Duterte to Año: Check if 'shortcuts' led to Chuzon store collapse

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte ordered Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to investigate if "shortcuts" taken by a construction firm led to the collapse of the Chuzon Supermarket in Porac, Pampanga, during the Luzon earthquake.

The structural integrity of the grocery was the first thing Duterte raised during the situation briefing on the quake on Tuesday, April 23, at the Pampanga provincial capitol in San Fernando City.

"Whether it was a deliberate move to just do away with safety standards or was there a compliance with the requirements of the law. Most of it is because of shortcuts and trying to save money. That would be the work of the investigators," said Duterte on Tuesday.

"Secretary Año and maybe DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) could – and the police could help in the determination of the structural integrity of that building, whether it was a defect man-made or one of those, really, I said that it can happen and it was a bad day for them to have it," he continued.

Año informed Duterte during the meeting that local government units have been ordered to temporarily suspend the business permits of other Chuzon grocery stores while engineers assess their structural integrity.

Duterte backed this move, ordering that Chuzon branches stop operations in the meantime.

"It would be good at this time to just give them the advice to stop – cease and desist doing business until such time that the clearance [is] given by government," said the President.

AFTERMATH. President Rodrigo Duterte presides over a situation briefing with members of his Cabinet and local government officials at the provincial capitol in San Fernando City, Pampanga. Malacau00f1ang photo

AFTERMATH. President Rodrigo Duterte presides over a situation briefing with members of his Cabinet and local government officials at the provincial capitol in San Fernando City, Pampanga.

Malacau00f1ang photo

Año also reported that Chuzon Supermarket's owner had been summoned by the Philippine National Police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group that afternoon.

Chuzon Supermarket is owned by businessman Samuel Chu. It has 4 other branches in Pampanga – in Sto Tomas, Apalit, Guagua, and Floridablanca. It also has a branch in Gerona, Tarlac, and one in Mariveles, Bataan.

Duterte also asked for updates on how the injured were being attended to and how schools were handling the damage to their buildings.  

He concluded, based on his inspection, that there was no need for price controls as the damage was not extensive enough to cause an "imbalance" in the local economy.

"I'm not trying to belittle the problem. To me, it's just maybe a few towns hard hit. Thank God that we have the barest minimum of deaths," the President said. 

'Ground zero' inspection

Before the situation briefing, Duterte visited the Chuzon Supermarket, considered ground zero of the earthquake, owing to the casualties that resulted from its collapse. Of the 16 confirmed fatalities so far, 5 died at the supermarket.

Accompanying him was prominent Pampanga resident House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, and Office of Civil Defense Administrator Ricardo Jalad.

His former aide Bong Go, who holds no government position right now, was also with the President wearing a campaign shirt that read "Du34Go." "34" is Go's number on the ballot.

Duterte's most favored senatorial candidate, Go gets considerable media mileage for being constantly beside the President even during the campaign period. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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