Employees locked inside, only given 3 days off a year
MANILA (UPDATED) - The owner of the warehouse that was gutted by fire which killed 8 workers on Friday is now facing several charges, including human trafficking.
The Pasay City Prosecutor's Office also filed negligence resulting in homicide and violation of the city ordinance for operating a business without a permit against Juanito Go.
The 68-year-old Chinese national, who owns the electronics shop Asia Metro Tech Inc., was arrested after the fire inside his warehouse along Samonte Street in Barangay 47 killed eight of his female employees. Eight other workers were injured in the fire.
The eight fatalities died of suffocation after failing to get out of their room when the blaze erupted at 1 a.m. on Friday.
The victims were padlocked inside their room. Responding firemen found the bodies piled on top of each other behind the door.
Those who managed to escape jumped off the roof.
3 days off a year
According to Barangay 47 chairwoman Lucilla Corpuz, survivors told her that Go always locked them up inside their room.
The workers were also only allowed to have 3 days off every year, Corpuz said.
"According doon sa mga empleyadong babae na nakaligtas, hindi daw sila pinalalabas at ang kanilang day off ay 3 beses lamang sa isang taon. So lalabas every 4 months lang daw," she told radio dzMM.
"At hindi po isa-isa kundi nakasakay sila sa isang van at kasama rin nila yung kanilang manager," she added.
The employees, who were recruited by Go from Negros Oriental, were also not allowed to use their cellphones.
"Kapag nahuli silang nagse-cellphone agad silang pinauuwi ng probinsya," Corpuz said.
She said Go had been the subject of complaints from former workers who were prevented from retrieving their remaining personal belongings inside the warehouse.
"Hindi nila makuha yung mga gamit nila at ayaw ibigay ni Juanito Go," she said.
These allegations against Go were also confirmed by the aunt of two of the fatalities, sisters Heiderliza and Lorena Ib-Ib.
"Mahigpit daw po. Bawal daw po ang cellphone. Pag nag-day off sila may bantay. Hindi sila pwedeng lumabas ng walang bantay... Bawal din ang dalaw," Rosemarie said.
"Sa gabi daw po nila-lock daw po yung pinto kasi daw baka may lumayas," she added.
Kin demand aid from Go
The families of the victims are now demanding financial assistance from Go for the burial expenses.
According to Rosemarie, the bodies of their loved ones are still with the funeral home as they have yet to buy coffins.
"Mabigyan naman kami ng serbisyo kasi di na po maibabalik yung buhay ng pamangkin ko. Masakit po yun," she said, noting that the two sisters were breadwinners of their family.
She said she has already talked to Go at the Pasay City Police headquarters, but the latter has not promised any assistance to her and the other families.
"Sabi niya hindi daw po siya makalabas so hindi daw po niya maasikaso," Rosemarie said.
Go, who was temporarily taken out of his detention cell after complaining of having difficulty breathing, told dzMM that he will shoulder the expenses of the victims' families, but said they should wait.
"Ay siyempre [sasagutin ko]. Kaya nga maghintay kayo eh. Pinapunta ko yung tao ko," he said.
Go then went on and said, "Palabasin niyo ko dito, sasamahan ko sila... Pano ko magdedesisyon eh nandito ako."
He however refused to answer when asked how much he will give to the families.
"Attorney ko na kausapin mo diyan. Hindi ko masasagot sayo, basta attorney ko ang tanungin mo," he said. -- With report from Dennis Datu, dzMM