Valenzuela City Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian and six others may face charges for a factory fire that killed at least 74 people in May 2015, the Office of the Ombudsman said Tuesday, March 15.
Ombudsman Conchita Morales found probable cause to charge Gatchalian, spokesperson for Senator Grace Poe’s campaign, with graft and reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and multiple injuries before the Sandiganbayan, according to a statement from her office.
Also facing similar charges under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act are :
– Ong King Guan (a.k.a. Terence King Ong), owner of Kentex Manufacturing Corp.
– City Fire Marshal Mel Jose Lagan
– Senior Inspector Edgrover Oculam
– Fire Safety Inspectors Rolando Avendan and Ramon Maderazo
– Renchi May Padayao (officer-in-charge, Business Permits and Licensing Office)
– BPLO Licensing Officer Eduardo Carreon.
At least 74 workers were killed in the fire that hit the Kentex factory on May 13, 2015.
The Ombudsman found that the city officials issued the business permits and fire safety inspection certificates “despite blatant violations of the Fire Code.”
It said Kentex, which manufactures footwear, failed to install a wet standpipe system, had unserviceable extinguishers, did not have an automatic fire alarm and sprinkler system, and had no fire exit drills for workers.
Also, the Ombudsman said the survivors’ affidavits indicated Kentex’s exit gates were locked or padlocked; there were no water sprinklers, fire extinguishers or fire alarms; and Kentex’s windows were enclosed with grills.
The Ombudsman said that even after the BFP inspected Kentex in 2014 twice, and declared its fire safety measures deficient, city officials allowed the company to continue operations.
“(T)he respondents’ acts or omissions, taken together, indicate a common understanding among them to turn a blind eye to Kentex’s delinquency and its foreseeable consequences,” Morales said.
She also said Ong could not “evade criminal liability for the loss of lives” as “the safety of all persons and all operations within the premises rested upon his shoulders.”
Gatchalian is also the brother of Sherwin Gatchalian who is running for senator under Poe’s independent party.