Valenzuela mayor, 6 others ordered dismissed over Kentex blaze
Ramil Bajo, Rey Galupo (The Philippine Star) - March 5, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the dismissal of Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian and six other officials for grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty in connection with the factory fire that claimed the lives of 72 workers in May last year.

The ombudsman also ordered the dismissal of Renchie May Padayao, officer-in-charge of the city’s Business Permit and Licensing Office; Licensing Officer IV Eduardo Carreon; former city Fire Superintendent Jose Mel Lagan; Sr. Insp. Edgrover Oculam and fire officers Rolando Avendan and Ramon Maderazo.

The ombudsman said Gatchalian, Padayao, Carreon and Avendan were liable for issuing business permit to Kentex Manufacturing Corp. in 2015 despite its delinquent status.

The fire officials, on the other hand, were accused of issuing fire safety inspection certificate in 2012 and submitting inaccurate inspection reports and notice to comply in 2014.

They were also cited for failing to impose sanctions against the management of Kentex as prescribed by the Fire Code.

Terrence King Ong, operations manager of Kentex, was also included in the charge sheet under the dismissal order by the Office of the Ombudsman received yesterday by Gatchalian’s lawyers.

The families and representatives of at least 57 victims of the fire reportedly agreed to a settlement with Kentex late last year.

Renato Paraiso, counsel of the Kentex management, said the victims’ families have agreed to a total compensation package worth P151,200 each. The amount includes P100,000 in death benefits, P30,000 cash for the identification of the remains of the victims, P10,000 burial assistance, P6,200 for funeral services and P5,000 travel assistance.

Remigio Saladero Jr., counsel of the victims’ families, however, said the settlement does not extinguish the criminal liability of Kentex and its officials.

Saladero explained the settlement was only the civil aspect of the case.

A mother of one of the victims admitted Gatchalian had helped them “but that is the law,” in referring to the dismissal order of the ombudsman.

She said the case against the city officials are not as painful compared to what they’ve gone through.

Gatchalian, for his part, said he would not comment until he sees a copy of the decision.

He said his lawyers had already received the order and were able to secure a temporary restraining order (TRO).

“This TRO is important because without it there will be a chilling effect on mayors of highly urbanized cities as we all exercise the same procedure imposed by the Department of the Interior and Local Government memorandum circulars, ” he said.

Gatchalian warned the case against him and the officials will result in “irreparable damage to our economy and generate massive unemployment.”

He added the records of the Bureau of Fire Protection showed that out of the more than 300,000 establishments in the National Capital Region alone, only 15 percent have fire safety inspection certificates.

Gatchalian said he would continue to perform his duty and use all legal remedies, maintaining the city government did not violate any law.





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