Charges of reckless imprudence vs NCCC Mall, SSI dropped

Published December 23, 2018, 4:56 PM

by Dhel Nazario, Jeffrey G. Damicog, and Rey G. Panaligan

By Antonio L. Colina IV

DAVAO CITY – The City Prosecutor’s Office (CPO) here dismissed the charges of reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homicide and multiple physical injuries filed by the Interagency Anti-Arson Task Force (IAATF) against officials of the NCCC Mall Davao and Survey Sampling International (SSI).

City Prosecutor Nestor Ledesma said in a phone interview that the evidence provided by the IAATF was insufficient to hold officials of the NCCC Mall Davao and SSI criminally liable for the deadly December 23, 2017 NCCC Mall Davao fire that killed 38 workers.

Fire incident at NCCC Mall, Maa Davao City. Fire started at the 3rd floor particularly at the furniture section going to 4th floor at SSI call center office. (Yas Ocampo/Zea Capistrano/ Manila Bulletin)
Fire incident at NCCC Mall, Maa Davao City. Fire started at the 3rd floor particularly at the furniture section going to 4th floor at SSI call center office. (FILE PHOTO / YAS OCAMPO / ZEA CAPISTRANO/ MANILA BULLETIN)

But he added they found sufficient evidence to charge Engr. Wilson Velasquez, the project officer in-charge of AC Rockport that handled the renovation on the third floor where the fire emanated.

However, he added charges against Velasquez have been dropped after the families of the fire vicims submitted “affidavits of desistance,” withdrawing the complaints against him.

Ledesma said the last two families submitted their affidavits first week this month.

The City Prosecutor released 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.

“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 respondents bago nimo sya filan og kaso (In criminal cases, we need to pinpoint what particular act or participation of the respondents before the filing of the charges),” Ledesma said.

A four-member panel was created immediately after the charges were filed before the CPO last 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 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 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 11 respondents 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.