Fire struck early Sunday a public market that had been built on the former Basa-Guidote lot in Sampaloc, Manila, destroying around P3 million worth of property.
Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim ordered a thorough investigation of the blaze which gutted nearly half of the market’s dry goods section.
The fire which started at 1:50 a.m. Sunday reached the third alarm before it was put out by firemen of the Manila Fire District at 4:30 a.m.
By then, the blaze had razed 80 of 292 stalls in the dry goods section of the Sampaloc Public Market at the corner of Legarda and Bustillos Streets.
MFD arson investigators said the fire started in stall 239, leased to footwear vendor Ely Morales, but the cause remained unknown.
Lim visited the site accompanied by city officials.
He said he had received information that witnesses reported seeing two men running from the market before the blaze broke out.
Fire Inspector Guillermo Firmalino Jr., Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) deputy chief, told Lim several witnesses had been invited for questioning.
The former Basa-Guidote property became the subject of controversy because of the ongoing impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.
The purchase of the lot by the city of Manila under then Mayor Lito Atienza for P34 million from Cristina Corona, wife of the Chief Justice, has been questioned at the trial because its title has remained in the name of Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc. 10 years after the sale.
Chief Justice Corona also had claimed making an P11-million loan from his wife’s family corporation to justify some of his bank deposits.
The sale was deemed irregular by the Commission on Audit two weeks ago and Cristina Corona has been ordered to return the money paid to her by the city government.