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Santiago bats for stiffer penalties against violators of fire safety laws

Stronger penalties against violators of fire safety laws should prevent a repeat of the warehouse fire that killed 72 workers on Wednesday, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said, adding that she would file a resolution to make building owners criminally liable for the death, injury or damage to property resulting from the fire.

Under present laws, failure to comply with the fire and building codes would merit fines, the closure of buildings, and revocation of permits.

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But under Santiago’s bill, owners and lessors of residential or commercial buildings who violate fire safety laws would face the penalty of reclusion perpetua, and would have to indemnify the building’s occupants for injuries they suffer: from P200,000 for slight physical injuries, to P1 million to the family if the occupant dies in the fire.

Sen. Grace Poe called on the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), which has supervision over the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), to crack the whip on violators and make sure laws are enforced following the warehouse fire.

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The labor committee of the House of Representatives has also called for an inquiry into the fire, with committee chair, Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles, setting the first hearing in aid of legislation on occupational safety on May 20.

Nograles said at least four measures related to occupational safety were pending on his committee and that he would push for marathon hearings to bid for their early approval.

But Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the May 20 probe should not focus only on occupational safety violations of Kentex, but also on the possible liability of Department of Labor and Employment itself and the administration “for allowing like-structured factories to proliferate in the country.”

Valenzuela Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian renewed his call for the DILG to transfer to governors and mayors the administrative and operational control over the local BFP.

“Giving local executives the administrative and operational control of [the] BFP will prevent finger pointing … Accountability will now be solely in the hands of the local chief executive,” he said.

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TAGS: BFP, Bureau of Fire Protection, Department of the Interior and Local Government, DILG, Fire, Kentex, Sen. Grace Poe, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, slippers factory, valenzuela
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