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Aquino Kentex report ‘disturbing’

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A workplace safety NGO expressed disappointment over Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s report on the Kentex fire tragedy which was presented to the media yesterday, claiming
the long-overdue report raised disturbing questions as to how the governmment gives importance to workers’ health and safety.

The Institute for Occupational Health and Safety for Development (IOHSAD) said the president’s presentation cannot conceal the facts that show that national agencies particularly the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is highly accountable for the worst workplace tragedy in the country’s history.

IOHSAD said that it is alarming that DOLE, the agency which has the sole authority to issue compliance certificates to establishments with regard to occupational health and safety standards and other labor standards, was overlooked and spared by the president’s report.

“Pres. Aquino’s report reflects just how little the government values occupational health and safety and workers’ basic right to life. Pinning the blame on the local government and exempting the Labor Department from any criminal liability and serious breach of duty trivialize this great loss of lives and blatant disrespect of worker’s rights,” said Nadia de Leon, IOHSAD Advocacy Officer.

De Leon said Aquino clearly ignored the public’s outrage over the Labor Department’s fatal error of issuing a Certificate of Compliance based on the unreliable and careless inspections carried out by Labor Laws Compliance Officer Joseph Vedasto on March 7 and 14, 2014.

“The Kentex fire is not an isolated case of the government’s neglect of worker’s right to occupational health and safety. The long list of work-related deaths under President Aquino’s term shows the government’s failure to ensure safe working conditions for workers,” added De Leon.

She cited the death of 10 workers in Eton Towars in 2011, 6 workers in Keppel Shipyard in 2011, 17 workers in Novo Jeans and Shirts in 2012, 8 workers in Asia Micro Tech in 2014 and 11 workers in Guiginto in 2015.

De Leon said Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, DOLE-National Capital Region Director Alex Avila and LLCO Vedasto should be held liable for the workplace tragedy which has claimed the lives of many workers and caused the sufferings of many survivors and their families.

“We challenge Pres. Aquino to hold the Labor Department’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. It is simply unacceptable that he is being hard on his political enemies but soft on top officials within his inner circle,” ended De Leon.