Quezon City fire marshal, Senior Superintendent Aristotle Bañaga, has gone on leave following a call from Mayor Joy Belmonte for his removal in the wake of several fire incidents this year in his jurisdiction.
This was confirmed by Bureau of Fire and Protection (BFP) chief, Director Louie Puracan, who said that Bañaga filed his leave of absence on Monday, following a piece of news published by Daily Tribune that Belmonte wrote Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benhur Abalos to recommend his relief and Fire Safety Enforcement Section head, Chief Inspector Dominic Salvacion, for their lapses.
In her letter dated 14 September, Belmonte told Abalos that the city’s investigation found “serious lapses in the inspection process” by the two officials.
“After an investigation into the deadly fire last August 31 in Tandang Sora, wherein fifteen lives were lost, it was discovered that serious lapses in inspection processes led to insufficient site inspection for the FSIC (Fire Safety Inspection Certificate) application of business in 2022, and no inspection at all for the same purpose in 2022 and 2023. These, despite knowledge per records that the business transferred from original site in Manresa , this city, into residential area in Pleasant View Subdivision in Tandang Sora, with a declaration of 15 square meters ‘office only’ contractor of clothes, garments, and bags as its business area and nature of business,” Belmonte said in her letter.
“At the very least the QCFD (Quezon City Fire Department) should have been more circumspect in inspecting the business area and the rest of the premises for signs of unauthorized business activities, Instead, just a cursory look was undertaken in 2021, and no inspection at all in 2022 and 2023.”
Belmonte added that the capability and effectiveness of QCFD in responding to fires appears to have decreased significantly wherein the severity of this year’s incidents necessitates a call for a change of leadership in the city fire district.
“Said change is crucially needed for the welfare of our citizens given the loss of our trust and confidence with QCFD Col. Banaga and Chief Insp. Salvacion,” the mayor stressed.
In response to the letter, Abalos said he personally instructed the BFP to conduct a thorough investigation and determine the officials’ accountability.
Puracan, meanwhile, said that Banaga’s deputy, Supt. Gilbert Arellano, a lawyer, will temporarily assume office to pave the way for an ongoing investigation.
Aside from the deadly fire that left 15 people dead, fire incident protocols were also allegedly broken in the aftermath of a blaze that also claimed the life of Retired General George Ancheta, the uncle of QC Council Majority Floor Leader Dorothy Delarmente.
Another fire in Culiat also injured seven people and destroyed about 200 homes.
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