SC junks Kentex fire raps vs Gatchalian

Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - June 25, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) dismissing the criminal and administrative charges filed against Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian in connection with the Kentex fire that claimed the lives of 74 slipper factory workers in 2015.

In a 24-page ruling dated Feb. 10 but uploaded on the SC’s website only last Tuesday, the high court’s First Division upheld the CA and Sandiganbayan resolutions dismissing the complaint for grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty against Gathalian, business permits and licensing office officer-in-charge Renchi May Padayao and licensing officer IV Eduardo Carreon.

The SC found no probable cause to issue a warrant for the arrest of Gatchalian.

Gatchalian and his co-respondents were also cleared of charges of graft, reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and multiple physical injuries.

The SC issued a ruling on the petitions filed by the Office of the Ombudsman and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) against Gatchalian.

The Office of the Special Prosecutor filed a separate case against the mayor, Padayao and Carreon.

The decision on the consolidated petitions was penned by SC Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda.

“The court is convinced that the CA and Sandiganbayan correctly dismissed the cases for lack of probable cause,” the SC said.

The high tribunal held that Gatchalian had no hand in the issuance of business permit to Kentex.

The SC said the local government merely followed the procedures provided in a joint Memorandum Circular and other administrative issuances of the Bureau of Fire Protection and the DILG in issuing the business permit to Kentex.

On May 13, 2015, a fire struck the compound of Kentex Manufacturing Corp. in Valenzuela that left 74 people dead and scores injured.

Gatchalian thanked the SC for dismissing the charges against him over the Kentex factory fire.

“Thank you to the good SC justices for putting closure to this legal saga,” Gatchalian said on Twitter.

He said the SC’s ruling that there was no connection between the fire and the city government’s speedy release of business permit to Kentex is a “victory for streamlining initiatives at city hall.”

“We strive forward to find ways to further make things simple for our entrepreneurs,” Gatchalian said, using the hashtag #Paspaspermit, the city hall’s 10-second business permit online application system.

Last year, the Sandiganbayan cleared the Kentex factory general manager and Valenzuela fire officials of graft and reckless imprudence charges.

The relatives of the victims secured a partial victory before the SC in 2019 when the high court ordered the company to pay 57 workers at least P1.4 million in backwages. – Marc Jayson Cayabyab

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