Pasay fire victims can get benefits: DoLE

Posted on June 06, 2014

VICTIMS of the fire that killed eight workers at a Pasay City electronics warehouse last week may claim employee compensation benefits, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) said in a statement on Thursday.

“As long as there is an employer-employee relationship, a worker can file an employees’ compensation claim from any SSS (Social Security System) branch,” Acting DoLE Secretary Ciriaco A. Lagunzad III was quoted saying in the statement.

Employees Compensation Commission Executive Director Stella Zipagan-Banawis said in the statement that even if the worker-victims were not SSS members, they can still file claims under the Employees’ Compensation Program.

Late last week, an electrical fire struck a two-storey residential house and warehouse of Asia Metrotech Coby Trading in Pasay and killed eight workers, who were from Negros Oriental, according to the DoLE.

“There is already an ongoing coordination between DoLE-NCR and DoLE Region 7 (Central Visayas) as to the granting of livelihood training and assistance for the survivors who expressed their interest to go back to Negros Oriental,” Mr. Lagunzad said.

The survivors were identified as Michelle Callao, 20; Almira Zuniga, 22; Dally delos NiƱos, 18; Cherrylyn Calam, 23; Nikki Torres, 22; Janice Bajo, 20; Irene Acuna (age not given); and Jessa Mae Callao, a minor at 16. They are now staying at the Department of Social Welfare and Development Haven for Women in Muntinlupa City.

According to the statement, the women said that they were all recruited by Asia Metrotech manager-owner Juanito Tiu Go. The business, which the DoLE said had no permit, is involved in assembling electronic gadgets such as cellular phones and tablets imported from China.

The building had a living and sleeping area on the second floor, and the warehouse and working area was on the first.

Depending on their length of stay, the workers received monthly pay of just P3,000-P5,000; were not issued pay slips; and received only half of their 13th-month pay.

They had no employment contracts, were not enrolled with SSS, Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), or the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG), the DoLE also said.

Nor were the workers given overtime pay.

“The workers [were] also not allowed to leave the building premises. They [were] only allowed to go on rest day three times a year, but with a designated companion and a service vehicle,” the statement read.

The workers, however, were allowed to go on vacation for a month or two with a paid two-way plane ticket.

Mr. Go was charged earlier this week with negligence resulting in multiple homicide and physical injuries, operating a business without a permit and human trafficking.