A lawmaker accused the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) of being lenient in its issuance of a compliance certificate to Kentex Manufacturing Corp., the owner of the slipper factory where 72 people were killed during a seven-hour fire on May 13.
House labor and employment committee chair Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles said that DOLE issued a compliance certificate despite knowing that Kentex had declared that it had only 46 employees when it actually subcontracted almost 200 workers from the CJC Manpower Services, which was not registered with DOLE.
During the hearing, DOLE-NCR labor compliance officer Engineer Joseph Vedasto admitted that he knew that CJC was a subcontractor for the firm.
It was Vedasto who conducted three site inspections in the slipper factory in 2014 and concluded that Kentex had complied with the documentary requirements and recommendations from DOLE.
When pressed if he he had looked into the operations of CJC, Vedasto said that the instruction given to him was to only “take note if there is a subcontractor.”
“If he (Vedasto) had only verified with the Department of Labor and Employment that CJC Manpower Agency was not registered with DOLE that is presumed already a violation of labor code and that is already presumed that Kentex entered into a labor-only contracting which is unlawful and illegal,” Nograles said.
“He should not have issued a compliance certificate because Kentex entered into labor-only contracting which is an illegal and unlawful activity,” he added.
Nograles said that the tragic incident would have been averted had DOLE addressed the unlawful contract between Kentex and CJC.
The lawmaker said that fire exits in the slipper factory could not accommodate the number of employees.
It was earlier reported that CJC was not registered with DOLE and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Aside from the DOLE’s leniency on issuing a compliance certificate to Kentex, the probe also uncovered that Kentex did not have a fire safety compliance certificate from the Bureau of Fire Protection and that its workers were exposed to occupational safety hazards as revealed by an independent fact-finding mission.
Nograles said that the only way to serve justice to the victims of the tragedy is to pass a law that criminalizes violations of occupational safety.
“To do justice to the victims of the Kentex fire, Congress has to file and pass a law which will criminalize and increase the penalties on violations of occupational safety and health standards,” he said.