NCCC mall fire a year later: reckless imprudence charges vs NCCC, SSI dropped

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 December) — No sufficient evidence, no reckless imprudence.

A year after fire broke out at the NCCC Mall Davao and killed 38 workers two days before Christmas, the City Prosecutor’s Office here dismissed charges of reckless of imprudence filed by Interagency Anti-Arson Task Force (IAATF) against executives of the NCCC Mall Davao and Survey Sampling International (SSI) but found sufficient evidence against an executive of the AC Rockport Construction and Development that handled the renovation on the third floor where the fire emanated.

But charges against Engr. Wilson Velasquez, however, had been dropped after the families of the fire victims submitted “affidavits of desistance,” withdrawing the complaints against him, City Prosecutor Nestor Ledesma said in a telephone interview Saturday.

Fire continues to engulf the NCCC Mall Davao along MacArthur Highway corner Ma-a Road in Davao City evening of December 23, 2017. MIndaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Ledesma said the CPO issued the resolution on December 19, more than three months after the task force filed the charges and four days before the anniversary of the fire incident.

He said the CPO received the affidavits from the families of the 38, the last two on the first week of December.

“Dili nimo sila ma demanda, dili nimo sila ma-hold (We cannot file charges against them, we cannot hold them) criminally liable simply because they are the board or the officers of the corporation. Sa criminal cases, kinahanglan imong i-pinpoint kung unsa to particular act or participation sa usa ka respondent bago nimo sya file-an og kaso (In criminal cases, we need to pinpoint what particular act or participation of the respondents before you can file charges),” Ledesma said.

A four-member panel was created immediately after the charges were filed on August 30, to undertake the preliminary investigation on the charges filed by the task force.

Ledesma added they found probable cause to charge for violation of Republic Act 9514 or the Revised Fire Code of the Philippines of 2008 at least five officials of the Bureau of Fire Protection-Davao (BFP-Davao) and one official of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), namely: Senior Insp. Jeanny S. Calvario, Senior Fire Officer 4 Dioscoro M. Baja Jr., SFO 2 Joel L. Quismundo, SFO 1 Roger B. Dumag, SFO1 Leo C. Lauzon, and PEZA plan evaluator Arvin O. Tero.

According to Ledesma, Quizmundo, Lauzon, and Tero were charged for violation of paragraph 4 Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code for falsification of public documents.

He said the CPO has also submitted recommendations to the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao on the complaints for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act against 11 personalities, including former Davao City Building Official Joaquin B. Cui Jr.; Sansaluna A. Pinagayao, Darlyn Nazareno, and Nicasio G. Mamites  of  PEZA-Mactan; and Supt. Carlo T. Dueñas, Calvario, Insp. Renero G. Jimenez,  Baja, Quismundo, Dumag, and Lauzon.

In a separate interview on Friday, Ledesma told DXDC 621 that he could not divulge their recommendations on the graft charges because it remains “confidential” until the Ombudsman decides whether to approve or reject them.

He added the Ombudsman will decide on the grave misconduct case in relation to the violation committed under Section 3(e) of RA 3019 and Section 11(2) of RA 9514 and neglect of duty filed against Cui, Pinayagao, Nazareno, Mamites, Dueñas, Calvario, Jimenez, Baja, Quismundo, Dumag, and Lauzon.

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)