MANILA – The owner of Unit 501-B of Two Serendra is mulling charges against Ayala Land Inc. for the latter's supposed negligence that resulted in a gas-triggered blast inside her unit.
Attorney Raymond Fortun, lawyer of California-based unit owner Marianne Cayton, refuted the findings of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) which blamed the negligence of the unit owner all the way to the building owners for the blast last May 31 that left four dead.
Fortun belied the finding of the IATF, spearheaded by Interior Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II, that Cayton did not secure permit from Ayala to renovate her unit.
"My understanding is the approval was obtained by the contractor. Marianne does not have a copy but she was assured the approvals were obtained. The fact that the renovatons were done, there can be already an implication that all the permits were there," Fortun told ANC.
"So for the DILG to say that the permits were not obtained is highly irresponsible," he added.
Fortun said the "biggest blame should fall on Ayala" because it approved the renovation works. He said such an approval implies that Ayala had no issue with the renovation works causing any accident.
The lawyer, however, said even the renovation works were unlikely the cause of the blast.
Another finding of the IATF said that the unauthorized movement of gas range during the renovation caused a detachment of the gas supply hose and, consequently, the gas leak.
Fortun rejected this finding, saying gas meter readings show that there was minimal release of gas from the unit's supply hose during the renovation period.
He admitted that the contractors moved the gas range by about 22 centimeters from its original position "for aesthetic purposes," but he believes this was not enough to cause the detachment of the gas hose.
"As early as 1:20 p.m. of May 31, [unit occupant] Angelito San Juan was already complaining of suffocation inside the unit. I'd like to believe there was already gas inside the unit and because of the negligence of Ayala here, nobody could know if there was gas inside," he said.
"It appears there was a leak. The gas came from somewhere. The IATF totally botched it in deciding that it was a detachment of the gas line from the gas range."
Four persons were killed, including San Juan, the person occupying the unit. The latter only borrowed the unit for his supposed duration of stay here in the Philippines.
Fortun also believes his client, who was not in the Philippines at the time the unit was being renovated, should not be held liable for the supposed unauthorized access to the gas valves because "her absence shows she could not be held liable."
He added that the gas valves are located outside the units and can be accessed by anyone who enters the condominium.
Fortun said Cayton, who already left for the US after her visit to the Philippines in the wake of the blast, may return here to press charges against Ayala.
"She is very distraught. She thought her name would be cleared. As it turns out, she is now being named as being those who could be held responsible. She was out of the country the entire time," Fortun said.
The IATF earlier said that apart from Cayton, the caretakers of Unit 501-B from where the blast happened, construction firm RM Ladrido, Two Serendra, Inc., Bonifacio Gas Corp., and the Makati Development Corp. may be charged.
Ayala Land Inc. earlier said that the building design, construction and equipment of Two Serendra were "fully compliant with the building code."
At the same time, Bonifacio Gas assured the public it is "fully compliant" with local and international standards and regulations.