MANILA – Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has found probable cause to charge Valenzuela City Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian, two officials from the Business Permits and Licensing Office (BPLO), four officials from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and Ong King Guan alias “Terence King Ong,” owner of Kentex Manufacturing Corporation (Kentex).
Gatchalian and Guan, together with City Fire Marshal Mel Jose Lagan, Sr. Inspector Edgrover Oculam, Fire Safety Insps. Rolando Avendan and Ramon Maderazo, are facing multiple counts of violation of Sections 3(e) and 3(j) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,” and reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicides and multiple physical injuries for the fire that gutted the Kentex factory on May 13, 2015, killing 74 workers and wounding others.
Also included in the charge sheet before the Sandiganbayan are Renchi May Padayao (OIC-BPLO) and BPLO Licensing Officer Eduardo Carreon.
The Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) found that business permits and Fire Safety Inspection Certificates were issued by city officials despite blatant violations of the Fire Code.
Based on the investigation, Kentex failed to install a wet standpipe system, unserviceable extinguishers, lack of automatic fire alarm and sprinkler system, and absence of fire exit drills for workers.
Affidavits of the survivors attest to the fact “that Kentex’s exit gates were locked or padlocked; there were no water sprinklers, fire extinguishers or fire alarms; and Kentex’s windows were enclosed with grills.”
The Ombudsman joint resolution released on Tuesday said that “in 2014, Kentex was inspected by BFP [Valenzuela] twice” and “on both occasions, its fire safety measures were declared deficient.”
Despite these deficiencies, Valenzuela City officials allowed Kentex to continue its operations.
Morales said that “the respondents’ acts or omissions, taken together, indicate a common understanding among them to turn a blind eye to Kentex’s delinquency and its foreseeable consequences.”
She added that insofar as respondent Ong, “he cannot evade criminal liability for the loss of lives” as “the safety of all persons and all operations within the premises rested upon his shoulders.”