For the sake of the victims: Ombudsman asks SC for chance to try Rexlon Gatchalian over Kentex fire

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The Ombudsman has insisted on its plea for the Supreme Court (SC) to revive the graft and reckless imprudence charges against Valenzuela City Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian in connection with the May 2015 Kentex slipper factory fire.

In a recent 7-page reply, the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) took exception to Gatchalian’s opposition to its August 4, 2017 petition, which challenged the Sandiganbayan’s December 13, 2016 resolution that dismissed Gatchalian’s cases.

Ombudsman prosecutors had blamed the fire on Gatchalian and his subordinates’ issuance of a business permit that allowed Kentex to operate despite the lack of a fire safety inspection certificate.

The Sandiganbayan found no probable cause to hold a trial against Gatchalian, because the questioned issuance of the permit was allowed by City Ordinance Number 62.

The OSP, however, told the SC that “the State could not have intended to altogether dispense with basic safety requirements at the expense of the life and safety of its citizens.”

It said the city ordinance “[did] not categorically dispense with the FSIC as a requirement.”

Prosecutors said the Sandiganbayan effectively denied the State a “fair opportunity to prosecute and convict” Gatchalian when the case was dismissed without a trial.

The OSP also said the Sandiganbayan “should not have overridden” the Ombudsman’s finding of probable cause against Gatchalian and “should have afforded the State in a full-blown trial.”

“Such prudence would have provided an avenue for closure to the victims’ families,” the OSP appealed.

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