Families of NCCC fire victims express dismay over snail-paced progress in review of task force’s report

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 1 May) – Families of the 38 fire victims expressed dismay over the slow development in the review of the investigation of the Interagency Anti-Arson Task Force more than four months since the NCCC Mall Davao fire last December that killed 38 workers.

Jimmy Quimsing, father of Survey Sampling International (SSI) call center agent Jim Benedict, said in an interview that he grew tired of waiting as the outcome of the snail-paced review of the Department of Justice (DOJ) is still in limbo, delaying the filing of charges against responsible individuals.

“It’s really painful that until now nothing has been filed yet. We will just wait what will happen,” he said.

He also expressed disappointment with President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who earlier promised to help the fire victims but has not taken any intervention to expedite justice for the December 23, 2017 fire victims.

Quimsing added that his family declined mall management’s settlement offer, which was pegged initially at P1.2 million and then increased it later to P2 million, saying no amount could pay for the life of Jim Benedict, or “Jumong” to his SSI workmates for his resemblance to the lead character of a famous Korean drama.

Although other families of fire victims accepted the offer, Quimsing said they vowed to continue the fight and press charges against the responsible personalities. He said his family has not yet received the insurance of his son from the SSI, although families of other fire victims already have.

He said their lawyer was supposed to file the charges in April but it was moved to May 2018, claiming the mall management was still trying to negotiate for settlement.

Quimsing said they hope complaints will be filed against responsible parties in May.

Fire Supt. Jerry Candido, task force deputy team leader and spokesperson, told MindaNews on Monday that the task force’s report is still under review by the DOJ.

The task force submitted the final report on the NCCC Mall Davao fire early March to the Department of Interior and Local Government, which was then forwarded to DOJ for review and filing of complaints. Candido said they have yet to follow up with the DOJ the progress of its review.

He added that criminal complaints would be filed against the management of 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).

George Clark A. Moreno, father of Alexandra, whose body was the last of the trapped fire victims to be recovered, shared a photo message on Facebook Monday, which read: “I hide my tears when I say your name. But the pain in my heart is still the same. Though I smile and seem carefree. There’s no one who misses you more than me.” The photo was accompanied with a caption, “We all miss you soooo much Alexandra Moreno. Love you, Hija.”

Moreno also vented out his frustration on social media for the slow development of the report:

“To my countrymen. To my President. To the Congressmen and Senators out there. To the local government. A promise made to the 38 victims. Their parents. Their brothers and sisters. To the people of Davao.. 127 days ago.. way too long for a report. My question is why? And what shall we do about it?”

Alexandra’s older sister, Nikki Moreno, echoed the same sentiment and asked, “How long do we truly have to wait?” she asked.

The homegrown company is set to open the four-story NCCC Mall Buhangin, its second in the city and fourth in the country by last week of July 2018. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)