Bello: GMA may face ₱100,000 fine, suspension for Eddie Garcia's accident

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 24) — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said authorities are looking into the on-set injury and eventual death of veteran actor Eddie Garcia, saying that GMA Network may be penalized for possible lapses.

Bello said that the agency's Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) is currently inspecting on-set practices of the TV station following the untimely demise of Garcia, who passed away June 20.

Garcia tripped and fell to the ground during a taping for a TV series on June 8 in Tondo, Manila. He broke his neck and slipped into a comatose state for nearly two weeks before he passed. He was 90.

"Under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Law, kailangan merong [you need to have an] OSH officer in every establishment. You make the workplace safe and compliant with health standards," Bello told CNN Philippines in a phone interview.

First aid response — or the lack thereof — to the late actor will also be covered in the probe.

"Iinspeksyunin nila kung tama 'yung pagkahawak kay Mr. Eddie Garcia. Kung merong safety and health officer, baka nabigyan ng tamang treatment when he had that accident," the Cabinet official added.

[Translation: They will inspect whether Mr. Eddie Garcia was handled correctly. If they had a safety and health officer, maybe he could have been given the proper treatment when he had that accident.]

The law requires all employers to provide a hazard-free environment for workers, which includes having a safety officer as well as certified first-aiders and even nurses for high-risk situations.

If found liable, Bello said the OSHC can file administrative charges against the network even without Garcia's family, should the inspection reveal violations of Republic Act 11058 or the OSH law signed August 2018.

Bello said the network could face a monetary fine or even "suspension of operations," depending on how serious the lapses were.

The law sets a maximum fine of ₱100,000 per day. This already covers cases of death, serious injury or serious illness while in the workplace. OSHC Executive Director Noel Binag said separately that in cases of "imminent danger" as a result of the employers' violation or fault, authorities can order stoppage of work or suspension of operations.

Bello said that the formal report is still being prepared by the OSHC, which may be completed by next week.

GMA declined further comment on the matter. On June 10, the network said it is looking into the absence of a medical team during taping.

"It has been the network’s practice to have medical personnel and ambulance crew on standby whenever the production is executing big action scenes during taping. This has been likewise the practice of other GMA programs," the media network said in its most recent statement.

READ: Directors call for better safety protocol on set after Eddie Garcia's death

Senator-elect Lito Lapid, himself an action star, said separately that he will propose to review safety standards to prevent a repeat of this incident.

"Pag-aaralan namin 'yan at kakausapin natin, magkakaroon ng suggestion ang mga stuntman, mga direktor [We will study that and we will consult stuntmen and directors for suggestions]," Lapid told reporters at the sidelines of his idol Garcia's wake on Sunday. 

Garcia was cremated Friday at dawn. Public viewing of his urn ended on Sunday. His stepson 1-PACMAN Party-list Rep. Mikee Romero said in a statement that he will be filing the "Eddie Garcia Law" or the Actors Occupational Safety and Health Standard Bill once the 18th Congress opens next month, which will prescribe medical and safety procedures on production sets, a Mandatory Actors and Production Insurance, and specific working hours for children and senior citizen talents.