House panels clear Resorts World of liabilities despite 38 dead

MANILA, Philippines – Three committees of the House of Representatives are not recommending charges to be filed against Resorts World Manila following the attack of a lone gunman, who set the casino on fire, killing 38 people.

The House panels on public order and safety, games and amusements, and tourism on Tuesday, October 9, approved their joint committee report on the investigation into the attack 

While the lawmakers wrote in their report that the Resorts World management committed security lapses, they merely recommended to “exhort the RWM management to review the company’s security policies and strengthen their security and safety programs.”

“The RWM security and safety personnel must undergo more skills training and educative programs on crisis management and risk reduction. The RVM must also adhere to a stringent recruitment and hiring process of employment candidates for sensitive positions such as head security,” said the committee report.

Opposition lawmaker Tom Villarin did not agree with the committees’ recommendation, saying someone should be held accountable for the “senseless killing.”

“If there were lapses in security, there should be accountability, as dozens were killed and injured by such senseless killing spree by a lone gunman. It makes no sense to recommend ‘exhortations’ to do better next time while clear negligence was determined either by institutions or responsible persons in the incident. It does not give justice to the victims and families of the attack,” Villarin told Rappler. 

On June 2, 2017, lone gunman Jessie Carlos slipped through hotel security, fired gunshots, and set casino tables on fire in what police described as a botched robbery attempt. Most of the 38 victims died due to suffocation, while Carlos killed himself inside a hotel room after a quick shootout with security forces. 

Among the victims was the wife of Pampanga 3rd District Representative Aurelio Gonzales Jr.

What were Resorts World’s security lapses? The committee report said this was how Resorts World Manila handled the incident:

Lawmakers also took turns grilling Resorts World security chief Armeen Gomez during the probe. The committee report said Gomez “misrepresented himself and his credentials.” 

A year ago, games and amusements panel chairperson Gus Tambunting told Rappler they were eyeing to recommend the filing of charges against the hotel-casino’s management. But this did not push through.

What were the other recommendations? The 3 House panels recommended the speedy passage of the PNP reorganization and modernization bill to “enhance the operational capability of the PNP to address multiple and simultaneous crisis incident situations efficiently.” 

Lawmakers also recommend the review of the Bureau of Fire Protection and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology Professionalization Act of 2004, Government Procurement Reform Act, Private Security Agency Law, Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act, and the Special Economic Zone Act of 1995.

The legislators want to “expeditiously pass” the bill creating the tourism resiliency program under the administration of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority as well. 

The House committees also recommend requiring Pagcor to “perform its regulatory and supervisory role over its licensees” and to “exhort” it to update and strengthen  its program to address gambling addiction. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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