DOJ recommends raps vs Kentex execs, Valenzuela LGU, fire officials
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice has recommended criminal charges against the Kentex Manufacturing Corp. executives and Valenzuela City local government and fire department officials, including Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian, over the deadly May 13 factory fire that killed 72 people, most of them workers.
Administrative charges were also recommended against Valenzuela city officials and fire department officials for negligence that paved the way for the calamity.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima made the recommendations based on the review and evaluation of the the findings and recommendations of the Inter-Agency Anti-Arson Task Force (IATF) of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
The recommended charges for private individuals will be subjected to preliminary investigation at the Valenzuela prosecutor’s office. Those against government officials will be referred to the Office of the Ombudsman.
De Lima said complaints for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and multiple physical injuries under Article 365, Revised Penal Code shall be filed against Kentex operations manager Terrence King Ong as well as Ace Shutter Corp. owner Rosalina Uy Ngo and employees Oscar Romero and Wilmer Arenal.
“Other responsible managers/officials/owners of Kentex, such as Ong King Guan and Beato Ang, in the event that further investigation on their management responsibilities and administrative functions reveals equal culpability on the safety of the establishment together with Terrence King Ong,” De Lima, who is on a provincial trip, said in a statement issued by her office.
Recommended to be charged with violation of Section 11.2.a (4) and (5) of Republic Act No. 9514 or the Revised Fire Code of 2008 were Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian; lawyer Renchi May Padayao, officer-in-charge of the city’s business permit and licensing office; and licensing officer Eduardo Carreon.
On the other hand, city fire marshal, Supt. Mel Jose Lagan; fire safety enforcement section head Senior Insp. Edgrover Oculam; and the fire safety inspector, SFO2 Rolando Avendan, were recommended charged for violation of Section 11.2.a (1) and (8).
Section 11 forbids public officials from issuing or renewing occupancy or business permits without the fire safety inspection certificates issued by the fire chief. It also penalizes the failure to cancel the occupancy or business even if the building owner had failed to comply with an order to follow the standards set by the Fire Code.
Also penalized by the section is the unjustified failure of the public officer/employee to conduct inspection of buildings or structures at least once a year and other willful impropriety or gross negligence in the performance of his/her duty as provided under the Code and its implementing rules.
Gatchalian, Padayao, Carreon, Lagan, Oculam and Avendan were also recommended charged with violation of Section 3 (e) of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. Administrative charges were also recommended filed against them and the Kentex owners.
It will be recalled that the IATF, composed of investigators from the Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation, conducted a fact-finding investigation into the Kentex fire and submitted its findings and recommendations to the Interior Secretary in a report dated May 29.
The IATF’s recommendations were evaluated by a DOJ special panel that De Lima created last June 1. The results of the panel evaluation were, in turn, reviewed by the Secretary.
In a memorandum to Roxas dated July 20 and released on Thursday, De Lima outlined the criminal and administrative liabilities of the private individuals and public officials, and advised that the complaints may be filed by the members of the IATF, along with the victims’ relatives as private complainants, with the city prosecutor, in the criminal case for reckless imprudence, and with Ombudsman, in the case of violations of the Fire Code and RA 3019.
On the other hand, the administrative cases against the public officials shall be filed with the proper disciplining authority, while the administrative sanctions against the Kentex owners and officials should be imposed by the BFP chief, in accordance with Section 11.1 (a) of the Fire Code, De Lima said.
The DOJ panel had also recommended a further investigation on the possible liabilities of involved Department of Labor and Employment—National Capital Region officials, for their issuance of a certificate of compliance in September 2014 in favor of Kentex, despite alleged violations of pertinent Labor laws and DOLE’s own Occupational Safety and Health Standards. SFM
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