(DEADLY BLAZE) Market czar sacked as probe continues PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 04 November 2015 11:57

by Bhong Simbajon

Barely four months after he was appointed market supervisor, Nathaniel Asuncion was relieved by Mayor Beng Climaco-Salazar as a result of last Saturday deadly blaze which killed 15 people and destroyed dozens of business stalls.

In an interview with RMN Zamboanga Tuesday, City Legal Officer Atty. Jesus Carbon, who was tasked to spearhead the investigation team of the city government, revealed, that Asuncion is the direct casualty as a consequence of the fire , since the market is under his supervision.

Carbon explained that the relief of  Asuncion is just the start of the investigation as the investigating team will also move deeper in the coming days by getting the testimonies of other government employees assigned in the market operations as well as the command responsibilities of Assistant City Administrator for Enterprise Apple Go and OIC Administrator Dr. Elmeir Apolinario.

Asuncion was placed under the direct supervision of the Office of the City Administrator while the investigation is ongoing. The above-mentioned officials were also asked to submit their sworn statements on why they should not be charged for negligence and command responsibility with regard to the blaze and the loss of lives therein.

“We are also looking into the liabilities of Ms. Go and Mr. Apolinario, as well as those involved in the market operations, they form part of the investigation,” Carbon said.

On Monday, Carbon and his team conducted an ocular investigation at the fire scene together with the special investigation team of the Bureau of Fire Protection from Manila to consolidate all information they have gathered from witnesses and those officials assigned in the market for a a clear picture on how the incident happened and as to who will be held responsible for  it, particularly  for allowing people people to sleep inside makeshift stalls within the market premises, which is not allowed under the city’s market code.

Today, while the General Services Office (GSO) and the Bureau of Fire and Protection (BFP) will start clearing  the debris at the fire scene, the legal team will continue to get sworn statements from victims as well as other sources who who have something to do with the enterprise at the public market.

“We will be conducting our own investigation, but will coordinate with BFP to consolidate our initial and progress reports about the incident. Rest assured there will be no whitewash,” Carbon said.

Since the responsibility of our officials in the public market is being looked into by the legal team, they will also start reviewing the history of the market operations as well as check on the policies implemented since the time of Mayor Vitaliano Agan when the market ordinance as well as the market operations were adopted and organized as well as the manner the market was operated under Mayors Maria Clara Lobregat and her son Celso Lobregat.

“Although the occupants are paying taxes, the issue is why were there people inside the market wherein it is prohibited under the market code. Everybody knows that, somebody should explain why they are there, when they are not supposed to be there,” Carbon said.

Carbon said there are many reports and affidavits they need to consolidate to give them a clear picture as to whose culpability it was, why those people were tolerated to live inside the market even though it was a violation of the existing market ordinance,    In the meantime that clearing operation is being carried out, the city government will try to look for a place for the fire victims to sell their wares as majority, if not all of the 282 stall owners affected by the blaze are members of three of the many vendors associations, who were given permits to sell inside the public market.

Earlier, the city government has offered the Sta. Cruz public market as their temporary business place, but the vendors rejected the city government’s proposal, because they are residents of Barangay Zone 1, they have houses outside public market, and Sta. Cruz is already very far from their dwellings.

To resolve the issue, the local government will look for some space inside the old public market where they can in the meantime continue selling their wares as part of their daily lives.

Carbon also revealed that the portion of the market where the blaze happened will already be cordoned, because it is the proposed site for the planned construction of the  sewerage treatment facility of the Zamboanga City  Water District (ZCWD) underground, while on top will be the expanded Material Recovery Facility of the city government. – Bhong Simbajon/RMN News