By Ben Serrano
Former Butuan Mayor Ferdinand Amante, Jr. blamed politics behind his Ombudsman ordeal, saying his action to sign business permit to Novo Jeans and Shirts Enterprises was in conformity with One Stop Shop Business Licensing and Permit for ease in doing business with Department of Trade and Industry memorandum circular and no advice from Bureau of Fire Protection to cancel it despite violations.
In a radio interview aired over RMN-Butuan on Saturday, Amante cited the Kentex case by which the Sandiganbayan dismissed the charges against the Valenzuela City officials because they were just following the letter of a local ordinance that streamlined the processing of business permits.
“It is similar to our case as Ombudsman previously indicted Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian and other officials for the issuance of a business permit to Kentex Manufacturing Corp. also despite having no FSIC, before it burned down in a May 2015 incident that killed 74. But later on the Sandiganbayan dismissed it,” Amante said.
Amante said his lawyer, James Reserva had already filed a motion for reconsideration and expressed confidence of a favorable Ombudsman decision.
When asked by the radio anchor if he thinks incumbent Mayor RonnieVic Lagnada still has an axe to grind on him politically, Amante replied: “Yes, Until now I felt I am being harassed.”
Amante said it seemed Mayor Lagnada can’t move on after the May 2016 elections .
“If you lived in the past and always carry revenge in your heart, one can’t move on for the future. It’s unfair for the people of Butuan especially the future of our children who rely their future in the hands of our leaders who still have revenge in their hearts and minds. It is a great public disservice, ” he said.
“Ambot ngano Ramil, murag dulot man gyud sa bukog iya pagdumot. I hope one day we two can talk like before when we were still close friends. I included him in my prayers.”
Caraga News Courier tried to reach Mayor Lagnada for comment but he has yet to issue a statement as of posting time.
During May 2016 polls, Amante, who ran under Liberal Party and Lagnada under Nationalista Party fought toe to toe in a hotly contested election.
In a separate interview over Bombo Radyo also on Saturday, Amante wondered why the complainant not from Butuan but a politician from Marinduque lodged the complaint before Ombudsman at the height of campaign in last May 2016 elections, or four years after the Novo fire incident that happened in May 9, 2012.
The former mayor also lamented the so-called “media hype” on the Ombudsman’s ruling, hinting someone moneyed and powerful was behind it.
On Thursday (Nov.2), the Office of the Ombudsman has indicted Amante, former licensing officer Paul Cabrera and then acting city fire marshal Alric Gomez for issuing a business permit to Novo Jeans and Shirts Enterprises that turned out to be a noncompliant in the fire safety code and lacked a fire safety inspection certificate (FSIC) months prior to the May 2012 tragedy.
As an administrative liabilities, Amante and Cabrera were meted out a lifetime ban from holding public office as they were found guilty of gross neglect of duty. The two were also ordered to pay a fine equivalent to a year’s salary.
The Ombudsman’s media bureau said that there was probable cause to indict the officials for one count of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Ombudsman investigators alleged that Amante on Feb. 15, 2012, three months before the tragedy, issued a business permit to Novo upon Cabrera’s recommendation despite the lack of an FSIC.
The establishment was given a 30-day period to submit the necessary documents but failed to do so. Despite its failure to meet that deadline, the city still failed to shut down the garments store and revoke its business permit, Ombudsman investigators said.
The pre-dawn blaze which gutted the establishment along Montilla Boulevard, claimed the lives of 17 workers, most of whom were women who were asleep and trapped on the top floor.