Special Prosecutor insists on Valenzuela mayor's liability in deadly Kentex fire

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 11 2019 10:37 PM

MANILA - The Office of the Special Prosecutor has insisted before the Supreme Court the liability of Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian in the Kentex factory fire which killed 74 people in 2015.

In the reply of the OSP to the comment of Gatchalian on its petition for review on certiorari, Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval stressed that the decision of the Sandiganbayan 2nd Division to dismiss the two graft cases as well as reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicides and physical injuries case should be reversed.

Sandoval also asked the Supreme Court to reinstate the charges for appropriate and further proceedings at the Sandiganbayan.

A copy of the reply of the OSP dated January 7, 2019 was received by the Sandiganbayan on January 10, 2019.

The petition was filed before the Supreme Court on August 4, 2017 and Gatchalian submitted his comment on November 27, 2017.

“While ordinary people may have the ability to start a fire, the obligation to ensure that such fire may be controlled rests with government officials. The people’s petition seeks accountability for the failure to live up to this obligation,” Sandoval said. 

Also included in the petition of the OSP are Renchi May Padayao and Eduardo Carreon, the Business Permits and Licensing Office Officer-in-Charge and licensing officer, respectively at the time of the fire.

Gatchalian, Padayao and Carreon had been cleared by the anti-graft court when the charges against them were dismissed in 2016.

The court had said that the city officials “acted in good faith” when a business permit was given to Kentex Manufacturing Corporation under a city ordinance which allowed companies to comply with fire safety requirements and undergo inspection for a Fire Safety Inspection Certificate after the issuance of a business permit.

But the OSP insisted before the Supreme Court that they should be given the opportunity to prove their charges in a trial as it maintained that an FSIC is mandatory.

“Prudence dictates that the court a quo should not have dismissed the cases outright, and should have afforded the state the opportunity to present evidence in a full-blown trial during which the issue of guilt or innocence of the accused may be fully thresed out,” Sandoval said.

Gatchalian for his part expressed confidence that the Supreme Court will have the same view as the Sandiganbayan.

“As previously stated, my actions and the actions of the city government of Valenzuela are consistent with local and national laws. We are confident that the Supreme Court will see the case in the same light as the Sandiganayan and uphold the decision and actions of the SB,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

He also noted the recently passed Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018 which provides for streamlined procedures on the issuance of fire safety clearances and certificates. 

“Interestingly, the new Ease of Doing Business law recently passed further bolsters the position of the city government of Valenzuela as the new national law mirrors the business permit procedures of the city,” Gatchalian said.