Business tycoon and Eton Properties Philippines Inc. Chief Executive Officer, Lucio Tan failed to attend the first preliminary investigation of criminal charges filed against him and five other officials of subcontractors of Eton Construction at the Makati prosecutor’s office, Tuesday, June 21. Charges of non-payment of minimum wage and employment of a minor in hazardous occupation were filed separately by relatives of four of the eleven victims of the Eton accident February this year.

Other than Tan, Eton President Danilo Ignacio, and its subcontractors namely: Engr. Jose Ramon Aliling, President of Jose Aliling Construction Management Inc. (JACMI); Mr. Johnny Tan, president of CE Construction; Engr. Guillermo Torres, Project manager of Arlo Aluminum Co. Inc. and; Mr. Eduardo Piñon were also charged with the above-mentioned  criminal cases.

Non-payment of minimum wage is considered a criminal offense under RA 6727. When found guilty, the employer must pay full indemnification to the victims and serve one to two years in prison. Employment of minors in hazardous occupation is prohibited under the Labor Code and its implementing rules.

Maria Teresa Esteban (mother of Michael Tatlonghari), Vicente Piñon (father of Vic Eduard Piñon), and Marisa Cristobal (wife of Benbon Cristobal) filed the non-payment of minimum wage charges. Reportedly, construction workers at Eton only receives Php280 daily wage which P124 less than the Php404 mandated minimum wage in Metro Manila.

Meanwhile, the complaint of illegally employing minors in hazardous occupation was filed by Maribel Mabunga, aunt of Kevin Mabunga. Kevin was only 17 years old when he worked at Eton as a construction worker from July 2010 until his death in February 2011 because of  the gondola accident.

Prior to the filing of these criminal charges, similar complaints of violations of labor standards by Eton and its subcontractors were also filed by the victims’ relatives at the National Labor Regulatory Commission (NLRC).

Charges of multiple homicide blocked

Charges however that would directly hold Eton and its subcontractors liable for the death of the ten construction workers did not make it to the initial investigation of the prosecutor. The relatives upon claiming P150 000 for burial and other damages was made to sign waiver stating that they will no longer file criminal charges against the victims’ employers. Relatives of the victims however said that they were not aware of such provision when they signed the document on the burial claims.

The waiver has kept the families from charging Eton and its subcontractors with reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homicide.

Center for Trade Union and Human Rights documentation coordinator Armand Hernando stated that while the criminal charges for violating labor standards is a blow against Tan and its subcontractors who do not abide by the law, “there can be no real justice to the victims of Eton and their families until and unless the companies pay for the [workers’] death. Thus, we are appealing to the Department of Justice to nullify the waiver and allow a re-investigation of the case so that justice may be truly rendered to the workers and that companies and businessmen that compromise workers rights and safety standards ultimately learn their lesson.”###