Victims’ kin blame city engineer’s office for building collapse

Virginia Capote, sister in law of Ursino Capote, 58, one of three victims killed when covered by concrete, said it is the CEO’s job to ensure that buildings are constructed well.

"Nagkulang sila. Sila gud ang authority diha," (They have a shortcoming. They are the authority on that) she said.

Capote told MindaNews they have asked for a copy of the investigation from the CEO. "Duna man siguro mi katungod mahibalo isip tagtungod kung unsa gyud ang nahitablo," (As relatives, I think we have the right to know what really happened) she said.

She noted that building inspectors were barred from entering the site thrice in October.

"That is suspicious already. Even that would tell there was something wrong inside," she said.

"Why didn't they (CEO) exercise their authority when they could even file charges against the builders if they were refused entry?" she asked.

She said it is too late now for the CEO to inspect the building as the tragedy has occurred.

Construction workers Capote, son Lemuen 32, and neighbor Randy del Rosario, 20, all of Purok 2, St. John, Panacan, were killed and three others were injured when the building’s second floor caved in around 11 am Tuesday.

The Capotes told reporters they have already accepted the death of their kin and are not planning to file a case.

But Virginia said they also would like to know if the building owners are willing to help the families left behind by the victims. She said they want education plans for the young children, among others.

Ursino left behind two children and two grandchildren, Lemuen a companion and a one-year-old child, and Del Rosario a wife and two children, a one-year-old and a one-month old.

The building owners have cooperated with the Capotes and the Del Rosarios to shoulder wake and burial expenses. The Capotes said they have promised to help without conditions.

The two-storey building project, owned by Five Star Surplus and Hardware Mktg. Inc., obtained a building permit from the CEO only on November 6. But workers told reporters construction began in late September.

CEO Building Official Joaquin Cui blamed the collapse to a failure of (construction) method.

The CEO vowed to come out with a report of its investigation on Thursday. Its officials told reporters Tuesday they are investigating the owner, the project engineer, and that they are searching for a logbook of activities on the project.

Cui told MindaNews, however, that John Ang, construction engineer and project head, “should have exercised responsibility in ensuring the use of the right method."

But Dino Capote, 28, who was with his father and brother in the building that day, said Ang was a close friend of his father. He said the engineer, who has not resurfaced after the incident, was not the type who shortchanged materials for the project.

He said that for the portion of the project that used metals, which was handled by the Capotes, Ang showed he wanted to ensure the materials used surpass the minimum standard.

But he admitted the collapse of the building showed there were lapses.

"It happened quickly. There was no warning," Dino recounted.

Cui ruled out illegal construction as a building permit was acquired and reiterated it was not a problem of design. He said the initial assessment of the debris showed the builders did not use enough reinforcement bars for their scaffolding which was made of coco lumber.

"Natipid ang scaffolding," he said, stressing wooden scaffolding is acceptable as long as it is strong enough to hold appropriate load.

"The use of steel scaffolding could have been safer and more economical as it could be used again," he said.

Cui said the incident prompted them to warn building operators that if they deny building inspectors entry, their building permit could be revoked.

He said they are cloaked with authority so owners should report mulcting inspectors, a reason cited by those who denied them entry.

Cui, however, said the city only has six building inspectors to survey an average of 400 building permits issued every month.

The CEO issued a total of 5,642 building permits from January to October this year.

He said it is ideal to have 12 inspectors as their present number cannot cover all of the building constructions. "But they are doing their best," he said.

He assured no other building being constructed in Davao City is another tragedy waiting to happen.