Police readying airtight case in Porac mart collapse

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 26 2019 12:57 PM | Updated as of Apr 26 2019 05:18 PM

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MANILA - Authorities on Friday are making sure that they have all the statements and documents to file an airtight case against those liable for the death of five people following the collapse of a supermarket in Porac, Pampanga during a strong quake on Monday.

"Hindi po namin minamadali ang kasong ito. Ang utos po sa amin ng Department of the Interior and Local Government is to gather all the necessary evidence and statements para makapagsampa ng kaso," said Police Brig. Gen. Joel Coronel, Police Regional Office III Director.

(We are not rushing this case. The directive of the Department of the Interior and Local Government is to gather all the necessary evidence and statements so we could file a case.)

Coronel said they have already taken statements of 10 survivors from the collapsed supermarket, as well as from relatives of those who died. They will serve as complainants or parties of interest in the case, he said.

Police are preparing to file charges of negligence resulting in multiple homicide and physical injuries against those liable.

Aside from supermarket owner Samuel Chu and contractor Mario Meneses, local government officials could be held liable too if they are found to have erred or violated the building code.

Coronel said they also obtained documents pertaining to the application for construction of the building and are just waiting for other supporting documents such as the building, architectural and structural plans which would all be included as evidence.

Another important evidence they need to gather is the result of the inspection and investigation on the structural integrity of the building prior to the quake.

"Hinihintay namin ang magiging resulta ng imbestigasyon ng DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) at saka nung Engineer's Office ng Pampanga kasi ito po ang magpapatibay kung talagang may pagkukulang o maling nagawa sa pag-construct ng building," he said.

(We are waiting for the result of the investigation of the DPWH and the Engineer's Office of Pampanga because this will strengthen our case if there was negligence or errors in the construction of the building.)

On Wednesday, authorities stopped rescue efforts, saying "proof of life" had faded from underneath the rubble of the supermarket from where 5 fatalities were pulled out.

Coronel said initial reports revealed that the structure was intended only for a 2-storey building but two more floors were added to the 4-year old structure.

"Kaya doon po tayo nagko-concentrate ngayon kung paano po nangyari at kung mayroon bang sapat na permiso o proseso para po mapagawa ito," he said.

(We are concentrating on how that happened and if there was proper permit or process for them to do this.)

For former Justice Undersecretary Jose Justiniano, violation of the National Building Code is easier to prove than negligence.

"'Yung violation ng Building Code may penal provision 'yun, mas madaling mag-prove doon kasi ieksaminin ang ruins na 'yan, ito bang ginamit na mga rebar standard ba, tama ba ang bilang, 'yung timplado ba ng semento, 'yun ba'y tama din," Justiniano said.

(A violation of the Building Code has penal provisions, it's easier to prove because the ruins will be examined to check if they used rebar of standard size, the correct number, if the cement mix was good.)

In legal parlance, Justiniano said an earthquake is an act of God, something that cannot be predicted nor prevented from happening.

The question that would be asked is if negligence is the proximate cause of deaths and injuries.

He said the deaths may constitute a case of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide. This would be on top of liabilities for violation of the Building Code, which usually fall on the engineer and architect involved. 

Justiniano said that under the Revised Penal Code, once complainants decide to settle, the case would be dismissed.

"Pero kung may violation sa building code, ibang usapan 'yun (But if there was a violation of the building code, that's a different matter)," he said.