Ombudsman files graft charges vs. former Butuan city mayor 

Former Butuan City Mayor Ferdinand Amante Jr. -FIle Photo by : PIA Caraga

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman has found probable cause to charge former Butuan City Mayor Ferdinand Amante, Jr. for violation of the anti-graft law.

Charged along with Amante are  former officials, Licensing Officer IV Paul Cabrera and Acting City Fire Marshal Alric Gomez.

The  case against Amante et al. stemmed from ] a fire incident that occurred on 09 May 2012 at the Novo Jeans and Shirts Enterprises located along Montilla Boulevard in Butuan City which killed 17 female workers sleeping in their quarters.

Results of the investigation showed that Novo’s business permit was issued despite the lack of a Fire Safety and Inspection Certificate (FSIC).

Apparently, it was given a 30-day period to comply with the submission of documentary requirements.

The Ombudsman said that respondents must be held individually liable for graft for the specific acts they committed:  respondent Amante for approving Novo’s business permit without the required FSIC and his failure to revoke it subsequently; respondent Cabrera for recommending the approval of the firm’s business permit to Amante and his failure to subsequently act on its revocation; and Gomez for his failure to notify Amante of Novo’s non-compliance and to recommend the cancellation of its business permit.

Under Section 5(g) of the Fire Code of the Philippines, the issuance of a business permit without the FSIC is clearly prohibited.

The law provides that local government units and other government agencies shall assist the [Bureau of Fire Protection] BFP in the strict observance of the requirement of fire safety measures for the issuance of FSIC as a pre-requisite in the grant of and renewal of business, occupancy and other related permits/licenses.

For such purpose, the local government shall refrain from issuing such licenses and/or permits without the applicant first securing the FSIC from the BFP.

In the related administrative case, Amante and Cabrera were found guilty of Gross Neglect of Duty and were perpetually barred from public office.

Gross neglect of duty carries the penalty of dismissal from the service, including the accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility and forfeiture of retirement benefits.

In case of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to respondents’ one year salary.-Harold V. Pontongan/