Blast victim’s wife mulls charges vs Ayala

Myla Umali says that although she received around P50,000 cash from Ayala Land Inc., she did not sign a waiver

HAPPY TIMES. The Umali couple with their two children, JM and Ella. Photo from the Facebook account of Myla Umali

MANILA, Philippines – The wife of one of the Serendra blast victims said she’s considering filing charges against developer Ayala Land Inc. (ALI).

Myla Umali, 31, wife of Jeffrey Umail, one of 3 Abenson outsourced employees who died after a powerful explosion at Two Serendra, said she planned to consult a lawyer about her legal options regarding ALI.

READ: ‘We want to know what caused the blast’ 

“I blame them. If they only fixed the condo unit, this would not have happened,” she told Rappler in an interview.

Umali said ALI has been asking to meet with her but she has so far refused. She said she “is still confused and grieving the death” of her husband. The Umalis have two children: 4-year-old JM and Ella, who’s only 9 months old. In a previous interview, Myla Umali said her husband worked as a driver of Abenson for nearly 3 years and was saving up for the children’s education.

Umali said she was supposed to meet with Ayala and Abenson officials at her husband’s agency, VSA Manpower Resources, Inc, in Quezon City on Tuesday, June 11, but she refused to attend the meeting.

“They’re confusing me, they want me to meet with them immediately,” she added.

Umali disclosed to Rappler that she already received “financial help” from Ayala during her husband’s wake on June 5. A certain Joseph, a representative from Ayala, talked to her and gave her “around P 50,000 in cash.”

But Umali said this payment should not stop her from filing charges against ALI because she did not sign “any waiver to file legal action.” Umali said she initially refused to sign an “acknowledgement receipt” from Joseph, but she was assured that it was a “mere acceptance of Ayala’s help.”

Umali said she was scheduled to meet with Ayala and Abenson officials on Tuesday next week.

‘Everything OK’

While Umali is still studying her options, the families of the other two victims of the blast said they met with Ayala and Abenson officials last Monday, June 11, and that “everything is already okay.”

Mercy Bandiola, sister of Marlon Bandiola, said Ayala offered them an “educational plan” for Marlon’s 4-year-old son, Mark Nathan. The educational plan would cover the child’s tuition until college, Bandiola told Rappler.

“Everything’s okay. We had a lawyer from his [Marlon] agency and we already talked,” Bandiola said, adding that Ayala also offered them “financial help.”

Bandiola worked for 4 years as a furniture assembler at Abenson. 

READ: Shattered dreams for Serendra victim

Bandiola said her family never thought of filing charges against ALI because all they wanted was for all parties to “help each other.”

Lilibeth Natividad, wife of Sallymar Natividad, also disclosed that she will not file any charges against ALI since what was offered was “enough.” Sallymar Natividad was also a driver of Abenson.

Natividad said she initially wanted to file charges against Ayala but thought of her children’s welfare. Natividad’s widow is pregnant with their 3rd child.

READ: Sallymar comes home

Natividad was hesitant to disclose what was offered to her and simply said, “everything was for the children.”

Both Bandiola and Natividad also said Abenson offered them “assistance.” Abenson paid for the wake and burial of Marlon and Sallymar, they said. 

Normal practice 

This is not the first time that big companies, such as ALI, offered financial help to victims of fatal incidents involving their properties.

After the Glorietta blast in 2007, it was reported that ALI, by way of settlement, offered each family of the 11 victims a P4-million house and P1 million in cash.

In 2010, when 10 victims fell off a building during the construction of Eton condominium in Makati, its owner, Eton Properties Philippines Inc., and its contractor reportedly gave P 1.4 million to the victim’s family as “financial assistance.”

Law experts say it has been normal practice for companies to offer victims cash in exchange for a waiver of right to pursue charges against the company.

If, however, a case is filed against a company, the party at fault may be ordered by the court to pay the heirs of the deceased P50,000 or more, as well as other damages, according to current jurisprudence.– 

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