MANILA - The Sandiganbayan on Thursday cleared Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian of charges related to a massive factory fire which claimed 74 lives in 2015.
Gatchalian "acted in good faith and diligence" when the Valenzuela local government issued a business permit to Kentex Manufacturing Corporation under City Ordinance 62 Series of 2012. He was “duty-bound” to comply with the ordinance, the court said.
The ordinance allowed companies to comply with fire safety requirements and undergo inspection after the issuance of a business permit.
The Sandiganbayan also cleared city hall officers Renchi Padayao and Eduardo Carreon of charges related to the fire.
Gatchalian lauded the Sandiganbayan’s decision to clear him of charges.
He told reporters in an interview that the Sandiganbayan's decision, which he had yet to read, validated his position that there was nothing wrong with the local government's implementation of the building code.
"Kaya nga sa kaso, ako lang [ang] kinasuhan. Iyong building permit official namin, hindi naman kasama sa kaso," he said.
Gatchalian maintained that the fire which hit the factory of Kentex Manufacturing Corporation was hinged on the implementation of the Fire Code.
He added that the swift action of the city government in issuing business permits and licenses, including building permits, was consistent with the aspiration of the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte to do away with red tape and provide speedy and efficient services to the public.
“This is a victory for all local government units fighting red tape…[and] for ease of doing business in our country,” he said.
Gatchalian assured the public that the city government is in constant communication with families of those who died in the fire, and is still providing them with legal assistance.
"In fact, may Christmas party kami sa Saturday," he said.
The Ombudsman had indicted Gatchalian for alleged liabilities in the fire at Kentex. –with reports from Jorge Carino and Carolyn Bonquin, ABS-CBN News