MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine president said Monday that charges will be filed against all those responsible for last month's factory fire that killed 72 people, and blasted government agencies for failing to do their duties.
President Benigno Aquino III told a news conference that local officials and fire bureau personnel who ignored the rubber slipper factory's failure to meet safety requirements would be among those charged.
He said he did not want a repeat of the tragedy and has ordered the inspection of some 300,000 factories in metropolitan Manila. The fire was one of the worst in the country after a 1996 disco blaze that killed 162 people. A fire at a budget hotel in 2001 killed 75.
Aquino said an investigation showed Kentex Manufacturing Corp. in Valenzuela city, a northern Manila suburb, failed to install an automatic sprinkler system and a protected fire exit inside the facility. The company also failed to obtain the required fire safety inspection certificate since it began operating in 1996, except in 2012, and even that certificate is in question, he said.
"We do not want a repeat of this tragedy and to pin down through the filing of charges all those who conspired for this tragedy to happen," he said.
He urged the public, especially factory workers, to report to authorities any safely risks. The fire shows that each agency of government failed to do what it should have done, he said.
"We need to take out the whip and say, 'Hey, you have obligations and if you have been negligent of your obligation there will be a corresponding punishment,'" Aquino said.
Government lawyers will determine the charges to be filed but that among them are reckless imprudence resulting in homicide, falsification of public documents and dereliction of duty.
Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian told reporters rules cutting red tape set by the Department of Interior and Local Governments allowed the city government to issue the factory a provisionary permit to operate, with the fire safety certificate to follow within the year of operation. He said the rule was made because of the fire bureau's backlog of inspections.