Resorts World gunman: Gov’t worker sacked for unexplained wealth

Lian Buan

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Resorts World gunman: Gov’t worker sacked for unexplained wealth
Jessie Carlos' wealth ballooned while he was in government. But he also incurred millions of pesos in debt, said authorities, due to his gambling addiction.

MANILA, Philippines – Jessie Carlos, identified by police as the lone gunman in the deadly attack at Resorts World Manila, was a former tax specialist at the Department of Finance (DOF) who faced a case before the Ombudsman for alleged ill-gotten wealth.

From 2000 to 2010, his assets jumped by more than P9 million but he also incurred liabilities of more than P7 million.

The Office of the Ombudsman in 2012 found Carlos guilty of grave misconduct and grave neglect of duty for the underdeclaration of his wealth in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN). The Ombudsman dismissed him in 2014.

The Ombudsman said that because there was a huge increase in Carlos’ wealth over a 10-year period disproportionate to his salary as a DOF tax specialist and because of “his alleged failure to declare them,” his wealth was considered ill-gotten.

Carlos appealed this decision before the Court of Appeals (CA). In 2015, the CA Special 17th Division reversed the Ombudsman’s decision but still found Carlos guilty of dishonesty and upheld his dismissal from service.

Unexplained wealth

Carlos started at the DOF in 2000 as a contractual Tax Specialist II at the department’s OneStop Shop Tax Credit and Duty Drawback Center with an annual gross salary of P152,004. By 2011, his annual gross income had increased to P210,480.

By calculation, he started with an estimated P12,600 monthly salary which increased by almost P5,000 to P17,500 after 11 years. Case records also show Carlos started as a contractual employee and was only regularized by the DOF in 2005, or 5 years of his contract being renewed by the DOF every 6 months.

It was the DOF which filed a case against Carlos in 2011, prompting the lifestyle check by the Ombudsman. Among the assets found to be misdeclared in Carlos’ SALN were:

  1. house and lot in Tondo acquired in 2003 for P1.1 million (only declared in 2008 SALN)
  2. Toyota Innova acquired through a loan in 2007 for P973,000 (only declared in 2008 SALN)
  3. wife’s business interest in Armset Trading

Aside from the misdeclaration, the DOF also tagged some of Carlos’ assets as “unexplained wealth” because it was disproportionate to his monthly salary of P12,000 to P17,000. Case records show the DOF said Carlos “obtained dubious loans to cover up the gains in his assets from 2008 to 2010.” These were:

  1. personal loans of P4 million and P5 million in 2008 and 2010 respectively, and car loans for his P973,000 Toyota Innova and P1.6 million Hyundai Starex, also in 2008 and 2010 respectively
  2. house and lot in Sta Cruz, Manila with a Deed of Sale dated 2008 for P3 million
  3. two farm lots in Tanauan, Batangas with Deeds of Sale dated 2010 for P4 million paid in cash
  4. credit card debts from P200,000 in 2006 to P600,000 in succeeding years

Carlos’ explanation

Carlos argued that he only declared his Innova in 2007 because that was only when it was fully paid. He said he sold the vehicle in 2010 and removed it from his SALN thereafter. Carlos added that he did not declare his wife’s business interest because the firm was not operating at the time.

The Ombudsman was not satisfied by this explanation, however, and in dismissing him in 2014 raised more questions: “(1) How was he able to pay these loans and obtain some more when he has no other business interest or financial connections declared in his SALNs from 2000 to 2010? (2) Who are his creditors who can lend him millions of pesos without him paying any single centavo for years?”

The Ombudsman even indicted Carlos for the criminal charges of graft, violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, falsification, and perjury.

These are the increases in Carlos’ wealth based on case records, which also shows huge jumps in liabilities:

 Screenshot from case records at the Court of Appeals

According to the CA, “it is incomprehensible how he could have acquired his undeclared assets on top of paying his taxes and living expenses.”

Carlos’ unit at the DOF, the One-Stop Shop Tax Credit and Duty Drawback Center, had been tainted with the tax scam of the 1990s where officials conspired with company executives to illegally acquire tax credit certificates (TCCs).

However, we now know that Carlos had a big gambling problem, with the police revealing that he had sold his car and Batangas property to finance his addiction. (READ: Terrorism and ISIS at Resorts World attack?)

Carlos – identified as a “high roller” who usually placed a minimum bet of P40,000 – is said to have P4 million in debt with banks, plus an undisclosed amount of non-bank-related debts.

The CA upheld his dismissal on October 27, 2015.

Last Friday, June 2, police said Carlos barged into Resorts World Manila, where he fired shots and set gaming tables ablaze, before burning himself to death a few hours later. Police have ruled out terrorism in the attack. (READ: Palace suspects negligence by Resorts World Manila)

Smoke from the fires triggered by Carlos killed 36 people, who were trapped and suffocated inside the casino complex. President Rodrigo Duterte has said Resorts World Manila must explain why the victims were unable to leave immediately. (READ: From relief to despair: Brother of Resorts World victim recalls fretful wait

Carlos’ father Fernando confirmed his son was in financial trouble but said Carlos was not mentally ill. Carlos’ mother Teodora asked for forgiveness from the families of the victims, saying that their family is also a victim in the incident. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.