One of the four branches of Chuzon in Pampanga, which is identical to the structure that was destroyed in Monday’s quake.
Michael Varcas
Supermarket owner surfaces, faces raps
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - April 24, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — After turning himself in to authorities, the owner of the supermarket in Porac, Pampanga that collapsed during Monday’s earthquake is now facing investigation and possibly criminal charges on President Duterte’s orders.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde said the owner of the Chuzon Supermarket he identified only as Mr. Chu turned up at the Porac police station yesterday after being “invited.”

“He was invited and he voluntarily accepted the invitation,” Albayalde told reporters in a chance interview in Pampanga.

The collapse of the Chuzon Supermarket killed several people and left scores of others trapped in the rubble. 

At a meeting in Pampanga with Gov. Lilia Pineda and disaster officials, Duterte ordered the investigation and possible filing of charges against the Chuzon owner.

Authorities reported that the death toll from last Monday’s quake has reached 16, with several others injured or missing. Rescue operations are ongoing.

“It could be good at this time to give him advice to stop, cease and desist from doing business until a clearance, city engineer or whoever is reviewing… or if there is shortcut made,” he said.

“It has to be examined whether they can withstand additional two story… I don’t know whether it is accompanied by application to add another,” the President said.

At the meeting, Duterte directed the PNP and the Department of Public Works ad Highways (DPWH) to conduct the probe to determine the cause of the collapse of the supermarket building.

Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said there seemed to be a problem with the building’s foundation.

“Based on the study of  structures... some initial raw info... it seems that there could be  problem in foundation... possibly with columns foundation seem to be insufficient,” he said, noting surrounding structures were undamaged.

“With the way it fell,  there seems to be problem of basic foundation but it’s too early to come up with exact” assessment and that a forensics team has been deployed “and at the same time look for other Chuzon (supermarkets),” Villar said.

Duterte said he found it “appalling” that Chuzon collapsed easily while other buildings in the vicinity did not.

“It can happen, I know that there are some quirks whether it was deliberate or just do away with safety standards or if there is compliance with requirements of the law. karamihan kasi (most are) shortcut… trying to save money… that will be the work of the investigators,” Duterte added.

The President directed the secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to coordinate with the DPWH “to help the police in determination of structural integrity of the building.”

“Whether it as a defect or manmade. It can happen and it’s a bad day for them,” the President added.

Duterte inspected the affected areas in Pampanga, including the public market and other supermarkets. He also visited the wake of the girl who was killed in the quake.

He even joked that another earthquake could cause the capitol building to collapse and kill him and everyone in government.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said the building permit of Chuzon grocery story has been revoked.

“I’d like to commend the national guys who were at the scene… the province itself and the helping hand of the LGUs. I’d like to thank you for the speedy call you displayed so far… for after all we are living in one country,” he said.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, Communication Secretary Martin Andanar, acting Budget Secretary Janet Abuel, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles were present during the meeting.

Año said the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group had already summoned the grocery owner.

“I’ll be issuing memorandum circular to  temporarily suspend business permit until we assess the structural  integrity of the supermarkets. We don’t know when the next earthquake will happen,” the DILG secretary added. 

Chuzon has four groceries in Pampanga.

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