Valenzuela mayor says he can’t be liable for deadly fire
Valenzuela City Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian has asked the Sandiganbayan to dismiss the graft and reckless imprudence raps against him in connection with the May 2015 Kentex slipper factory fire that resulted in the death of 74 workers and injuries to many others.
In a 45-page motion, Gatchalian argued that he should not be indicted for reckless imprudence simply because he issued a business permit to Kentex Manufacturing Corp. despite its lack of a fire safety inspection certificate (FSIC). City ordinances permitted the issuance of permits to businesses that had yet to secure their FSICs, he added.
He asked the antigraft court’s Second Division to make a judicial determination that probable cause does not exist against him, and to stay the issuance of an arrest warrant.
Gatchalian also argued that the issuance of Kentex’s permit “was totally unrelated to, and was not the proximate cause of the fire which caused deaths and injuries to Kentex workers.”
The mayor said the Ombudsman “unduly stretches the limit of the principle of proximate cause in determining criminal liability” by attributing the Kentex deaths to his issuance of the permits.
Liable for all deaths
He questioned the Ombudsman’s insistence that all local government executives should be held liable for “all deaths” caused by fires in establishments without FSICs, even if that situation “now prevails in most if not all highly urbanized cities in the Philippines.”
Gatchalian maintained he could not have violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act because he was only following city regulations when he issued the business permits.
City Ordinance No. 62, he said, provided for the issuance of business permits with “post-issuance compliance” of the FSIC and other requirements, which meant he could not have acted with manifest partiality, bad faith, or gross negligence.
He said the rules were applied to all business establishments, and he was unaware of any fault or violation on Kentex’s part when the permits were issued.
Additionally, he said the Valenzuela City Regional Trial Court Branch 171 rendered a Sept. 11, 2015, decision that upheld the validity of the business permits issued to establishments that had yet to secure their FSICs.
He said the business permit could not also be directly connected to the fire, which has been attributed to the apparent negligent acts of the welders.”
The May 13, 2015 fire led to the deaths of 74 individuals and the injury of many others. Prosecutors said the victims suffered undue injury in the amount of P3.7 million.
They said fire highlighted the issue of unsafe “sweatshop” labor conditions for workers in the country.
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