THE arson investigator tasked by the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) to investigate the circumstances surrounding the fire that razed to the ground the security warehouse of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) last June 1 has disputed the latter’s claim that it was due to ‘faulty electrical wiring.’
BFP Manila District arson investigator, SFO3 Sonny Lacuban, in a talk with this writer, expressed surprise on learning that the BoC, thru its press statement last June 2 and which was carried by most media outlets (except People’s Tonight) claimed that faulty electrical wiring “triggered” the fire.
The BOC released the statement past 12 noon of June 2 even as the BFP is yet to declare a ‘fire out’ which they only did past 6 p.m. The fire started past 9 p.m. of June 1.
“The BFP is yet to start its investigation and yet, the BoC has already made its own conclusion,” said waterfront sources who declined to be named.
Lacuban, who has been with the BFP for almost 20 years now, confirmed that as of this writing, the fire remains “under investigation” by their office.
He also refuted that faulty electrical wiring, as claimed by the BoC, was the cause of the fire. He noted that based on their “SOP” (standard operating procedure), ‘faulty electrical wiring’ has long been dropped as a cause of a fire incident.
The veteran arson investigator bared further their investigation is being hampered by the BoC’s continued inability to comply with their “LOI” (letter of invitation) tasking the BoC to submit, among others, the inventory of all the goods stored at the warehouse prior to the fire.
“May ipinadala na kaming LOI pero hanggang ngayon, wala pa kaming natatanggap na sagot (from the BoC),” he said.
Lacuban also said they have not even started questioning “potential witnesses” who can shed light on the circumstances surrounding the conflagration thus preventing the BFP from making any conclusion as to its cause.
Waterfront sources averred that the BoC’s version of the incident is “grossly premature, misleading and leading to obstruction of the still ongoing arson investigation by the Bureau of Fire Protection.”
They added that the BoC is not in “any position” to state what was the immediate cause of the fire, a position shared by Lacuban. “Ang BFP lang ang may awtoridad na magsabi kung ano ang pinagsimulan ng isang sunog,” he added.
“As usual, Comm. Faeldon is again possibly shielding his appointees from any possible responsibility and possible investigation as only they have direct access to Warehouse 159,” the sources averred further.
The sources are referring to Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) 31-2016 dated December 1, 2016, signed by Faeldon regarding the ‘security control of block 159 warehouse.’
In this memo, Faeldon specifically tasked his ‘Special Studies and Project Development Committee (SSPDC) “to oversee the custody and assume security control of the seized cargoes and shipments” being stored at the warehouse located just in front of the main BoC office at the Port of Manila.
Members of the SSPDC mostly came from the ranks of the ‘Grupong Magdalo’ brought into the bureau by Faeldon when he assumed the top customs post last year.
In a talk by this writer with several residents in the area, they confirmed that “several men,” purportedly from the SSPDC, were inside the warehouse, hours before the fire started.
“May mga dumating na tao d’yan, mayroon silang inilabas, mayroon din silang mga ipinasok na mga kargamento bago nangyari ang sunog,” they added.