By Jeffrey Damicog
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has been directed to investigate the mall fire in Davao City where over 30 people are believed to have perished.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II himself gave the directive late Christmas eve as the 37 persons who still remain missing from the NCCC Mall fire are expected to have already died.
“The loss of lives and the resulting damage underscore the need to determine if someone is at fault and should be held criminally liable,” said Aguirre in a statement issued today.
“It is for this reason that I have ordered the NBI last night to conduct a probe to determine the criminal culpability of those responsible,” said Aguirre who expressed his condolences to the families of the victims.
Aguirre has already instructed Justice Undersecretary Raymund Mecate who is in charge of the NBI to communicate with NBI Director Dante Gierran regarding the probe.
“We want the NBI to be involved with its own probe. Their findings will enable us to make those responsible fully accountable before our courts via the criminal cases that will be filed,” he said.
The secretary hopes “by punishing those responsible, we can set an example to others so that, hopefully, there will be no repetition of these tragedies.”
Fire broke out from the NCCC Mall in Ma-a, Davao City at around 9:30 a.m. Saturday and continued to rage as of yesterday.
However, the cause of the fire which originated from the mall’s third floor remains unknown.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said the City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO) listed 36 of the feared dead as workers of the Survey Sampling International (SSI), an offshore business process outsourcing (BPO) firm.
She added that another victim with a foreign-sounding name who was included in the list of missing after his friend reported to authorities that he was among those trapped.
The families of the victims were taken to a holding room provided by the city government at the third floor of the JICA building at the Southern Philippines Medical Center from Aposento Restaurant, located just a few meters away from the NCCC Mall.
President Duterte himself visited the worried families yesterday and even broke in tears when he told them there were “zero chances” of survival for those who got trapped in the inferno.
He was accompanied by his two children–Mayor Sara and Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte—as well as Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Christopher “Bong” Go when the President made the surprise visit.
The mayor said the President’s heartbreaking news of zero chances of survival was based on the assessment of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Region 11 whose personnel found difficulty penetrating the mall due to black smoke and intense heat.