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Did Abraham construction firm disregard the safety of its employees?

BAÑOC

I can still freshly recall my experience in one of the summer vacations during my college days when I worked as a construction worker.

There were three of us who were students but took the opportunity to work during vacation to save money that we could use in the opening of classes.

The project was the road concreting of our barangay in Pomponan, Baybay, Leyte.

My uncle, who happened to be the barangay captain at that time, was the one who backed me up so I could be accepted as a laborer, the lowest employee in a construction work.

Our project engineer then was Rey Dacera whose wife is a native of our barangay.

Maybe that was one of the reasons that he hired laborers in our own barangay to augment his regular construction workers. The said concrete road still exists until today.

I remember as an ordinary laborer I experienced all the hard and “dirty” works in the construction matter.

For lack of space, I just opt not to mention the details of my experience, the most tiresome of all the works that I tried.

What I could not forget was that every night, I felt exhausted and drained of strength and energy. That unusual tiredness made me sleep deeply, giving flesh to the Biblical description of sleep as the image of death.

I can just imagine and relate how the construction workers of J.E. Abraham C. Lee Construction and Development Inc. slept like a log when their four-storey bunkhouse made of scaffoldings in Barangay Lahug, Cebu City, collapsed around 3 a.m. on Tuesday. As a consequence, five were pinned to death, four were critically injured, while 154 others sustained minor injuries.

The fatalities were identified as Iveen Villarin, 23; Francisco Diapera, 45; Carlos Caliwa, 60; Cresenciano Silomen, 57; and Jason Bacalso, 22. The four who are critically injured are still fighting for their lives in the hospital as of this writing.

In fairness to the construction firm, in an official statement posted on its Facebook page, it assured to shoulder all the medical, burial and other expenses for those who perished and those who were injured in the incident.

I just hope that they would deliver their promises; after all, it is their obligation.

It is worth mentioning as reported in this paper that in August 2016, the same construction firm was involved in a controversy when its 22-year-old worker died after a concrete wall and steel piles fell on him while working in a condominium project in Barangay Labangon, Cebu City. I understand the firm offered for an amicable settlement with the victim’s family.

Because the incident last Tuesday was not the first time that the said firm figured out in a controversy, I am led to discussing further why the tragic incident happened and how to prevent the same in the future.

I just hope that the firm is honest enough to evaluate its fault, which certainly falls under the doctrine of command responsibility for now.

The claim however of the said construction firm that an earthquake was the cause of the collapsed is foul and out of context. There was no earthquake in Cebu City when the incident happened as per Phivolcs report.

Let me evaluate the statements of Butch Abaya, project engineer of the construction firm who said that the bunkhouse was constructed in September 2017 so that their workers will have a place to stay at night.

He also maintained that the bunkhouse was stable despite the fact that the structure’s foundations were not buried on the ground because they were supported by metal braces and clamps.

On the first claim of Abaya, it sounds sweet that the firm is “concerned” with workers’ place to sleep at night. However, the result of the investigation conducted by the Office of the Building Official (OBO) led by Engr. Josefa Ylanan and Cebu City Legal Office led by Joseph Bernaldez, showed that the said bunkhouse is not really for workers, but a storage room for construction materials.

Is that the kind of bunkhouse that Abaya is trying to justify to make it appear that they are concerned with their workers? What about the findings that since 2001 the firm does not have business permit?

How can Abaya justify that the bunkhouse is stable when, in the first place, they did not secure a permit to build the same?

When Abaya insisted that the bunkhouse is stable, does it mean to say that he failed to observe that there was something wrong with the structure? If security guard Amancio Aguhob Jr. noticed that the structure would sway whenever workers occupied it, how much more for Abaya whose profession is being an engineer?

Where and who is the safety engineer of the firm? Is it not part of the management’s obligation to make a regular check-up of its bunkhouse?

During the radio coverage, I asked Engr. Christopher Miranda of OBO on my observation if it is usual since this is the first time I heard that a four-storey bunkhouse made of scaffoldings is made.

He answered no.

This is worth investigating.

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