By Antonio Colina IV and Roy Mabasa
Davao City — President Duterte condoled with the family and relatives of the 37 workers, who were trapped and killed in the fire that razed the NCCC Mall in this city, while assuring them that “truth will come out” in the ongoing investigation.
“What I assured them is that truth will — Let the truth come out. ‘Yan lang naman ang ano nila e. Totoo lang, ano nangyari (They want the truth; what really happened),” Duterte told reporters late Monday night in Davao City.
The President condoled with families of the fire victims at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) as they waited for the transfer of the cadavers of the fire victims from the mall for processing and identification by personnel of the Scene of the Crime Operation (SOCO).
He said the government is willing to chip-in on top of the expenses and compensation that would be extended to the victims’ families.
Duterte narrated that it was him who delivered the grim news to the families of the victims after her daughter, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, begged off.
“I was the one who broke the news to them. Kasi, Inday (Mayor Sara’s nickname) begged off. Sabi niya, ‘hindi ko kaya, pa’ (She said: I couldn’t do it, dad),” he said.
While consoling the victims’ families about the tragic incident, Duterte told them, “it is always a spiritual journey between the mother, father, brother, sister.”
“But I told them to pray and asked the priest to pray a very short prayer pagkatapos ko na magsalita (after I had spoken), just to prepare them because there’s really no sense in overdoing things,” he said.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre directed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the fire incident and file criminal cases before the courts against those who are responsible.
Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP)-Davao Region director Sr. Supt. Wilberto Rico Neil A. Kwan Tiu apologized to distraught families for failing to save the trapped call center agents as he told them all 36 remaining missing victims were found at the lobby at around 11 a.m. on Monday on the fourth floor, just a few steps away from the stairs.
NCCC Mall Davao is an accredited economic zone by Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) for its 4,000-square meter BPO facility on the fourth floor.
Mass for victims
In a message after the mass officiated by Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and Davao archbishop Romulo Valles, Kwan Tiu said the fire responders did their best to rescue the trapped workers of Survey Sampling International (SSI), a business process outsourcing (BPO) company that occupied the entire fourth floor of the mall.
A crowd composed of relatives, workmates and families of the trapped victims joined the mass held outside the NCCC Mall of Davao wept as the official disclosed all 36 charred victims were found by responders at the SSI lobby. They were huddled near the stairs leading to the activity center of the mall on the ground floor.
With regards to the remains of the victims, the President suggested to the families to just cremate the cadavers, which is the “cleanest and most expedient way of doing things.”
“Sabi ko sa kanila, ‘sunog na yan.’ And even if you bring the cadaver back home, you (won’t) be able to open up the coffin for people to see the… yung patay… the dead,” Duterte said.
The President, meanwhile, dismissed reports that there are still two people missing as mere “speculation” since all bodies have already been well accounted for.