Court affirms graft conviction of ex-QC, Manor Hotel officials
MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan’s Seventh Division has affirmed the conviction for graft of former Quezon City government officials and executives of Manor Hotel in connection with the 2001 fire that killed over 70 people.
In a 42-page resolution released recently, the antigraft court said that it found no merit in the arguments raised by former city engineer Alfredo Macapugay and electrical division chief Romeo Montallana, along with Manor Hotel incorporators William and Rebecca Genato, Marion Fernandez, Dionisio Agengino, and hotel manager Candelara Arañador.
“Herein accused’s acts not only show gross negligence amounting to bad faith, but, when taken together, also show that there was conspiracy in their willful noncompliance with their duties which lead to giving undue advantage, preference and benefit to Manor Hotel by allowing it to operate, notwithstanding its violations, also [resulting] in damage and prejudice in the form of death and injury to guests of the hotel,” the decision read.
Multiple counts of graft
On March 29, the Seventh Division found the accused guilty of multiple counts of graft after it ruled that the hotel blaze that killed more than 70 individuals was due to inadequate fire safety measures.
Macapugay and Montallana later filed separate motions for reconsideration, while the hotel incorporators filed a joint motion for reconsideration.
In his pleadings to the court, Macapugay insisted that the prosecution was not able to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. He added that it was not his fault the hotel was not inspected annually, but rather the result of the Office of the Building Official being undermanned.
Montallana, on the other hand, argued that the prosecution failed to prove that he showed manifest partiality and evident bad faith in the conduct of his job. He said that since he was not the head of the city engineer’s office at the time of the blaze, he should not be held liable, nor should he be faulted for not conducting yearly inspections.
In their joint motion for reconsideration, Manor Hotel officials said the prosecution was not able to prove that they were involved in a conspiracy. They further argued that they were not aware of the violations committed by the hotel.
But in dismantling the arguments of the accused, the Sandiganbayan said that Macapugay’s arguments were a mere “rehash” of his previous motions, while Montallana’s reasoning that he was not responsible for the lack of annual inspections was simply not accurate.
Conspiracy of silence
The court also said that the hotel officers were part of “a conspiracy of silence and inaction,” which led to gross inexcusable negligence.
The Sandiganbayan also found that in the years 1999, 2000 and 2001, the Quezon City government officials concerned did not sanction the hotel management, even after it emerged that the hotel violated the Fire Code and National Building Code of the Philippines.
Macapugay and Montallana were found guilty of three counts of graft and sentenced to imprisonment of six years and one month up to 10 years for each count. They were also perpetually disqualified from holding public office.
City engineer V Romualdo Santos and electrical inspector Gerardo Villasenor, along with the Genatos, Fernandez, Agengino and Arañador, were found guilty of two counts of graft. They were sentenced to a prison term of six years and one month up to 10 years for each count.
On Aug. 18, 2001, a fire gutted the hotel and killed 74 guests who were trapped in rooms that had windows with steel bars.
In April 2015, the court’s Fifth Division sentenced Macapugay to six to 10 years in prison for graft over the Ozone Disco Club inferno that killed at least 162 on March 19, 1996.
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