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Deadly Philippine factory fire: Mayor faces charges.

Manila: The Philippines' justice department has recommended the filing of criminal charges against several individuals and public officials, including Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian, in connection with the May 13 factory fire that killed 72 people.

More than two months after the tragedy, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima says she has recommended that criminal and administrative charges should be filed against Terence King Ong, the owner of the Kentex rubber footwear factory, the employees of the firm responsible for welding of a metal shutter gate of the workplace, the officers who gave the licence for the firm to operate and the fire protection officers who conducted safety inspections at the site.

Mayor Gatchalian faces administrative charges as well as graft and committing violations of the fire safety code.

The charges will be filed after a review and evaluation of findings of the Inter-Agency Anti-Arson Task Force (IATF) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) into the incident.

The Kentex fire is regarded as the worst workplace accident in the country's history after 72 people -- nearly all workers engaged in making rubber slippers -- perished in the fire on the afternoon of May 13.

Initial investigations conducted by the DILG and the IATF showed that Ace Shutter Corp., the company contracted by Kentex to undertake the fitting of a metal shutter gate to the factory, did not observe proper safety measures in conducting welding works on the gate.

It is believed that an ember from a welding instrument that fell on a cache of chemicals used in the manufacture of rubber slippers, caused the fire.

The blaze, which raged for four hours, occurred near the lone entry and exit gate of the factory, trapping the victims and leaving them to die from the heat of burning edifice and from suffocation.

According to De Lima, recommended to face charges of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicides and multiple physical injuries were Ong, who is also operations manager of Kentex, Oscar Romero, the Ace Shutter Corp and the worker who did the welding work. Rosalina Uy Ngo, the owner Ace Shutter, as well as several others have also been targeted.

Authorities plan to charge, with violating the fire safety code, the officer-in-charge of the Business Permit and Licensing Office of Valenzuela City, Attorney Renchi May Padayao, and Eduardo Carreon, licensing officer as well as Fire Superintendent Mel Jose Ilagan, the city's fire marshal, and two other fire safety officials.

Earlier on Wednesday the families of the fire victims had filed a case before the Office of the Ombudsman against top officials of the Department of Labour, the Bureau of Fire Protection and the DILG for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and physical injury" and "negligence of duty."

It was found by the labour department that the Kentex workers did not have work contracts and were hired through a third party as "sub-contractuals" doing part-time work.

The Kentex fire drew international condemnation.

International Labour Organisation (ILO) Director-General Guy Ryder said accidents such as the Kentex fire were preventable.

"Everybody has the right to work in a safe and healthy environment regardless of the industry they are in or the type of work that they do," Ryder said. "We can make workplaces safe by improving working conditions in factories."

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Jul 24, 2015
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