MANILA, Philippines - Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim ordered an investigation into the fire that hit a lot previously owned by Basa Guidote Enterprises Inc. (BGEI) and where the Sampaloc public market is now located.
He said information has reached him that the fire may have been intentionally set. Quoting witnesses, two men were seen running away from the area before the fire broke out on Sunday morning.
Damages are estimated at P3 million, Bureau of Fire Protection deputy chief Guillermo Firmalino Jr. said.
The fire, which was contained at around 4:30 a.m., started at stall 239. Around 80 stalls, which sell dry goods, were razed.
In his report to Manila Fire District Fire Marshall Supt. Felixberto Abrenica, Firmalino said: “The cause of the fire is still subject for follow-up investigation and progress investigation report will follow.”
Several witnesses have already been invited to shed light into the incident.
The property came into public knowledge during the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza came to volunteer as a witness for the defense to explain the transaction between BGEI and the city of Manila.
During his testimony, Atienza, who was the mayor of Manila when the city bought a property of BGEI in March 2001, said they needed a property where the Sampaloc market would be transferred. The Sampaloc market was then sitting on a property at the Legarda and Bustillos streets, and the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) wanted to put up a station there for the MRT Line-2.
BGEI sold the lot for P34.7 million. Corona supposedly took a cash advance from the proceeds to purchase several properties