Mayor Belmonte calls for the removal of 2 QC fire officials

September 18, 2023 Joel dela Torre 360 views

THE district fire marshal of Quezon City went on leave following a call from Mayor Joy Belmonte for his removal in the wake of several fire incidents this year in his jurisdiction.

Bureau of Fire and Protection (BFP) chief Director Louie Puracan confirmed that Senior Supt. Aristotle Banaga filed his leave of absence yesterday.

“Nag-file na ng leave (of absence), kanina lang,” he told this writer on the phone.

On September 14, Mayor Belmonte wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos recommending the removal of Banaga and his Fire Safety Enforcement Section (FSES) head Chief Insp.

Dominic Salvacion due to their alleged lapses in carrying out their duties.

Belmonte said that QC’s investigation found “serious lapses in the inspection process” regarding the two officials.

In response to the letter, Abalos said he personally instructed the BFP to investigate thoroughly and determine the officials’ accountability.

Belmonte’s letter read,” 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 its original site in Manresa, this city, into a 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.”

The mayor further said: “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.

Puracan said that Banaga’s deputy, Supt. Gilbert Arellano, a lawyer, will temporarily assume the top QC fire post, to pave the way on 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.

The Journal tried but failed to reach Banaga for comment.