Ex-QC exec seeks dismissal of graft charges over Manor Hotel fire
MANILA, Philippines – A former Quezon City engineer used a technicality to seek the dismissal of graft charges filed against him in relation to the Manor Hotel fire that killed 74 people in 2001.
In a 13-page motion, Alfredo Macapugay said the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan did not have jurisdiction over his cases. Information in the cases filed against him by the Office of the Ombudsman described him as a “city engineer or building official."
Macapugay explained that the inspection and supervision of private buildings were not included in Section 477 of Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991, which enumerated the functions of the provincial, city, or municipal engineer.
Citing the law, he said he could not have committed the offense imputed to him.
“Evidently, therefore, his erroneous inclusion as City Engineer in the subject Information has not conferred the Honorable Court with jurisdiction over the instant cases,” Macapugay said in his motion.
He said the job of inspecting the structural safety of private establishments belongs to the “city building official.” This position was assigned to him but not formally designated to him or given as a separate department, with the appropriate salaries and benefits.
“While the offenses charged may possibly have relation to the office of herein accused-movant as building official, herein accused-movant is not a Department Head because there is no Department of Building Official in the Revised Charter of Quezon City as well as the Local Government Code of 1991,” Macapugay added.t
He said his case should have been filed with the courts of first instance rather than the Sandiganbayan. The anti-graft court, he said, only has jurisditiction over cases of public officials who are department heads or are receiving salary grade 27.
“It is thus evident that the instant cases fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the proper first-level courts,” Macapugay said.
In filing graft charges against Macapugay on September 30, 2002, the Office of the Ombudsman said he and other city officials allowed Manor Hotel to continue operations from 1999 to 2001 even if the city fire marshall recommended it closed for violating the National Building Code and the Fire Code of the Philippines.
Prosecutors said the accused city officials dispensed with the mandatory annual inspection of the building's “structural, sanitary, and electrical safety systems." – Rappler.com