Tenants eyed as suspects for possible arson of Star City

Loreben Tuquero
Tenants eyed as suspects for possible arson of Star City


(UPDATED) The owners will be summoned along with the tenants as part of the investigation

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Pasay City fire marshal Superintendent Paul Pili said tenants of the Star City complex are possible suspects of arson, which is believed to be the cause of the fire that gutted 80% to 90% of the amusement park on Wednesday, October 2.

Pili said the tenants brought in cotton on the night of the fire without registering in the logbook.

“[Nagpasok] sila ng mga cotton nung gabi na ‘yun at may mga kasama sila, a certain Mr Wong. May mga kasama sila doon, tapos hindi naka-logbook ‘yung mga names ng mga kasama nila, [although] he is just a tenant of Star City,” Pili said.

(They brought in cotton that night and they were accompanied by other people, a certain Mr Wong, and they didn’t register in the logbook, although he is just a tenant of Star City.)

In a statement, Star City claimed that this was not unusual, since cotton filling is used for stuffed toys that are given in games. 

Even though results from the arson laboratory have yet to be released, Pili said they are already considering the fire as a case of arson. Gasoline was found in the boats of the Pirate Adventure attraction, which Pili found suspicious because the ride was not powered by a machine.

“In our mind, in the minds of the investigators, there is already [arson]. But there should be proof, kasi may nakita naman kami doon na gasolina na makikita talaga, hindi na kailangan ng mga laboratory test (because we saw gasoline traces in suspicious places, which does not require confirmation from laboratory tests),” Pili said.

Star City rejected the claim that the cause of the fire could be arson, saying gasoline is present inside the complex because the Bumper Boat ride runs on gasoline.

The theme park management said the claim was made prematurely.

“We feel that it was inappropriate, to say the least, to release statements to media first regarding arson as the cause of fire when the investigation is not clearly concluded and before taking up such matter with Star City’s management, the principal party concerned,” said Star City.

Ongoing investigation

Pili added that the Pirate Adventure attraction was one point of origin of the fire. They are still waiting for confirmation regarding multiple origins of the fire, given that parts of the complex seemed to suffer the same fire intensity even though they were far apart.

“Tinitingnan natin do’n na ito bagsak na bagsak, kaparehas nung doon, eh ang layo no’n. So for confirmation ‘yun ng ating samples na sinubmit sa arson laboratory tsaka National Bureau of Investigation,” Pili said.

(We see that this area was severely affected, similar to another spot that’s far away. This is still to be confirmed after samples we submitted to the arson laboratory and the National Bureau of Investigation are examined.)

More than 20 samples were submitted for examination.

Meanwhile, Star City maintained that the fire only originated from a locator’s warehouse for stuffed toys.

The investigators also ruled out electrical problems as a cause of the fire, because power is shut down when the complex is closed as part of its protocol.

Meanwhile, if arson is to be confirmed as the cause of the fire, the motive is still to be investigated.

Pili said the owners of the Star City complex will be summoned, along with the tenants, to look at their financial documents and their relationship.

“‘Pag arson, it’s either ibang tao, puwedeng may-ari. Puwedeng may-ari kasi he has the control of the area, puwedeng ibang tao, kasi may tenants nga, ‘Yun titingnan natin, ano’ng magiging motive no’n,” he said.

(In arson, it could be either a third party or the owner that does it. The owner has the full control of the area, but tenants could also be responsible. We’ll be looking into the motive.)

Documents on their assets and insurance policy, among others, will be reviewed as well.

“[We] will look into it kung sila ba ay nalulugi o hindi, so isusummon natin ‘yung mga papers nila…. Kasi do’n makikita ‘yung mga motibo. Kasi mahirap i-pinpoint kung sinong nagsunog eh…. So part ng circumstantial evidence na mangyayari ay pinagdudugtong-dugtong ‘yan na mauwi nga kung sino talaga perpetrator,” Pili said.

(We will see if they are incurring losses, so we will summon their papers…. That’s where we will find the motive. It will be difficult to pinpoint who committed the arson, so circumstantial evidence will be connected to find out who is the real perpetrator.)

Star City implied that financial gain was not considered a motive because “business is profitable and a bumper Christmas season was expected.” – Rappler.com

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Loreben Tuquero

Loreben Tuquero is a researcher-writer for Rappler. Before transferring to Rappler's Research team, she covered transportation, Quezon City, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government as a reporter. She graduated with a communication degree from the Ateneo de Manila University.