Binay to face raps in Glorietta blast

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — MAYOR Jejomar Binay and the Makati City engineers who approved the construction plan of Glorietta 2 are among those who may be slapped with criminal and civil suits in connection with the Oct. 19 blast that killed 11 people and wounded more than 100 others.

Binay however is proposing a separate investigation into the fatal incident by an independent body, taking the Philippine National Police to task for prejudging the case.

A highly-reliable source said that the National Bureau of Investigation will be in charge of filing cases of negligence resulting in multiple homicide, multiple serious physical injuries and damage to property.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity since he is not authorized to discuss the matter in public, said the NBI will be looking at the possibility of including Binay in the charge sheet once the investigation is concluded. “There is always what we call as command responsibility here but we are thoroughly studying this matter and everything is not yet final,” he said.

The source added that the Makati City engineers who approved the Glorietta 2 design will most likely be included in the charge sheet. “These engineers will be made to answer questions on the seemingly faulty design of the Glorietta 2 basement,” he said.

Mayor Binay had earlier challenged the PNP to make public its findings along with those of the Australian Federal Police, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation and an Israeli bomb expert on the Glorietta 2 explosion. Top police officials had said the findings have led them to believe the explosion was an accident and not an attack by terrorists.

Binay proposed a probe of the blast by an independent body and said the city government would meet with the private sector and the business community next week to seek their support and suggestions on the proposal.

He said the PNP had “opened its mouth too soon” and made a premature judgment.

City officials will discuss the independent investigation of the Glorietta explosion with the business community next Wednesday during the Makati Business Development Council meeting.

“We feel if there is an independent commission the result would be more credible,” the local chief executive said adding that it would help authorities take steps to prevent similar incidents.

He said the independent commission would look at the “whole picture” of the explosion and get more reactions from people around the mall during the blast.

He added that the commission would also look at possible shortcomings of the city government that may have led to the blast.

“If it is a terror attack then steps could be taken such as deployment of additional personnel and intelligence- sharing. If it’s caused by an accident, we still have to find out if it’s an accident that just happened or is it caused by negligence,” he said.

Ayala Land Inc. spokesman Alfonso Reyes said they are also conducting their own investigation into the blast. However, he said it was in the preliminary stage since the police have yet to give them full access to the site.

“We are hoping that the PNP will release its report on the blast as soon as possible so that we will be able to evaluate the findings and be able to come up with a response,” Reyes said.

Earlier, PNP chief Director General Avelino I. Razon Jr. and National Capital Region Police Office chief Director Geary L. Barias stuck to their theory that a gas explosion took place at the mall basement and not a terror attack as initially feared.

Razon even said that the structural design of Glorietta 2 may have violated some safety standards and added that they have requested the Bureau of Fire Protection to inspect buildings similarly situated with the help of city engineers.

“Based on our findings, there is negligence in what we saw in GLorietta 2 including inspection and design but our next step is the determination of who will be culpable for this incident,” said Razon.

Negligence vs accident

Barias said they are eyeing negligence and not an accidental gas explosion as behind the blast.

“Even the word ‘accident’ is not the right word. Negligence would be a better term because when you say ‘accident,’ that’s an act of God,” the NCRPO chief said.

Barias also appealed to families of the victims of the Glorietta 2 explosion to be patient with their investigation since they want to have a fool-proof case against the responsible parties.

The NCRPO chief said they have been in close contact with Ayala Land, Inc. since Day One of the blast and are right now looking for some officials of the old Makati Supermarket which is now the site of the Glorietta 2. He said they are looking into reports that Glorietta 2 was using the old sewerage system and even the diesel tank of the former Makati Supermarket which dates back to 1992.

He said they are searching for the engineer employed by the Makati Supermarket which had control of the Glorietta 2 basement. The permits and contracts between Ayala Land Inc. and its tenants are also being looked into in connection with the negligence angle.

“We’ve to finish our investigation first before filing any criminal and civil suits against the responsible persons. There is no timetable here. I just want to finish our investigation first,” he said.

Barias also said that in the end, the results of the investigation conducted by the Australian Federal Police, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and an Israeli expert won’t matter.

“What matters here is the findings of the PNP, not the foreign experts, not the Australian police since this will be the one to be used in court.