CA clears Mayor Gatchalian of admin liability on Kentex Fire
The Court of Appeals (CA) has cleared Valenzuela City Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian of any administrative liability over the Kentex fire tragedy that left 74 people dead and reversed the Ombudsman’s order dismissing him from service.
In a 23-page resolution, the CA 14th Division through Associate Justice Leoncia Real-Dimagiba nullified the Feb. 11, 2016 resolution by the Office of the Ombudsman that found Gatchalian guilty of grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty for his alleged negligence in issuing permits to Kentex despite several violations.
The Ombudsman, in the said resolution ordered the filing of violation of the Anti-Graft Law and reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicides and multiple physical injuries under Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code against Gatchalian and co-respondents.
In the same joint resolution, the Ombudsman and his co-respondents were also found to be administratively guilty of grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty and were meted the penalty of dismissal from the service, with the same accessory penalties of forfeiture of benefits and privileges and perpetual disqualification to hold public office.
The Sandiganbayan, however dismissed the criminal cases against Gatchalian and two city hall officials identified as Renchi May Padayao, officer in charge of the Business Permits and Licensing Office (BPLO) and Eduardo Yco Carreon, licensing officer IV of the BPLO.
The anti-graft court held that Gatchalian and the two city hall officials could not be faulted for granting a business permit to Kentex because a city ordinance allows the grant of the business permit even without a Fire Safety Inspection Certificate (FSIC).
The CA, in dismissing the administrative complaint against Gatchalian said that the duty to enforce the Fire Code belongs to the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and not with the local government unit (LGU).
While it is true that the LGU-Valenzuela under the leadership of Mayor Gatchalian and the BLPO officials issues business permits to establishments, the CA said such issuance can be considered provisional as its effectiveness depends on the results of the inspection by the BFP to determine compliance with the Fire Code.
“Mayor Gatchalian did not neglect his duty. While it appears that he has no hand in the issuance of business permits to business establishments like Kentex for such function has been delegated to the officials of the BPLO—Carreon recommends the approval of the permits while BPLO-OIC Padayao approves them for Mayor Gatchalian.”
“Mayor Gatchalian complied with his mandated duty under the law. Any finding of negligence on his part would be in effect imposing upon him a duty that it is not provided by law,” the appeals court said.
Concurring with the ruling were Associate Justices Ramon Garcia and Jhosep Lopez. CDG