SC upholds dismissal of cases vs Rex Gatchalian over 2015 Kentex fire
MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has affirmed the dismissal of criminal and administrative charges against Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian and two others in connection with the 2015 Kentex fire that killed 74 workers and injured several others.
In a decision by the high court’s First Division, it affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals as well as the Sandiganbayan clearing Gatchalian, Business Permit and Licensing Office officer-in-charge Renchi Padayao and BPLO officer IV Eduardo Carreon.
“In fine, the Court is convinced that the Sandiganbayan correctly dismissed the cases for lack of probable cause and the CA (correctly granted Mayor Gatchalian’s Petition,” the high court said in the ruling penned by Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda made public Wednesday.
The Sandiganbayan dismissed the criminal charges against Gatchalian and the two other officials, saying the issue of Kentex’s business permit could not be faulted on their part. The anti-graft court ruled that a city ordinance permits the grant of a business permit even without the Fire Safety Inspection Certificate (FSIC).
On the other hand, the Court of Appeals dismissed the administrative case against Gatchalian, explaining that the duty to enforce the Fire Code belongs to the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and not with the local government unit (LGU).
On the administrative case, the high court agreed with the Court of Appeals stating that “in issuing business permits to Kentex, the City Government of Valenzuela merely followed the procedure laid down in Joint Memorandum Circular No. 1, Ordinance No. 62 and other administrative issuances of the BFP (Bureau of Fire Protection) and DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government).”
The ordinance issued by the LGU is in compliance with the directive issued by the DILG that asks that local government units reduce the steps and processing time required to issue business permits.
“Considering the foregoing, it is beyond dispute that the streamlined procedure for the issuance of business permits allowed submission of the FSIC within a reasonable time for the issuance of business permits,” the high court said.
In regard to the criminal cases, including multiple homicides, multiple physical injuries, and violation of the Anti-Graft law, the high court said “there is no direct causal relationship between the death and the physical injuries sustained by the victims and the alleged negligence committed by respondents in issuing the business permits.”
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