Gatchalian, 7 others to face graft, criminal raps over Kentex fire
The Office of the Ombudsman has found probable cause to file graft and criminal charges against Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian and seven other people over their involvement in the deadly fire at Kentex manufacturing Corporation which claimed the lives of at least 76 people last year.
In a statement, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said that Gatchalian and the seven people from the city’s Business Permits and Licensing Office, Bureau of Fire Protection and Kentex owner Ong King Guan (aka Terence King Ong) will be facing multiple counts of violation of Sections 3(e) and 3(j) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Reckless Imprudence resulting in multiple homicides and multiple physical injuries over the deadly fire which gutted the footwear factory last May 13, 2015.
The Ombudsman said that business permits and Fire Safety Inspection Certificates were issued by city officials despite the company’s violations of the Fire Code.
“Based on the investigation, Kentex failed to install a wet standpipe system, [had] unserviceable extinguishers, [lacked] automatic fire alarm and sprinkler system, and [did not conduct] fire exit drills for workers,” the Ombudsman said.
The Ombudsman cited the witnesses’ affidavits which said that “Kentex’s exit gates were locked or padlocked; there were no water sprinklers, fire extinguishers or fire alarms; and Kentex’s windows were [closed] with grills.”
Despite deficiencies in its fire safety measures, the Ombudsman said that the city government still permitted Kentex to operate.
“The respondents’ acts or omissions, taken together, indicate a common understanding among them to turn a blind eye to Kentex’s delinquency and its foreseeable consequences,” Morales said.
Morales said that Ong “cannot evade criminal liability for the loss of lives” as “the safety of all persons and all operations within the premises rested upon his shoulders.”
Those who are in the charge sheet along with Gatchalian and Ong include: City Marshal Mel Jose Lagan, Senior Inspector Edgrover Oculam, Fire Safety Inspectors Rolando Avendan and Ramon Maderazo, BPLO OIC Renchi May Padayao, and BPLO Licensing Officer Eduardo Carreon. CDG
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