Gatchalian, 6 others charged with multiple homicide, graft over Kentex fire
Valenzuela City mayor Rexlon Gatchalian and six others were charged with two counts of graft, as well as reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and injuries before the Sandiganbayan for their alleged negligence over the May 2015 Kentex fire incident.
The Office of the Special Prosecutor on Wednesday filed charges of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicides and multiple injuries punishable under the Revised Penal Code against Gatchalian, and city hall employees, Renchi May Padayao, officer in charge of the Business Permits and Licensing Office (BPLO), and Eduardo Yco Carreon, licensing officer IV of the BPLO.
Also charged with multiple homicide are the officials of the Bureau of Fire Protection in Valenzuela–Mel Jose Lagan, city fire marshall; Edgrover Oculam, fire senior inspector; and Rolando Avendan, senior fire officer.
The private individuals charged were Ong King Guan, also known as Terence King Ong, the general manager and treasurer of the ill-fated Kentex Manufacturing Corp.
The prosecution said the accused confederated with each other in a “negligent, careless and imprudent manner” in granting a business permit to Kentex while failing to impose the prescribed sanction under Section 9 of the Revised Fire Code of the Philippines.
Gatchalian and other officials granted the business permit to Kentex thereby allowing Kentex to operate under hazardous conditions, while abandoning the necessary precautionary fire safety measures meant to protect the lives of the workers and prevent accidents.
Their actions resulted in the deaths of 74 individuals, thereby causing injury amounting to P3.7 million, the prosecution said.
Meanwhile, Gatchalian, Mecina, Padayao, Carreon and Ong were charged with violation of Section 3(e) of the anti-graft law for giving undue advantage to Kentex in the grant of business permit in 2015 despite its delinquent status and without requiring a Fire Safety Inspection Certificate.
They were also accused of failing to revoke the permit after Kentex failed to submit the requirements within the prescribed period, allowing Kentex to continue operating with inadequate fire safety measures.
The inadequate fire safety standards resulted in the deaths due to the fire that gutted the warehouse last May 13, 2015, the prosecution said.
Gatchalian, Padayao and Carreon were also charged with a second count of graft or violation of Section 3 (j) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for conspiring with each other in approving the business permit to Kentex even though it was not qualified or entitled to such a permit because of the absence of the required Fire Safety Inspection Certificate.
President Benigno Aquino III earlier pinned the blame on the Valenzuela local government unit for granting a business permit and certificate of occupancy to Kentex despite noncompliance to safety standards and violations of the Fire Code, such as lack of an automatic fire sprinkler system and of a protected fire exit.
Aquino had vowed that charges of reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homicide will be filed against those responsible as the Department of Justice is conducting fact-finding to give way to a preliminary investigation.
Of those killed, 69 died of fourth degree burns while three died of inhalation of fumes. The seven-hour fire that did not even spare the life of one of the owners’ sons raised the issue of unsafe “sweatshop” labor conditions for workers in the country. CDG
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