DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 31 Aug) – The Interagency Anti-Arson Task Force (IAATF) filed on Thursday criminal charges against 33 individuals responsible for the December 23, 2017 NCCC Mall Davao fire incident that killed 38 workers.
Task Force team leader Fire Supt. Anthony F. Figurasin told a press briefing on Thursday that the criminal charges were filed at 1:30 p.m. before the City Prosecution Office more than eight months after the deadly fire destroyed the four-story NCCC Mall Davao
Charges of reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homicide and multiple physical injuries were filed against the NCCC mall officers – Helen A. Lim, Lafayette A. Lim, Ivy Michelle A. Lim, Sharlene Faye A. Lim, Ivan Spencer A. Lim, Julie Ann C. Lim, and Ramon del Castillo.
Executives from Survey Sampling International (SSI) who faced similar charges are Jose Antonio T. San Gabriel, Riza Lyn M. Ocampo, Rey R. Roble, Christopher M. Fanning, and David Ian Weatherseed, and executives of the mall’s private contractor AC Rockport Construction and Development who handled the renovation such as Arturo C. Arrojado, Carmelie P. Arojado, Maria Lilibeth A. Olarte, Danna Patricia P. Arrojado, Carmen S. Paluga, and Engr. Wilson Velasquez.
Charges for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act were also filed against former Davao City Building Official Joaquin B. Cui Jr.; PEZA-Mactan officials, including Sansaluna A. Pinagayao, Darlyn Nazareno, and Nicasio G. Mamites of PEZA; and BFP-Davao officials, including Supt. Carlo T. Dueñas, Senior Insp. Jeanny S. Calvario, Insp. Renero G. Jimenez, Senior Fire Officer 4 Dioscoro M. Baja Jr., SFO 2 Joel L. Quismundo, SFO 1 Roger B. Dumag, and SFO1 Leo C. Lauzon.
Separate charges for violation of Section 11 of Republic Act 9514 or the Revised Fire Code of the Philippines of 2008 were also filed against Calvario, Baja, Quismundo, Dumag, and Lauzon, and PEZA plan evaluator Arvin O. Tero for “endorsing to the Fire Marshal for the certification, submitting a report that a building or structure complies with standards set by the Fire Code of the Philippines.”
Another charges for violation of paragraph 4 Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code for falsification of public documents were also filed against Quismundo, Lauzon, and Tero; grave misconduct in relation to the violation committed under Section 3(e) of RA 3019 and Section 11(2) of RA 9514 and neglect of duty under the Civil Service Commission Law and/or Ombudsman Act against Cui, Pinayagao, Nazareno, Mamites, Dueñas, Calvario, Jimenez, Baja, Quismundo, Dumag, and Lauzon.
Another charges for grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, falsification of official document and gross dishonesty under the CSC Law and/or Ombudsman Act were filed against Tero, Quismundo, and Lauzon.
Retired fire Chief Supt. Warlito P. Daus, the executive assistant and chief of staff of the Office of the Undersecretary on Public Safety of the Department Interior and Local Government, said BFP officials who were involved in the incident were relieved from the public service.
Members of the task force, officials from the Bureau of Fire Protection, and Department of Justice also held a dialogue with families of the fire victims on Thursday afternoon at the office of the National Economic Development Authority-Davao where they were informed of the filing of the charges.
“Most of the families’ sentiments, they wanted to have a conviction of those who were responsible for the incident. So actually we explained to them we all have to go through the legal process,” he said.
Robert Michael N. Razon, senior assistant regional prosecutor, said that City Prosecutor Nestor Ledesma will create a panel consisting of three to five members to undertake a preliminary investigation that will last for 90 days to find a probable cause for the filing of cases in court.
“I also explained the process to the families once the complaint is reviewed at the City Prosecution. The investigating prosecutors will be issuing subpoenas to the respondents to the persons impleaded in the complaint, ordering them to file counter affidavits within 10 days after receipt of the affidavit complaint disputing the allegations in the complaints,” he said.
Razon assured the preliminary investigation would be completed before the first anniversary of the fire incident that claimed the lives of the 37 call center agents and one mall worker after they were trapped on the mall’s fourth floor where SSI operated.
The task force found that there was malpractice in the installation of electrical wirings during the renovation at the third floor; absence of appropriate license of some workers performing electrical works; and absence of building permit during renovation.
Also, it found out that the sprinkler systems at the fourth floor occupied by SSI was not functional; insufficient means of egress for the fourth floor; some existing doors have no self-closing device; some stairs were not fully enclosed; ground floor stair landing of the one exit was utilized as storage; failure to notify nearest fire station when the fire alarm system and sprinkler systems were out of service for more than four hours; dry standpipes were not installed at exits; proper raceways were not provided on the electrical wirings installed at the renovated portion of the third portal; and designated fire safety inspectors failed to indicate the correct fire safety status or violations of the buildings. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)