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Top DOLE officials should be held liable for Kentex tragedy

12:38 AM June 08, 2015

PRESIDENT AQUINO’S long-overdue report on the Kentex fire tragedy was disappointing and only made more strident the disturbing questions as to how much importance government gives to workers’ health and safety.

The President cannot conceal the fact that national agencies, particularly the Department of Labor and Employment, are highly accountable for the worst workplace tragedy in the country’s history. It is alarming that DOLE, the agency which has the sole authority to issue compliance certificates to establishments with regard to occupational health, safety and other labor standards, was overlooked and spared in his report.

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President Aquino’s report reflects just how little government values occupational health and safety and the workers’ basic right to life. Pinning the blame on the local government and exempting labor department officials from any criminal liability and serious breach of duty trivialize this tragic loss of 72 lives and show blatant disrespect for workers’ rights.

President Aquino clearly ignored public outrage over the labor department’s fatal error in issuing a certificate of compliance based on unreliable and careless ocular inspection visits made by labor laws compliance officer Joseph Vedasto on March 7 and 14, 2014.

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The Kentex fire is not an isolated case. Government’s neglect of workers’ right to occupational health and safety has created a long list of work-related deaths during the Aquino administration.

The people will never forget the death of 10 workers at Eton Towers in 2011, six workers in Keppel Shipyard in 2011, 17 workers in Novo Jeans and Shirts in 2012, eight workers in Asia Micro Tech in 2014 and 11 workers in Guiguinto last January.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Regional Director Alex Avila of DOLE-NCR and Vedasto should be held liable for the workplace tragedy which claimed the lives of many workers and caused the suffering of many survivors and their families.

We challenge Mr. Aquino to hold DOLE’s top officials accountable for the Kentex tragedy. Coddling these criminally liable officials could only strengthen the culture of impunity when it comes to violations of workplace safety standards. It is simply unacceptable that Mr. Aquino is hard on his political enemies but soft on top

officials in his inner circle.

—NADIA DE LEON,

advocacy officer, Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development, [email protected]

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