The Makati City Prosecutor’s Office has dismissed the child labor case against Eton Properties and contractors, the “strongest case” in the struggle for the slain Eton Residences workers who plunged to death in January 2011.
Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER) said the development prolongs the injustice for the 17-year-old Eton tragedy victim Kevin Mabunga, and casts an irony to the government’s campaign against child labor.
EILER said Maribel Dela Cruz, Kevin’s aunt who filed the case in behalf of Kevin’s father who resides in Marinduque, could not believe her eyes when she read the decision dismissing the “employment of minor in hazardous occupation”. She filed against six respondents including Lucio Tan, chairman of Eton Properties Philippines Inc (EPPI).
“If this is how our justice system will handle cases of employment of minor in hazardous workplaces, we are sure that DOLE’s Child Labor Prevention and Elimination Program (CLPEP) which targets zero child labor in 2012, will not be realizable,” said Anna Leah Escresa, EILER’s Executive Director.
The CLPEP plans to establish a community-based mechanism for detecting, monitoring, and reporting the most hazardous forms of child labor in their area to proper authorities.
“Monitoring and reporting are just some of the steps in the fight against child labor, but the effectivity of the campaign against child labor rests also on how the government acts on reported cases and make companies employing child labor in hazardous workplaces accountable and penalized for their unlawful actions,” Escresa said..
The three-page resolution released last May 2 concluded that Article 139 of the Labor Code, prohibiting the employment of minors in hazardous places, is not punitive in nature, and that the definition of what “hazardous” or “deleterious” maybe for a minor, rested in the hands of the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment.
“The resolution also exposes the grave loopholes of the child labor and labor laws under RA 7610, RA 7658 and the Labor Code. The lack of clear cut provisions on how to sufficiently address the issue of hazardous employment among minors between 15 to 17 years of age and putting the decision on which is hazardous workplace for child workers to the DOLE Secretary adds to the climate of impunity of labor rights violations and death in the workplace,” Escresa said.
The construction industry is recognized by ILO as one of the most hazardous workplaces. ILO reports that at least 108 thousand workers are killed on site every year, a figure which represents about 30 per cent of all occupational fatal injuries.
The resolution absolved respondents Lucio Tan, chairman of EPPI; Danilo Ignacio, president of EPPI; Engr. Jose Ramon Aliling, owner of Jose Aliling Construction; Johnny Tan, owner of CE Construction; Engr. Guillermo Torres, project manager of Arlo Aluminum Inc.;; and Eduardo Pinion, subcontractor of Arlo Aluminum Inc.
On January 27 last year, 10 construction workers fell to their death at the construction site of Eton Residences in Makati City, one of which is the minor Kevin Mabunga.
A motion for reconsideration to the resolution on the case on employment of minor will be filed at the Makati Prosecutor’s Office towards the end of the month while other cases regarding the incident remain pending before the NLRC.
EILER calls on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the government to study such discrepancies in the law and to put its foot down for the workers.
“We cannot accept such injustice. It is enough that these workers had to pay with their lives to earn a living, receiving below minimum wage and enduring inhumane conditions, but to not serve justice on mere falsities of law and bias for big capitalists by the Department of Labor and Employment, shall not be condoned,” Escresa said.
EILER is part of the Justice for Eton 11 Network, a broad network of labor advocates, NGOs, church groups and families of the Eton Tragedy.