Fire officials suspended for rigging damage report

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Friday, November 11, 2011


TWO fire officials have been suspended and may be imprisoned for up to 10 years for defrauding a fire victim of up to P76 million in insurance claims.

Fire Chief Superintendent Rolando Bandilla Jr. and Fire Chief Inspector Jhufel Brañanola, both of the Intelligence division of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), were found guilty of Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service over a complaint filed by Emma Lin, owner of a property in Plaridel, Bulacan.

Lin had insured her property with two Fire Policies worth P56 million and P20 million with Malayan Insurance Company Inc. but did not get the money because a fire that gutted her property was chalked up to "undetermined causes."

She said Brañanola gave three other fire officers "substantial amounts of money" to cast doubt on initial BFP findings that the fire was accidental in nature. A first fire report prepared by the BFP attributed the fire to faulty wiring and ruled it an accident.

She also accused Bandilla of "using his official position to whimsically and arbitrarily" file a second report at the request of Malayan despite her "strong" opposition. That second report prompted the Insurance commission to recommend that Malayan deny her insurance claims.

Lin's complaint was bolstered by the National Bureau of Investigation Anti-Fraud and Computer Crimes Division that found "an inference can be drawn that Bandilla and Brañanola acted in conspiracy with each other in order to create doubt in the findings of the BFP.”

The decision, which Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales approved, found the two fire officials guilty of conspiring in their administrative duties "with the end view of having complainant’s legitimate insurance claim denied, through manifest partiality and evident bad faith."

The two also face criminal charges for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. Section 3(e) of that law penalizes causing undue injury by showing partiality in the discharge of official duties. Violations carry a prison sentence of from one to ten years. (Jonathan de Santos/Sunnex)

Local news

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