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Ex-QC officials appeal conviction in Manor Hotel case

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By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

Former City Engineer Alfredo Macapugay of Quezon City and Electrical Division Chief Romeo Montallana of the Quezon City Engineering Office, together with Manor Hotel incorporators William Genato, Rebecca Genato, Marion Fernandez and Dionisio Agengino, as well as hotel manager Candelara Arañador, are appealing the Sandiganbayan’s decision convicting them of their graft charges.

The six of them were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of three counts of graft by the anti-graft court’s Seventh Division due to the preferential treatment shown to officials of Manor Hotel Inc.

From the years 1999, 2000, and 2001, Macapugay and Montallana showed partiality to the Manor Hotel officials by failing to sanction them even after the hotel had repeatedly incurred violations against the provisions of the Fire Code and National Building Code of the Philippines.

To recall, a fire gutted Manor Hotel back in 2001 because inadequate fire safety measures were implemented by hotel management.

As a result, the fire caused “the death of about 74 innocent people as well as injuries suffered by several persons who were then billeted in the hotel arising from its defective electrical system,” according to their charge sheet.

Macapugay and Montallana filed their own motions for reconsideration, while the Manor incorporators shared a joint motion for reconsideration.

Macapugay does not believe the prosecution was successful in proving his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. He said he never dispensed with the conduct of annual inspection of buildings in Quezon City, and if any building was not inspected, it was due to the undermanned Office of Building Official.

“Herein accused never received any adverse report against Manor Hotel before the fire,” his MR stated. “No law ever authorized any BFP official to delegate the enforcement of the Fire Code to any official of the Office of Building Official.”

Meanwhile, Montallana argued that the prosecution failed to prove the second element of graft, which is manifest partiality and evident bad faith in the conduct of his job.

He said that during his tenure as Electrical Engineer IV until February 17, 2000, he was not the head of the division since he was under the control and supervision of Electrical Engineer V or the City Engineer.

“He could not simply act without any approval or the signal of his supervisor…lest he would be sanctioned for bypassing the authority of his superior,” the MR read. “Thus, he could not be blamed for the supposed lack of inspection as he should be following the orders of his superiors.”

Montallana added there was no conspiracy on his part to give preferential treatment to Manor Hotel Inc., and the accusations against him are just “suppositions based on mere presumptions.”

“It is humbly submitted that mere failure to conduct the said annual inspections of buildings, without more, does not prove that accused  Montallana is a conspirator with his co-accused,” he reasoned.

Likewise, the Manor Hotel incorporators maintained the argument of no conspiracy in their MR. They stressed that they were not aware of the violations made by the hotel, so they cannot be held liable to an agreement to commit a felony.

“Firstly, the accused public officials had no prior knowledge of the alleged repeated violations of Manor Hotel of the Fire Code and Building Code,” the MR read.

“Secondly, considering that accused public officials had no prior knowledge of any violations of Manor Hotel, they cannot be imputed to have intended to commit any act of manifest partiality or evident bad faith,” it added.

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