Wife of Serendra blast victim: Ayala offer not enough

Ace Tamayo
Myla Umali says Ayala offered her 'two options' as settlement for her husband’s death

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 victims of the May 31 Serendra blast in Taguig said developer Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) offered her P1 million and an “educational plan” for her two children as settlement for her husband’s death.

But nearly a month after the blast that killed 3 Abenson outsourced employees, Myla Umali believes she and her children deserve more for their loss. Umali, 31, is the wife of Jeffrey Umali, an Abenson driver who was killed in the powerful explosion at Two Serendra.

Focused na kami sa Ayala ngayon at hindi ko pa rin tinatanggap ang mga offers nila sa akin.” Umali said in an interview with Rappler. (We are now focused on Ayala and I still refused their offers to me.) The families of the two other victims had already accepted the Ayala offers.

The Umalis have two children: 4-year-old JM and Ella, who’s only 9 months old. She earlier blamed ALI for the death of her husband. “I blame them. If they only fixed the condo unit, this would not have happened,” she said in a previous interview. 

READ: Blast victim’s wife mulls charges vs Ayala

Despite the month-long probe, government has yet to establish the cause of the gas leak that led to the explosion at Two Serendra on May 31. Four were also injured in the incident. In a memo published Saturday, June 29, the condominum’s management said it decided to shut off the centralized liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) system in residential units for good.

Umali disclosed that she already received a “financial help” of P50,000 from ALI during her husband’s wake. But she said this payment should not stop her from filing charges against ALI because she did not sign “any waiver to file legal actions.”

When Rappler asked her what she wanted from ALI as settlement for her husband’s death, she said she wanted P4.5 million for her and her two children (P1.5 each).

Nag-iisip pa rin ako [if I will file charges because] kung ibibigay nila ‘yung gusto ko, kung hindi, siguro,” she said. 

In a text message, ALI Spokesperson Jorge Marco relayed to Rappler the official statement of developer Serendra Inc., an affiliate of ALI, regarding the issue. 

“We continue to be very much open to help Mrs. Umali and her [children] in light of their tragic loss. We sincerely and deeply sympathize and condole with them and hope to be able to help them move on,” the statement said. 

Two options

Umali said she and her lawyer, Aurora Soriano, met with ALI officials on Thursday, June 20 at the office of her husband’s agency, VSA Manpower Resources Inc., in Panay, Quezon City.

She disclosed to Rappler that ALI offered her “two options” as settlement for the incident. According to her, they were: 1) a check worth P1 million and 2) an “educational plan” that will cover her two children until college. She added her lawyer estimated the educational plan to be worth P1.5 million for the two kids.

Umali explained that the educational plan would start when her eldest son reach elementary, which she said would be in two years. She added that Ayala promised her they would manage the educational plan for the two kids.

She said she refused both offers. If ever she would accept the educational plan, she wanted the money to be given to her “to invest” in another insurance company. “Gusto ko isang bagsakan na lang. Kaya ko naman i-invest yung pera para sa mga anak ko sa ibang educational plan,” she said.

(I want [the money] to be given to me in one go. I can invest the money for my children in another educational plan.)

She said her lawyer would schedule another meeting with ALI officials in Quezon City next week.

Industry norm

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 victims’ families as “financial assistance.”

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

Abenson and insurance 

Umali clarified that she already “settled” with Abenson during their second meeting on June 20. 

During their first meeting on June 18, she said she initially refused Abenson’s offer of “financial assistance” for her and the two children. According to Umali, Abenson offered to pay her P5,000 a month for 15 years. 

Read: Blast victim’s wife refuses Ayala, Abenson settlement

But Umali said after talking to her lawyer, the offer was already “okay” since Abenson paid for the wake and the burial of her husband.  

She disclosed that she read and signed a “Panunumpa ng Salaysay” together with her lawyer accepting the offer of Abenson. She added the payment by Abenson would be given to her quarterly for P15,000.

In an interview, she said she never thought of filing charges against Abenson because aside from the financial help she received from the company during her husband’s wake, the incident happened as “part of the job” of her husband. – Rappler.com

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