Valenzuela Mayor Gatchalian charged over 2015 Kentex fire

Carolyn Bonquin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 19 2016 07:54 PM

The Office of the Ombudsman has filed criminal charges against Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian for the massive factory fire that claimed the lives of at least 72 people in 2015.

Gatchalian is facing charges of graft and reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and multiple physical injury charges for a fire at the two-storey factory building of Kentex Manufacturing Inc. two years ago.

The Ombudsman said Gatchalian and licensing and fire safety officials approved the business permit of Kentex in "a negligent, careless and imprudent manner," resulting in the tragic incident.

It said Kentex Manufacturing Corporation was granted a permit despite its failure to secure a Fire Safety Inspection Certificate in 2014.

The officials also allegedly failed to revoke the company's permit despite its failure to submit some requirements. Kentex was even granted a business permit in 2015 despite its delinquent status, it said.

"[They abandoned] necessary precautionary fire safety measures designed to protect lives and property," the charge sheet read.
"[They allowed] Kentex to continue operating under hazardous conditions, resulting in the death of 74 individuals and physical injuries to others in the 13 May 2015 fire."

Also charged with graft are Kentex general manager and treasurer Ong King Guan, Business Permits and Licensing Office officer-in-charge Renchi May Padayao, and licensing officer Eduardo Carreon. 

Four fire officers are also accused of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicides and multiple physical injury. They are city marshal Mel Jose Lagan, Senior Inspector Edgrover Oculam, and fire safety inspectors Rolando Avendan and Ramon Maderazo.

In a March resolution, the Ombudsman found that Kentex failed to install a wet standpipe system, an automatic fire alarm and a sprinkler system. It also allegedly used unserviceable extinguishers and did not conduct fire exit drills for workers.