DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 04 March) — The Interagency Anti-Arson Task Force (IATF) will file criminal complaints against the management of the NCCC Mall Davao, Survey Sampling International (SSI), Rockfort Construction Company, and officials from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP)-Davao, Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), and City Building Office (CBO) for the December 23, 2017 fire that struck the 14-year old four-story mall and killed 38 workers.
Fire Supt. Jerry Candido, task force deputy team leader and spokesperson, told Mindanews in a telephone interview on Sunday that the task force will submit the final report of its investigation to acting Local Governments Secretary Eduardo Año on Monday, 72 days after the fire struck.
Candido said that as soon as the report is signed by Año, the DILG will immediately forward the report to the DOJ for review and filing of complaints.
Año heads the task force that was created to investigate the fire that killed 37 call center agents of SSI and a key custodian of the mall. The fire victims were trapped at the lobby of the SSI which occupied the entire 4th floor.
Candido said complaints for “imprudence and negligence” will be filed against the management of the NCCC Mall Davao, SSI, and Rockfort Construction Company under Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code.
The Rockfort was commissioned by the mall management to do the renovation at the third floor, where the fire reportedly started.
Criminal complaints for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, will be filed against officials from the BFP 11, PEZA, and CBO; separate criminal complaints for violation of the Fire Code of the Philippines and falsification of public documents against fire safety inspectors; and “simple misconduct” against some personnel of the BFP 11.
He said the task force is also looking at filing complaints for grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, gross dishonesty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service against some of the government officials involved.
The task force is composed of representatives from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), BFP, National Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice (DOJ), and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group 11.
Thea Padua, NCCC spokesperson and public relations manager, told MindaNews they cannot issue a comment until they receive the complaint from the task force.
The 4,000-square meter office space of SSI on the 4th floor was a PEZA-accredited facility.
But Labor secretary Silvestre Bello III revoked last month two agreements that his department signed with PEZA in March 2006 and June 2016, allowing the agency to reacquire its functions to inspect compliance on labor standards of establishments within the economic zones.
Bello said the 2016 agreement relegated from DOLE to PEZA the function to conduct technical safety inspection, covering labor, occupational and health standards of the establishments under PEZA’s jurisdiction while the 2006 agreement covers the joint enforcement of labor law standards and maintenance of industrial peace and conduct of labor education program.
On February 20, the CBO issued a permit for demolition to the management of the NCCC Mall Davao. The management applied for a demolition permit on February 2 and paid Php 187,854.
The permit requires the mall management to complete the demolition within a period of 30 days from the starting date and requires the management to inform the city government five days prior to the demolition.
No schedule for demolition has been set, as they have yet to receive a copy of the report from the task force, Padua said.
The permit states that the the demolition will commence only after the “building has been vacated and all utility lines such as electric, gas, telephone and water installations have been disconnected.”
It added that the demolition will be undertaken in accordance with Rule XV on “Protection and Safety Requirements for construction and demolition of building/structure” of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Presidential Decree (PD) 1096, or the National Building Code of the Philippines.
The combined floor area of the four-story building is 60,568 square meters.
The task force initially reported that NCCC Mall Davao and call center tenant failed to comply with fire safety requirements as they found lapses in the setup of the mall’s fire alarm, sprinkler system, and fire exits. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)