Mayor Sara pulls out city gov’t from NCCC Mall fire investigation

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 29 Dec) – Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte said she has inhibited the City Government from participating in the investigation conducted by the interagency task force (TF) on NCCC Mall Davao fire that left 37 people dead and one still missing after being trapped inside a burning four-story mall.

Duterte said in a press briefing in her office on Friday that her decision came after her “integrity and impartiality” was questioned for being an endorser of Choice Mart, a subsidiary of the NCCC Supermarket.

She maintained that she is an endorser of Choice Mart but not of the NCCC Mall.

“My impartiality has been questioned and there have been suggestions that I should inhibit myself from the investigation of the NCCC Mall fire because of an endorsement contract,” she said.

Duterte said she will no longer address inquiries regarding progress of the investigation and added updates will be given by the interagency task force, which is composed of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Bureau of Fire Protection, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Department of Justice (DOJ), and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) 11.

Duterte said the city would provide data for the investigators if they will need information from the City Building Official and Davao City Central 911.

“I have never presented myself to investigate the mall fire and under normal circumstances, a City Mayor does not sign fire investigation reports of the BFP,” she said.

She added that nobody should question her work as a mayor in helping families of fire victims, BFP, NCCC, and SSI officials but said she welcomes any investigation on how she performed.

“The way my staff and CSSDO (City Social and Services Development Office) handled everything during the evening of Dec. 23 until today prevented chaos and hysteria among the victims and Dabawenyos in general,” the mayor said.

She said the fire was one of those times where people could find a loophole the way she handled the incident.

The fire reportedly started on the third floor at the furniture section of the mall around 9:30 a.m. Saturday, declared under control by 8 a.m. Sunday, and put out at 5:15 p.m. of the same day.

Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Davao fire marshal Honey Fritz Alagano said in a press conference on Thursday that the NCCC Mall management and the Survey Sampling International (SSI), a business process outsourcing (BPO) company that occupied the entire 4,000-square meter space on the fourth level, are both compliant and passed the annual fire safety inspection of the BFP 11 that issued fire safety inspection certificates last April 2017 and September 2017, respectively.

She claimed the fire safety features of the mall – fire alarm system, automatic fire sprinklers, and smoke detectors – are working. The SSI has two fire exits on the right and left wing, she said.

The 4,000-square meter facilities occupied by SSI was registered with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA). (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)