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Families of victims of Work-related deaths assemble at the 13th National Occupational Safety and Health Congress to press an end to Worst Forms of Child Labor; pushes for betterment of working conditions

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The families and supporters of the victims of the ETON Tragedy assembled today, October 24, 2012, in front of the Occupational Safety and Health Center in Quezon City to press the delegates of the 13th National Occupational Safety and Health Congress to end worst forms of child labor, work for the betterment of working conditions and push for the criminalization of violations of occupational safety and health standards. The ETON Tragedy occurred last January 27, 2011, when Joel Avecilla, William Bañez, Benbon Cristobal, Jeffrey Diocado, Jaykie Legada, Kevin Mabunga, Celso Mabuting, Ruel Perez, Tisoy Perez, Vicente Piñion and Michael Tatlonghari, workers of the ETON Residences Greenbelt fell from the 32nd floor when the rope of the gondola they were riding snapped. Only Ruel Perez survived.

“More than a year has passed since that dreaded day, yet the families of the victims are still denied indemnification due to them. We gathered here to seek support from other occupational safety and health advocates for our common struggle to have a safe working environment for all workers,” said Noel Colina, co-convenor of the Justice for Eton 11 Network and Executive Director of the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (www.IOHSAD.org).

After the tragedy, the families filed various criminal and labor cases versus the employers of the victims. “We come here saddened by the fact the Employment of Minor in Hazardous Conditions case filed at the Makati City Regional Trial Court was dismissed last May 2, 2012 and have filed a Motion for Reconsideration. Worst forms of child labor must be eliminated everywhere and the decision of the court is leap backward in our fight to protect and nurture the future generation,” narrated Colina.

According to the group, Kevin Mabunga, one of the victims was a minor when he died while working for Eton Properties Philippines Inc. (EPPI), the developer of the Eton Residences Greenbelt. In Republic Act 9231 or AN ACT PROVIDING FOR THE ELIMINATION OF THE WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOR AND AFFORDING STRONGER PROTECTION FOR THE WORKING CHILD, clearly forbids children working in hazardous and deleterious working conditions. They furthered cited specifics provisions of the law:

In Section 12-D. Prohibition Against Worst Form of Child Labor – No child shall be engaged in the worst form of child labor shall refer to any of the following:

xxx xxx xxx xxx

(4) Work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is hazardous or likely to be harmful to the health, safety or morals of children, such that it:

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c) Is performed underground, underwater or at dangerous heights; or
d) Involves the use of dangerous machinery, equipment and tools such as power-driven or
e) Exposes the child to physical danger such as, but not limited to the dangerous feats of balancing, physical strength or contortion, or which requires the manual transport of heavy loads;

xxx xxx xxx

“We believe the complainants have a strong case versus the respondents Lucio Tan and Danilo Ignacio of EPPI, Johnny Tan of C.E. Construction Corporation, Engr. Jose Ramon Aliling of Jose Aliling Construction Management Inc., Engr. Guillermo Torres of AACI and Eduardo Pinon of EMP Glazing. There is no argument Kevin was a minor when he died at the ETON Residences,” opined Colina.

According to Colina, Sec. 16 provides the penalties for the violation of the R.A. 9231.

Sec. 16. Penal Provisions - “b) Any person who violates the provision of Section 12-D of this act or the employer of the subcontractor who employs, or the one who facilitates the employment of a child in hazardous work, shall suffer the penalty of a fine of not less than One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00) but not more than One million pesos (P1,000,000.00), or imprisonment of not less than twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years, or both such fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court.

“If we want to see an end to the worst forms of child labor, violators must be held liable for their transgression and the indictment of the respondents in the case of Kevin is a positive step towards a nurturing society for our children,” ended Colina.