DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 11 January) – At least eight officials of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) 11 may be included in the list of individuals that the Interagency Anti-Arson Task Force will hold responsible for the NCCC Mall Davao fire incident on December 23 last year.
In an interview on Thursday, Task Force deputy team leader and spokesperson Fire Supt. Jerry Candido did not disclose the identities of the fire officials pending completion of the investigation. He said some of them are still active while others have retired.
He said the charges will depend on their involvement in the issuance of permits to the NCCC Mall Davao and Survey Sampling International (SSI), which secured fire safety inspection certificates despite failing to comply with fire safety standards.
He said the charges may include falsification of public documents, violation of Republic Act 3019 or Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Article 365 (Imprudence and negligence) of the Revised Penal Code, and administrative charges such as grave misconduct and dishonesty.
Earlier, five fire officials were relieved. They were identified as BFP Davao fire marshal Honey Fritz Alagano; Senior Fire Officer 1 Leo Lauzon, the fire safety Inspector of SSI office; Senior Fire Officer 2 Joel Quizmundo, the Fire Safety Inspector of NCCC Mall; Senior Fire Officer 1 Roger Dumag, Chief of the Fire Safety Section of Davao City; and, Inspector Renero Jimenez, the Station Commander of SIR Fire Station.
However, Candido did not confirm if the relieved officials are in the list, as the reason for the relief is to prevent them from interfering and influencing the result of the investigation.
He said the mall and SSI failed to comply with fire safety requirements, which led to the death of 38 workers (37 call centers agents and one mall key custodian) who were trapped inside the four-story establishment.
BFP-11 issued fire safety inspection certificates last April 2017 and September 2017 to NCCC Mall and SSI, respectively, after undergoing the annual fire safety inspection.
Candido said the mall did not comply with the fire suppression requirement after they found lapses in the setup of the mall’s fire alarm, sprinkler system, and fire exits.
Information Communications Technology Council president Samuel Matunog said SSI plans to resume and expand its Davao operations in 60 days and that they are looking for alternative spaces in the city where they can reabsorb almost 500 employees displaced by the fire incident.
He added the SSI, which had been operating since July 2008 on the fourth floor of the NCCC Mall Davao, will expand its number of workers to 600 if they can reopen soon in another location.
He said the BPO industry has expressed concern over the potential compensation losses worth P97 million annually that “could have been ploughed back to the local economy.”
He added the council has offered SSI alternative locations that are accredited by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)