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Kentex fire victims' kin, survivors seek charges vs. Roxas, Baldoz, 6 others

(Updated 5:17 p.m.) Families of victims and survivors of the May 13 Kentex fire in Valenzuela City are seeking administrative and criminal charges against eight government officials, including Interior Sec. Mar Roxas and Labor Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz.

In a letter complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday, victims and kin said they "seek the formal investigation and the filing of appropriate charges," including negligence resulting in homicide and physical injuries, and neglect in the performance of functions.

Aside from Roxas and Baldoz, other officials cited in the letter complaint are:

* DOLE NCR regional director Alex Avila
* DOLE NCR labor law compliance director Engr. Joseph Vedasto
* Bureau of Fire Protection chief Dir. Alex Barayuga
* BFP NCR chief Sr. Supt. Sergio Soriano Jr.
* Valenzuela fire marshal Supt. Mel Jose Lagan
* Fire Safety Enforcement Section chief Ed Groover Ocullam.

Attached to the letter complaint were sworn affidavits of 49 survivors and kin of victims.

Seventy-two people, most of them workers, were killed in the fire incident.

Remigio Saladero Jr., lawyer for the kin and survivors, said, "Sa tingin namin may kapabayaan ang mga nasabing opisyal sa pagsu-supervise sa kanilang mga tao para gampanan ang kanilang gawain na mabigyan ng kaukulang inspeksyon iyong Kentex para sana hindi nangyari iyong naganap na trahedya."
Saladero told reporters the complaint focuses on national government officials because his clients were "reluctant" to include local officials of Valenzuela, after the assistance that has been extended to them.
He added that it would be up to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to look into, and if possible file charges, against the local officials.
Saladero also said that on Friday, the families will file charges of estafa and reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and physical injury against owners of Kentex before the Valenzuela City prosecutor's office.
In an interview, Danny Atacador -- a delivery driver for Kentex who lost his wife, a factory worker, in the fire -- said, "Dapat po merong managot at merong makulong... Sadya po namin dito mag-file ng kaso para mapanagot, unang-una po iyong Department of Labor."
He added: "Nagtataka kami bakit pumasa ang Kentex sa fire and safety standards samantalang walang fire exits, tapos ang mga bintana nagmistulang kulungan."

'Officials can answer raps'
Roxas' camp said they have yet to issue a statement on the matter. GMA News Online is reaching out to the other officials for comment as well.

At a press briefing on Monday, presidential spokesman Sec. Edwin Lacierda said the Cabinet officials can answer the complainants’ allegations of negligence.
"What we are very confident is that the Secretary of Labor and Employment and Secretary of DILG, Mar Roxas, will be able to address those concerns," Lacierda said. "Hindi po kami nababahala doon sa mga kasong isinampa ng abugado."
Earlier this month, President Benigno Aquino III vowed to go after individuals responsible for the incident, mostly pinning the blame on Valenzuela's local officials.
During a press briefing, Aquino essentially cleared BFP officials of any liability. 
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has formed a team to review all reports from various investigations on last month's fire. — with Andreo Calonzo/KBK/JJ/RSJ GMA News