to put it off by using the fire extinguisher. Immediately after using the fire extinguisher, they were immediately engulfed by black smoke.


Absence of proper labeling violates Rule 1093.04 on Marking of Containers which requires “All containers with hazardous substances shall be properly labelled. No employer … shall accept any container of hazardous substances for use, handling or storage unless such containers are labelled.”

→ Absence of proper smoke and fire alarm and apparent absence of fire and safety drill among the workers. Survivors also noted that even when the ground floor was already filled with smoke, workers in the assembly line and the office staff at the second floor still continued working. They said the fire spread so quickly that they were trapped inside and there was no other way for them to go out except through the main door. They also recounted that they heard no fire alarm. They also claimed that workers in the second floor of the building were trapped as it was impossible for them to go through the door with such a strong fire coming from the building entrance. Workers who had been working for years in Kentex have not experienced any fire and safety drill conducted by the management. When asked about the Safety Officer, workers interviewed did not know if there was one.


These are clear violations of Rules on alarm and fire drills. Rule 1948.01 states that “(1) All buildings having two or more stories in height shall be equipped with fire alarm system and signals of distinctive quality and pitch clearly audible to all persons inside the building.” Rule on 1948.03 requires that “(1) Fire-exit drills shall be conducted at least twice a year  to maintain an orderly evacuation of buildings, unless the local fire department requires a higher frequency of fire drills.”

→ Absence of fire exits. The factory compound had NO fire exits and there were only two gates, one is for people and the other is for delivery trucks. The factory windows are covered with steel grills and chicken wire which could not easily be destroyed even during emergencies. Witnesses said that workers at the second floor attempted to break the windows open until they could no longer be seen from the outside. Workers who were able to escape the compound even had to climb the walls at the back as the gate for delivery trucks was locked. Out of the more than 70 workers on the second floor, only four workers escaped by squeezing themselves through an opening and jumping out of the building.


Rule 1943.03 requires “(1)  At least two exits shall be provided in every floor and basement of every workplace capable of clearing the work area in five (5) minutes,” and “(6) On every floor, except the ground floor, one of the exits shall lead to an inside stairway or a smokeproof tower, while the other exits shall lead to inside stairways, smoke-proof towers or horizontal exits.”

With all these glaring and clear OHS violations of Kentex Manufacturing, how did the Department of Labor and Employment release an OHS compliance certificate to Kentex in year 2014? How can the lack of fire exits inside the workplace premise pass the evaluation conducted by DOLE inspectors? If these were pointed out during that inspection, corrective measures could have been implemented to ensure occupational safety of workers in Kentex and evade the loss of lives. The issuance of DOLE to Kentex Manufacturing, an OHS standards violator, as complying to OHS standards, makes DOLE primarily accountable to the deaths of the 72 workers in this tragedy. DOLE failed its role in ensuring that workers are protected and their lives are safe and secure inside the workplace.

Working conditions

Kentex Manufacturing Corporation is owned by Mr. Beato Ang and Mr. Ong King Guan.   Apart from the clear violations of occupational health and safety standards, worker survivors in Kentex also reported violations of general labor standards, contrary to the claims made by the Labor Department.

Only workers who served for 20-25 years in the company are considered “regular” workers, while those who have been working for an average of 10 years are considered “casual” workers. These regular and casual workers comprise a minority of the workforce and receive only the minimum wage despite having worked for the company for many years. Workers say that the union is a “company union” with around 30 members.

There are more than 100 workers out of the less than 200 workers who were hired by the CGC agency and were receiving only a daily wage of P202 plus P187 to P220 daily allowance, depending on the number of years of service. Agency workers also complain that they discovered that the CGC agency did not remit their SSS, Philhealth and PAG-IBIG contributions and that whenever they complain, the agency would only return their contributions instead of enrolling them in the said mandatory social benefits.

Workers also complain that they have to bear the heat inside the factory during work hours as there is no proper ventilation in the factory. They claim that they get tired of work not because of the heavy workload but because of the heat inside the factory premises.

Apart from the daily-paid casual workers who were hired by the manpower agency, there were also workers who were hired on “pakyawan” or piece-rate basis. These workers work for 12 hours a day without formal contract. Mary Ann Tenis, 30 years old and a single parent of three children, was one of the victims. Her youngest was just nine-month old, according to a friend who was waiting for news about her friend. Tenis had worked for Kentex for five months and was hired as a piece-rate worker.


Almost an entire family was burned to death, with both parents working for Kentex and their three high-school children taking a summer job in the factory. The tragedy orphaned a child enrolled in primary school.

The victims’ families say that they lost their loved ones and their bread winners in the fire. They are pained by their relatives’ death and they are pained by the difficulty in identifying the bodies of their loved ones and giving them a proper burial. They are anxious about what the future holds, thinking of how they can support family members who were left behind.

Call for justice, criminalization of violations that result in deaths

We mourn the death of scores of workers in Kentex and we express our deepest condolences to their families, friends and co-workers. We connect their unjust death with the tragedies that also claimed the lives of 11 construction workers in Bulacan, 8 female workers of AsiaTech in Pasay, 10 construction workers in Eton Towers, and 17 women workers at Novo in Butuan. Many had died but no one had been prosecuted or held criminally liable, constituting impunity in industrial safety.

Successive occupational accidents leading to deaths of workers only prove that existing policies and rules on occupational health and safety standards continue to fail in protecting workers and avoiding tragic accidents. Even the joint assessment and tripartite monitoring system mandated by DOLE Order No. 131-13 that superseded DO 57-04 – which was much-criticized as for promoting companies’ “self-assessment” with regard to occupational health and safety standards – apparently fall short in ensuring that factories and workplaces comply with occupational health and safety standards.

Workers’ safety and health cannot be left to the mercy of companies’ self-regulation or voluntary compliance. Workers’ basic rights to occupational health and safety should not be hinged on companies’ voluntarism but rather on strict enforcement by the government. From this perspective, it is justifiable to claim that DO 131-13 is in essence the same as DO 57-04, except that it uses the rhetoric of tripartism. It still still about the government’s abnegation of its regulatory responsibility. With the lack of genuine workers’ representation through a legitimate and independent union, and with the government working in cahoots with employers, tripartism from this end is nothing but hollow mechanism that masks employers’ sole power in the workplace.

Let not the tragedies in Kentex, Novo Jeans, Eton, among others happen again and claim the lives of more workers. Thus, we demand:

(1) Hold the DOLE and the Bureau of Fire Protection who gave the company compliance certification accountable for the factory fire and deaths of almost a hundred workers and employees. Investigate the process of inspection for the issuance of compliance certification of Kentex. Impose criminal and administrative penalties/charges (?) to key DOLE officials in-charge of the issuance of the compliance certificate.
(2) The imposition of criminal and administrative penalties on Veato Ang et al., owner of Kentex, and all owners of companies who have clearly violated occupational health and safety standards that resulted in the death of workers.

(3) Just compensation for the families of victims, proper benefits for workers who lost their jobs after the fire, and long-term support for orphaned children.

(4) Repeal of DO 131-13 and immediate passage House Bill 4635 or Workers’ SHIELD  (Safety and Health Inspection and Employers’ Liability Decree) that will make violations of occupational health and safety standards both criminal and administrative offenses, while providing victims avenues for justice.

We call on the families of victims of Kentex accident to rise up and demand justice for their loved ones. We also call on the people to demand justice for Kentex workers and all other victims of occupational accidents by joining the national day of mourning on Monday, 18 May 2015.

 

Justice for Kentex workers and other victims of OHS Standards violations!
Strict Enforcement of Occupational Health and Safety Standards, not Joint Assessment or Self-Regulations!

Hold DOLE accountable for the Kentex Tragedy! 
Penalize and criminalize the violators of Occupational Health and Safety Standards!
End impunity of OHS violations in the Philippines!

Repeal DO 131-13! Pass Workers SHIELD!
Struggle against Contractualization! Workers fight for Wages, Jobs and Rights!

Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development
Center for Trade Union and Human Rights
Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research
Kilusang Mayo Uno

 

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
           
     
     
     

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 PRESS STATEMENT

 15 May 2015

Reference: Nadia De Leon, IOHSAD Advocacy Officer, 0917-6252919 


Prosecute the owners of Kentex Manufacturing!

Criminalize violations of OHS Standards!

 

Violations of occupational health and safety standards committed by the management of Kentex Manufacturing, Inc. caused the death of the workers in the deadly fire in Valenzuela City last Wednesday.  A total of  72 workers died and several others are still missing . It should be noted that  69  workers met their death in the second floor of the building.
 

Based on accounts of the workers who survived the fire tragedy and as seen in the appearance of the burned structure, occupational safety standards were clearly violated.  The management of Kentex Manufacturing did not comply with major provisons of Rule 1940 or the Fire Protection and Control Rule 1940 of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards of 1989.


A)    
Absence of proper fire exits in the building.  This is a clear violation of  the provisions of Rule 1943.03 which state:


(1)  At least two exits shall be provided in every floor and basement of every workplace capable of clearing the work area in five (5) minutes.


(6) On every floor, except the ground floor, one of the exits shall lead to an inside stairway or a smokeproof tower, while the other exits shall lead to inside stairways, smoke-proof

towers or horizontal exits.

 

B)    Kentex workers who survived the factory fire said that containers of newly-delivered flammable chemicals (Superseal) were not stored properly and were placed in the vicinity where the welding was being done.  This  is a clear violation of  the provisions of Rule 1943.07  on storage:

 

(1) Significant quantities of commodities with fire hazards greater than ordinary combustible commodities shall be separated from the main bulk by fire walls.

 

C)    Kentex workers claimed that there were no recent fire drills done in the workplace. This is a clear violation of Rule 1948.03:

 

(1) Fire-exit drills shall be conducted at least twice a year  to maintain an orderly evacuation of buildings, unless the local fire department requires a higher frequency of fire drills.

 

According to the statement released by Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, “Kentex Manufacturing has been found to be compliant with general labor standards and occupational safety and health standards after a joint assessment by our Labor Laws Compliance Officers under the new Labor Laws Compliance System”.  The tragic death of the 72 Kentex workers  is more than enough proof  that the labor laws compliance  inspection being implemented by  the DOLE is erroneous,  unreliable and questionable.

 

The Labor Department has continuously bragged about the new Labor Laws Compliance Sytem being implemented since 2013 as “one of its kind” and that the Philippines is “one of the first to adopt the innovative approach for improving compliance with labor laws”.  Workplace accidents and workers’ deaths show the exact opposite of DOLE’s boastful claims. Since its implementation, major workplace accidents including the fire tragedy in Kentex factory have occurred: (a) fire tragedy in Asiatech warehouse in Pasay in 2014 (8 female workers dead), (b) collapse of building in a warehouse construction in Bulacan in Januay 2015 (12 dead) ;  (c) construction site accident in BGC in February 2015 (2 dead).

 

The new Labor Laws Compliance System being implemented by the DOLE is contained in Department Order 131-13 which aims to “inculcate and foster a culture of voluntary compliance, where there is less government intervention, and there is more workers’ and employers’ active participation in the plant-level.”  This “tripartite” approach to labor laws compliance particularly on occupational safety standards has resulted in more  injuries and deaths among workers and employers’ continuous violations of OHS standards. Workers’ lives, health and safety should not be anchored in the trust given by the Labor Department to company managements. Employers cannot be expected to voluntarily comply and report their violations of safety standards.

 

We call for the mandatory, strict and frequent safety inspection by the Labor Department of all establishments.  The inspection should be done through unannounced visits of labor inspectors to prevent companies from concealing safety standards violations. Results of the inspection should be published immediately and must be presented and approved by the general assembly of workers.

 

We condemn the Labor Department’s silence and lack of concrete steps to make the employers accountable for the lives of the Kentex workers.  Claims and promises of “social and labor justice” to be given to the workers are grave insults to the grieving families who seek justice for their loved ones. 

 

We call on the Labor Department to immediately release the results of the inspections done on Kentex Manufacturing, investigate the labor laws compliance officer (LLCO) who performed the inspection and most especially file concrete criminal charges against the Kentex management.

 

We reiterate our call for the immediate passage of House Bill 4635 or Worker’s SHIELD (Safety and Health Inspection and Employer’s Liability Decree) that seeks the Labor Department’s mandatory inspection of all establishments and the criminalization of violations of OHS standards. The criminalization of OHS violations will definitely contribute to pushing companies to comply with health and safety laws.  If the law is approved, employers who are proven guilty will not only pay penalties to the state but will be meted out appropriate criminal obligations based on the gravity of their violation.

 

We call on the government to resolutely act and put an end to the continuous neglect of our workers’ right to life. We appeal to all legislators to immediately pass House Bill 4635 and shield our workers from unsafe working conditions and deadly occupational hazards.

 

Justice for Kentex workers!

Pass House Bill 4635 or Worker’s SHIELD!

Safe working conditions for Filipino workers!

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Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development
406 Ramagi Building, 1081 Pedro Gil Avenue
Paco 1007, Manila, Philippines
+ 63 2 521 1216

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Interfaith Mass and Candlelighting for the Victims of the Kentex Fire, Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela, Bulacan,  May 18, 2015


 

Special Sunday Mass for the Victims of the Kentex Fire, Dialogue with Survivors and Relatives, San Juan de la Cruz Parish, Ugong, Valenzuela, May 17,  2015

   
           
           

 

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