MANILA, Philippines — Department of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Sunday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the pre-Christmas fire that gutted a shopping mall in Davao City, where at least 37 people were feared to have perished.
Aguirre ordered DOJ Undersecretary Raymund L. Mecate to communicate with NBI Director Dante Gierran the order to probe the December 24 incident at the New City Commercial Center and determine if there are persons and entities that should be held criminally liable.
“Their findings will enable us to make those responsible fully accountable before our courts via the criminal cases that will be filed. By punishing those responsible, we can set an example to others so that, hopefully, there will be no repetition of these tragedies”, Aguirre said in a statement.
Aguirre also called on the public to pray for the victims “in this moment of grief.”
“Foremost, we offer our solemn condolences to the families of those persons who lost their lives in this very unfortunate incident. The loss of lives and the resulting damage caused underscore the need to determine if someone is at fault and should be held criminally liable,” Aguirre said.
“It is for this reason that I have ordered the NBI last night to conduct a probe to determine the criminal culpability of those responsible. For now, I respectfully request everyone to continue praying for all those affected by this tragedy,” he added.
The fire broke out past 9 a.m. Saturday on the third floor of the NCCC Mall, while Davao was still reeling from the damage brought by Typhoon “Vinta.”
Mayor Inday Sara Duterte-Carpio, who earlier visited the site and met with the families of the missing persons at the restaurant’s holding room beside SNR, said the city government would extend assistance to the families.
She ordered the cancellation of all remaining Pasko Fiesta activities in the city in deference to the victims.