Kentex says kin of more than half of fire casualties will settle

MANILA, Philippines – The claimants for 43 of 72 workers who died in a massive fire that gutted the two-story factory of Kentex Manufacturing are set to settle within the next few weeks, said a lawyer for the embattled footwear maker.

In an interview with Rappler on Monday, June 15, lawyer Renato Paraiso expressed confidence that the families of 60% of the victims will accept the P136,000 offer of the management instead of filing a claim before the labor arbiter.

The settlement of the civil aspect of the case aside, some of the workers' relatives say they will still file a criminal complaint against the footwear manufacturer.

Paraiso was present during multiple days of hours-long conciliation between Kentex and families of the dead workers.

The families demanded P4 million for each casualty, an amount Paraiso said was "prohibitive." 

Lawyer Remigio Saladero, representing the workers, told Rappler the initial demand was P7 million for the families of casualties and P4 million for surviving workers who were underpaid and deprived of law-mandated benefits.

Saladero said there are 16 claimants for the casualties. He added that another 63 workers will sue Kentex for labor violations, after talks collapsed during the conciliation for their case.

Paraiso had said there were around 210 Kentex workers in total. Ninety-nine workers of Kentex's subcontractor CJC Manpower Services are already set to receive P8.3 million and another 76 Kentex workers will receive at least P2.45 million, the labor department announced.

Kentex's factory in Valenzuela City caught fire on May 13, killing least 72 people trapped inside by windows barred with metal railings and the lack of a protected fire exit. Others who escaped were injured.

The deadly blaze is seen as a setback for the Philippine manufacturing industry, shedding light on widespread non-compliance with occupational safety and health standards in workplaces. (READ: Deaths in PH factory fire show need for decent jobs)

Labor groups have aggressively pushed for pro-worker reforms in the aftermath of the tragic fire, but President Benigno Aquino III brushed off calls to certify as urgent any of the pending proposals. (READ: Metro Manila needs more labor laws compliance officers)

Victims' kin settle

After Monday's conciliation meeting at the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in Quezon City, 9 of the 16 claimants agreed to settle for the P136,000 offer. This is on top of those who already accepted P136,000 outside any NLRC proceeding.

Many are wary that the management will not be able to provide anything higher than the offer, which was Paraiso's refrain during the meetings at NLRC.

"Kasi 'yun lang kaya nila at saka wala rin namang mahahabol eh kung maghahabol kami nang ilang taon," said one of those still undecided claimants who refused to be identified. (Because that's all they can give and there is nothing we can run after [even] if we do so for many years.)

Carrying her one-year-old child with her at the NLRC, she added that they will still pursue a criminal case against Kentex no matter what she decides about on the claim. Her 28-year-old husband Vincent was an assembly man at the footwear factory.

Two others family members proceeded to file their claim – a father of two Kentex workers and the brother of another two.

SISTER. Ammied Rada shows a photo of his 21-year-old sister Gerly, who died in the May 13 factory fire. Photo by Buena Bernal/Rappler

SISTER. Ammied Rada shows a photo of his 21-year-old sister Gerly, who died in the May 13 factory fire.

Photo by Buena Bernal/Rappler

Ammied Rada, whose 21-year-old sister Gerly and 25-year-old brother Ericson were among the casualties, said he couldn't take the compensation for the lost lives of his loved ones. – Rappler.com