MANILA (UPDATED)- The Supreme Court has affirmed the junking of administrative and criminal charges against Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian over the Kentex slipper factory fire that killed 74 workers in 2015.
The Court of Appeals dismissed the administrative cases for grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty against Gatchalian while the Sandiganbayan dismissed the graft and reckless imprudence cases against him and 2 others.
The Supreme Court upheld both rulings based on a decision promulgated on Feb. 10. It was only uploaded on the court's website on Tuesday.
According to the ruling, the Supreme Court found that with respect to the administrative charges, Mayor Gatchalian had no hand in the issuance of business permits of Kentex and that the Valenzuela City government, in issuing the business permits, followed the existing memorandum circular, ordinance and other administrative issuances at that time.
The high court particularly mentioned the joint memorandum circular issued by the Trade and Interior departments which reduced the steps and processing time for business permits, allowing businesses to submit other requirements such as an FSIC within a reasonable time after the issuance of the business permit.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
The High Court said there was no probable cause for graft and reckless imprudence charges against Gatchalian and 2 others because there was no direct causal connection between issuing a business permit and the fire.
There was also no giving of undue advantage and no granting of license to an unqualified applicant.
It added that under the joint memorandum circular, it is the BFP that is obliged to present a copy of the FSIC or a negative list to the local government unit.
“If the BFP fails to do so, there arises a presumption that the business establishment seeking the renewal of its permit has a valid FSIC,” the high court said.
Undue injury, in the context of Section 3 (e) of R.A. No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, according to the court, must be proximately caused by the acts attributed to the accused.
The Supreme Court ruling was penned by Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda.
Fellow First Division members concurred with the decision: then-Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta and justices Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, Rosmari Carandang, and Samuel Gaerlan.
The fire at the two-story factory building of Kentex Manufacturing Inc., which happened over 6 years ago, started after a piece of welding equipment allegedly produced sparks and ignited chemicals stored nearby.
Authorities pointed out the absence of an alarm system, which could have saved the lives of the workers.
—with a report from Agence France-Presse