MANILA - Families and representatives of at least 57 victims of the fire that razed the Kentex Manufacturing Corp. slipper factory in Valenzuela last May 13 have agreed to a settlement with the company.
Lawyer Renato Paraiso, who represents Kentex management, said the victims’ families have agreed to a total compensation package worth P151,200 each. The amount includes P100,000 in death benefits, P30,000 cash for the identification of the remains of the victims, P10,000 burial assistance, P6,200 for funeral services, and P5,000 travel assistance.
Paraiso said the settlement applies to all victims regardless of their employment status.
He said the company would shoulder the medical expenses of regular employees who were injured in the incident. They would also be receiving their separation pay, he said.
He was mum, however, on the benefits of injured contractual employees. Most victims of the fire were reportedly contractual employees.
Paraiso said at least 10 more families were willing to settle within the week “but there are those who would not budge” and were asking as much as P4 million for settlement, “which the company cannot afford at this point.”
He noted that the financial situation of Kentex has been spiraling downwards and it had only managed to pay the settlement through bank loans.
Lawyer Remigio Saladero Jr., who represents the victims’ families, told The STAR that the settlement does not extinguish the criminal liability of Kentex and its officials, but only the civil aspect of the case.
Saladero said criminal charges will still be filed.
But Paraiso stressed that those who agreed to settle have signed quitclaims and waivers, releasing the company and its officials from any liabilities.
“The execution of their quitclaims and waivers would constitute a waiver of their right to file criminal, civil and administrative charges against the company, its officers and directors,” he said.
“If they want to annul the waiver they would now have the duty to prove that there was coercion in the execution of the documents,” he added.
He said families could still file charges against other people, companies or government agencies who are possibly accountable for the incident.
Meanwhile, the national government vowed to strictly enforce the compliance with fire safety requirements for all establishments nationwide before they would be issued business permits and licenses.
This was the directive issued by both President Aquino and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Manuel Roxas II, according to presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, who quoted a text message from department Usec. Peter Irving Corvera.
The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), which is under supervision of the DILG, is currently conducting intensive inspections of industrial and high-hazard establishments, following the Kentex fire that left 72 workers dead.
“The purpose of such inspections is primarily to ensure compliance by all establishments with the Fire Code to avoid a repeat of the Kentex incident and to expedite the issuance of FSICs to compliant establishments,” the DILG official told Lacierda in a text message.
FSICs, or fire safety inspection certificates, are prerequisites to all permits and licenses in establishments nationwide.
“The BFP expects to complete such inspections by next week, after which the extensive inspections will be implemented in the rest of the country,” Corvera added.
The national government also vowed to expedite the benefits and financial assistance to be extended to the families of the victims as laid out by the Department of Labor and Employment, according to Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. – Delon Porcalla
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