Valenzuela execs, BFP officials, charged over Kentex fire

MANILA, Philippines – The Ombudsman filed criminal charges at the Sandiganbayan Wednesday, October 19, against Valenzuela City Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian, Bureau of Fire Protection officials, and a businessman for negligence in connection with the Kentex Manufacturing Corporation fire that left over 70 people dead.

The Office of the Ombudsman said officials acted in a “negligent, careless, and imprudent manner” by approving and issuing a business permit to Kentex in January 2014 even if it did not have the required fire safety inspection certificate.

A case of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicides and multiple physical injuries was filed against Gatchalian, Valenzuela business permits and licensing office head Renchi May Mecina Padayao, licensing officer Eduardo Carreon, Bureau of Fire Protection-Valenzuela City fire marshal Mel Jose Lagan, senior fire inspector Edgrover Oculam, senior fire officer Rolando Avendan, and Kentex general manager Ong King Guan a.k.a. Terence King Ong.

Two other counts of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt and Practices Act were filed against Gatchalian, Padayao, and Carreon. Ong, was charged with an additional count of graft.

Investigators said Kentex should have been shut down because of its delinquent status. The permit that was granted the factory should have been revoked to stop it from continuing with its operations, especially after it failed to get the necessary requirements within the prescribed period.

In addition, the Ombudsman also included a claim of undue injury amounting to P3.7 million in behalf of victims who died and who sustained injuries from the fire that hit Kentex in May 2015.

The Ombudsman said the respondents indicated a “common understanding among them to turn a blind eye to Kentex’s delinquency and its foreseeable consequences.”

In June 2015, families of 57 of the casuaties in the Philippines' worst factory fire were reported to have dropped their claims against Kentex in exchange for a P151,200-($3,360) settlement. – Rappler.com