By Vanne Terrazola
Olivia Lilibeth Romero, the long-time partner of the late Eddie Garcia, on Monday blamed a television network’s “negligence” for the death of the movie and television icon.
Appearing before the Senate Committee on Labor and Employment inquiry, Romero said Garcia would not have died had GMA Network sent medical teams in the production set to immediately respond to the accident.
The Senate inquiry into the implementation and compliance to the Republic Act No. 11058 or the Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS) law in the entertainment industry was prompted by Garcia’s death due to an accident while shooting a television series for GMA Network last June. Garcia tripped from a cable wire and suffered a severe neck fracture, causing his death.
Romero, in a statement she read before the senators, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) officials and TV network executives, took to task the GMA Network for failing to ensure the safety of the 90-year-old veteran actor.
“Eddie Garcia’s death would have been prevented, and I say he did not die in vain. Categorically, I state that Eddie Garcia’s death was caused by gross negligence and unsafe working environment and absence of medical team on the set,” she said.
“Unfortunately, TV network GMA should have made the working environment of the 90-year-old Eddie Garcia safe for his work,” she added.
Romero also refuted GMA Network executives who, in the hearing, said they wanted Garcia’s family to first know what really happened in the set.
“Lilybeth Rasonable did not want to first give me the investigation report, she said she owe it to the public to give it first to the public. But I begged for it, through my lawyer,” she said, referring to the network’s senior vice president for entertainment.
The DOLE, in its investigation, had earlier found that GMA committed three violations of the OSHS Law: failing to submit an incident report within 24 hours from the time of the incident, not deploying a safety officer, and not deploying a first aid responder.
GMA executives, during the hearing, admitted these violations but maintained that: they had staff in the set who underwent first-aid training; and that they “also respect the family of Eddie Garcia.”
Romero said she was speaking up so that Garcia’s death will not end up in vain.
“If it takes his untimely death to prevent future threats to actors, stuntmen, and others inside the various production sets of television, film and movie industries, then I, together with the members of Garcia family, will fight until the end to get the lives in protection of his colleagues in place,” she said.
“Kung ang pagkamatay ni Eddie Garcia ang magsisilbing gabay para wala nang peligro o panganib na mangyari sa loob at labas ng produksyon, then ito rin po ang kagustuhan ni Eddie Garcia (If Eddie Garcia’s death will serve as the guidance so that there will be no more accidents within and outside of production, then it would also be the wish of Eddie Garcia),” she added.
Senator Joel Villanueva, Labor committee chairman, said there might be no need to craft a new OSHS law for the movie and television industry.
“Looking at the proposals, mahirap (it might be difficult) to come up with another OSHS Law specifically for another [sector]. Sa nakikita natin, wala tayong nakikitang problema (The way we see it, there is no problem with the law), it’s more of the implementation and compliance,” Villanueva said in an interview with reporters.
DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III, for his part, said he has agreed with actors Rez Cortez and Boots Anson-Roa, who represented the Movie Workers Welfare Foundation, Inc. to meet regarding the specific OSHS for the entertainment sector.
“We will meet with them, the television and movie industry so we will revisit our implementing rules and regulations. This might require some revisions on specific industries like the TV and movie industries,” Bello said.
The OSHS law was signed by President Duterte in August 2018, but its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) were only released by the DOLE in January this year.
Earlier in the hearing, DOLE Assistant Secretary Benjo Santos Benavidez said that since the implementation of the OSHS law, the agency has so far inspected 49,482 establishments from various industries, including the movie and television industry, for compliance.
Of the establishments checked, 50.45 percent were found compliant with law. “Half of them are not compliant with the OSHS,” Benavidez lamented.
Most of the violations committed by companies include the failure to provide safety officers and first-aiders, as well as registration of establishments.
Benavidez said the DOLE has collected from erring companies P4.4 million in fines as of August.