Victims clamor for justice on the 9th anniversary of the Kentex fire

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Relatives of the fire victims and survivors gathered in front of Kentex Manufacturing Corporation today, May 13 to once again call for justice. At least 72 workers died in a fire on May 13, 2015 when they failed to escape the cage-like factory immediately after fire broke out inside. The fire originated from improper storage of chemicals. Kentex is a footwear factory located in Valenzuela City.

The survivors and relatives of those who died launched a short program and offered prayers. The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and Labor Ministry-Diocese of Novaliches joined and sympathized with them. Ammied Rada, a former worker at Kentex, shared that the factory owner abandoned them despite his promises to help. Two of his brothers were killed and one survived the tragedy.

Labor groups have long maintained that the event was no simple accident, contrary to the company owner’s claims. Workers say the fire was due to Kentex’s violation of basic labor laws and Occupational Health and Safety Standards.

For almost a decade, no one has been held accountable and the courts even acquitted company owners and government officials accountable for the negligence. The Sandiganbayan in June 2017 dismissed the case of graft and reckless imprudence against Rexlon Gatchalian, then mayor of Valenzuela City, and two others.

In September 2020, the court dismissed the case of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicides and injuries against Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) officials and the company’s general manager, Terrence King Ong. They escaped accountability despite clear violations of workers’ rights for workplace safety.

The Kilos ng Manggagawa denounced the injustice Kentex workers suffered, even its notorious low wages and widespread contractualization in the factory.

Workers recently learned of the plan to sell Kentex to another company. They believe that this is just a tactic to escape responsibility for the tragedy that occurred.

AB: Victims clamor for justice on the 9th anniversary of the Kentex fire