Mayor gets ax over Kentex fire

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THE Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the dismissal of Valenzuela City Mayor Rexton “Rex” Gatchalian and six others in connection with the deadly Kentex fire last year, a move that Malacañang hailed as an “opportunity for establishing accountability.”

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“The Aquino administration is determined to ensure workplace safety and protection of the well being of workers. Hence, all concerned government agencies are tasked to implement laws and rules on occupational health and safety,” said Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. on Sunday.

The Ombudsman resolution on the filing of charges against certain officials, he stressed, ”will be (a) stronger deterrence against the possible repetition of the disastrous fire that claimed the lives of 72 workers.”

In a decision forwarded to the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Ombudsman found Gatchalian guilty of grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty together with Renchie May Padayao, Officer-in-Charge of the Business Permit and Licensing Office (BPLO); and Eduardo Carreon, Licensing Officer IV.

Also ordered dismissed from the service were F/Supt. Jose Mel Lagan, the city fire marshal, and his subordinates — F/Senior Insp. Edgrover Oculam and Fire Officers Rolando Avendan and Ramon Maderazo.

Also included in the charge sheet was Terrence King Ong, the operations manager of Kentex Manufacturing in Valenzuela City.

In its decision dated February 11, 2016, the Ombudsman found Gatchalian, Padayao, Carreon, and Avendan guilty of grave misconduct for issuing a business permit to Kentex Manufacturing in 2015 despite its delinquent status. They were also meted the accessory penalties of forfeiture of benefits and privileges and perpetual disqualification from public office.

The Ombudsman directed the filing of criminal charges before the Sandiganbayan against Gatchalian and other officials for violating Section 3 (e) of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

On the other hand, Lagan, Oculam, Maderazo, and Avendan were also indicted for issuing a fire safety inspection certificate to Kentex in 2012 and inaccurate inspection reports and notice to comply in 2014. They were also charged for their failure to impose sanctions as prescribed by the Fire Code against the slippers factory.

Gatchalian, Padayao and Carreon were also indicted for issuing business permit to Kentex in 2014 despite not being qualified or entitled thereto.

On May 13, 2015, 72 Kentex workers died when a fire razed the factory.

On the other hand, the criminal and administrative cases against BFP chief Director Ariel Barayuga, Chief Supts. Rodrigo Abrazaldo, Lorenzo De Guia, Igmedio Bondoc and Senior Supt. Louie Puracan were dismissed.

Coloma noted that the Ombudsman is an independent Constititutional body over which the Executive branch has no authority or jurisdiction.

“Considering that those involved have the right to avail themselves of appropriate legal remedies under our laws, it is best that we await the outcome of their case,” he said.

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