Kentex owners ‘very relaxed’, ‘prepared’

The Revised Penal Code provides that a quit claim will not affect the criminal liability of the respondents.

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Despite being named as respondents in criminal cases over the deadly factory fire in Valenzuela, the owners of Kentex slippers factory were in good psychological state of being, said their lawyer, Renato Paraiso, at the Department of Justice (DOJ) yesterday.

The Kentex owners and board of directors Beato Ang, Ong King Guan, and others more, were named as respondents in the criminal case filed by survivors June last year at Valenzuela Regional Trial Court. But the complainants and the respondents were called to start the proceedings only yesterday, over eight months since the filing of the case. They were called not by the regional trial court but by the DOJ.

Neither the complainants nor the lawyer of Kentex owners have explanations as to why the criminal case is to be tackled first by the DOJ’s prosecutors, even as the case still bears the docket number in the Valenzuela Regional Trial Court.

The Kentex owners’ lawyer said they have not yet been given the opportunity to discuss the transfer. Remigio Saladero, lawyer of complainants from Justice for Kentex Workers Alliance, told Bulatlat that the purpose of the hearing at the DOJ is to affirm the affidavits submitted by the complainants and to direct or order the respondents (or the persons being charged) to submit their reply affidavit.

The Kentex owners’ lawyer said they have settled the issue with 98 percent of everyone who perished or got displaced.

They have paid settlement amounts under the Labor Department ranging from P27,000 to P30,000 ($566 to $629). The varied amounts “depend on their length of service” and the flow of negotiations, Paraiso said.

He also told reporters that his clients are now “relaxed.” He declined to confirm whether they have turned to another business. He just said the Kentex owners now felt better because “they were able to talk to many of the victims, to explain their side.”

Kentex factory fire
A mother shows the picture of her son, one of the victims of Kentex factory fire (Bulatlat Photo, Feb 22, 2016)

The members of Justice for Kentex Workers Alliance denied the “settlement,” however. They said that that is what the company wants the people to believe, but there remains the need for justice. They said Paraiso has been warning the other survivors against continuing to file criminal charges against Kentex despite having signed quit claims. Survivors said Paraiso has also warned the survivors and relatives that if they continued to press charges, they themselves would be charged.

Myrna Pisaw, coordinator of Justice for Kentex Workers Alliance, said Kentex management wants to make it appear that the “settlement” of some labor cases also amounted to the settlement of all cases including their criminal liability over the deadly Kentex blaze.

Pisaw, 32, has worked for six years at Kentex without being called regular on the job. She is one of at least nine Kentex survivors who have not signed any quit claim or accepted any settlement money from Kentex. Another five representatives of killed workers have also refused to sign quit claims.

But the Revised Penal Code provides that a quit claim will not affect the criminal liability of the respondents, said Remigio Saladero, lawyer of survivors with Justice for Kentex Workers Alliance.

Long road to filing and hearing of criminal charges vs Kentex owners

At the gates of the DOJ, some Kentex survivors held a picket in time for the first hearing on the criminal cases. They said more than 15 complainants did not receive the subpoena for that day’s hearing at the DOJ.

Asked why, prosecutors and staff at the DOJ said the cases may have been brought to other prosecutors.

Ammied Rada, coordinator of Justice for Kentex Workers Alliance, said they filed the cases together, but they seem to be getting schedules for the hearing in different batches.

As such, only 12 of the complainants (who received subpoenas) swore by their oath or attested to their statements yesterday in front of DOJ Prosecutor Caterina Isabel Caeg. Fifteen other complainants were present but they did not receive their subpoena and they were not yet included in the hearing. ()

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