EIGHT retired and active Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) officials of the Davao City Fire District will face legal charges after they issued Fire Safety Inspection Certificate (FSIC) for the NCCC Mall building despite its violations of the Fire Code of the Philippines, an investigator said.
Fire Senior Superintendent Jerry Candido, spokesperson of the Inter-Agency Anti-Arson Task Force, said they have already discovered in the determination phase the cause and origin of the fire and they are currently collecting all documents to determine as well the liable persons for the fire.
He added that they already have the evidences against the eight personnel on their accountabilities in the fire incident.
Earlier, he bared the relief of five of the eight BFP personnel who issued the FSIC to the mall. He identified them as Fire Superintendent Honey Fritz Alagano (Davao district fire marshal), Fire Inspector Renero Jimenez (Talomo Fire Station chief), Senior Fire Officer 1 Leo Lauzon (fire safety inspector who inspected SSI), Fire Officer 2 Joel Quizmundo (fire safety inspector of the NCCC mall) and Senior Fire Officer 1 Roger Dumag (chief of the fire safety enforcement section).
“Part na si Honey Fritz kasi she was new I think three months pa lang so she was not part of those who issued the fire inspection certificate sa NCCC Mall sa 2017. But since she was the District Fire Marshal, she was included sa mga na-relieved,” he said.
Candido said the list may still grow depending on the result of their investigation and the documents they will gather.
“They know their liability. They have been trained for that how to conduct fire safety inspection. For so many times there were many memoranda issued reminding them to conduct the fire safety inspection in accordance to the fire code but we really don’t know why these deficiencies still exist despite those reminders,” he said.
One of the challenges they encountered is the retrieval of the documents from 2003 to 2017 of NCCC Mall's operations, after the Davao City Fire District allegedly seemed reluctant in providing the needed documents.
To hasten gathering of documents, he said he had given the Davao City Fire District (DCFD) an ultimatum to produce the needed document through the subpoena duces tecum issued by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for the submission of reports so they could finalize their investigation.
“I was there yesterday. I have given them the ultimatum to submit within 24 hours. Na-submit na yan mayrong subpoena na binigay sa kanya, it’s up to him to submit or not to submit,” he said.
The fire safety inspection certificates they gathered were in fact not from the DCFD but from NCCC Mall and SSI.
“Kung may intention kasi sila na to suppress some of the documentary evidence there, they have to take note that we can still secure that from other offices. They better cooperate,” he warned the local BFP officials.
They are also waiting for the “as-built” plan of the mall since what they have on hand was only the proposed plan. The as-built plan is the final structure or design of the building to determine the actual status of fire safety requirements like the exits on the very first day that NCCC mall operated.
He also assured that BFP team is trying its best to ensure that all the fire safety deficiencies of the building will be noted.
Right now, he could not yet name names to respect the rights to due process of the law. What they are doing now is establishing solid evidences against those persons involved.
“No matter how strong our suspicion maybe na may violation meron talagang violation ang building but without these documents, it’s unfair na pangalanan siya dahil walang ebidensya hindi maka-stand ng court scrutiny,” he said.
During the course of investigation, Candido noted three violations of the building.
First, he said the alarm system of the mall is not interconnected to the SSI office, which is the reason why the SSI employees were informed late and by the time they knew about the fire, the smoke in their office has thickened. The law requires that when alarm sounds it must be heard all throughout the building.
“Ito ang hindi na note sa alarm setup ng mall that was the reason why late po ang pag-inform sa SSI personnel and only if na-inform sila almost simultaneously when the fire [erupted], they would have use the fire exits and maybe walang namatay,” he said.
Aside from that, the exits did not adhere to the requirement of fire door. Candido cited that consider an opening as exit, all openings must be properly protected and conform to the fire rating in terms of materials used that it can stand the heat at least an hour to make way for the trapped victims to come down. This apparently did not happen in the case of the incident at NCCC Mall as the smoke and heat entered the fire exits.
Candido added that the third violation was the automatic fire suppression system. The sprinkler in the third and fourth floors did not function as their valves were closed.