Resorts World Manila COO admits 'lapses in security' during attack

MANILA, Philippines – Resorts World Manila chief operations officer (COO) Stephen Reilly admitted their security system had lapses, allowing a lone gunman to attack the hotel-casino and cause the death of 37 people.

"I say there are lapses in security. When we played the first videos, I pointed out there should have been security personnel posted on certain points and they were not present. We admit openly there were some lapses in security," said Reilly on Wednesday, June 7.

He was testifying before 3 House committees holding a joint probe into the Resorts World attack last June 2. Reilly's testimony contradicted the statement he issued the morning after the attack, where he denied any security lapse on the establishment's part. 

Lone gunman Jessie Carlos fired gunshots and set tables ablaze, leaving 36 people dead mostly due to suffocation. Carlos later set himself on fire in a hotel room.

The alleged guman was a former finance department tax specialist who was deep in debt due to gambling.

Reilly's testimony was reinforced by Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) chief Andrea Domingo. (READ: House to clip Pagcor powers after Resorts World attack)

She said Resorts World violated Pagcor's latest advisory to increase security measures because there was a lack of adequate security personnel manning the casino-hotel's entrance and parking lots. 

Lawmakers also grilled Resorts World chief security officer Armeen Gomez over his educational background during the House probe.

Resorts World president Kingson Sian, however, said they still managed to activate 24 members of their emergency protocol team. The team – composed of 7 people for fire safety, 8 for emergency medical services, and 9 security personnel – helped in the evacuation of 12,100 guests and employees.

He also said the building had 13 fire exits on the second floor. Nine of these exits were in the gaming area, where Carlos committed arson.

CCTV footage from Resorts World also showed their sprinkers worked as soon as Carlos set the casino tables on fire. But the Bureau of Fire Protection already said these were not enough to save the victims.

Around 10 lawmakers, led by Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, also conducted an ocular inspection at the Resorts World while the hearing was ongoing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 from across the street. The media was barred from joining them.

Death due to fear of gunfire

According to Sian, the 36 victims died because they were afraid to be caught in the gunfire between Carlos and the hotel security.

"It's very unfortunate that there were fatalities.... What complicated the matter was not the fire, but the gunfire which struck fear," said Sian when asked by ABS Representative Eugene de Vera why the victims perished.

"It's usually the normal reaction from people that whenever there's a fire, they run away from it. In this case, they didn't leave the rooms because of fear," said Sian.

He explained the gunman had also left behind a bag of bullets to supposedly give the impression that he had accomplices.

"In fact, we showed you that bag of bullets on the table beside the room where a lot of people perished to give the impression there were many gunmen. Even while the gunman was away from the area, the bullets were firing by themselves," he said in Filipino.

BFP officials said most of the smoke came from the burned seat foams of the hotel-casino.

A BMW on display at the second floor also exploded, further increasing the smoke inside Resorts World during the attack.

"Apparently, the tank exploded, which we confirmed has around 10 liters of fuel. It exploded and there are pictures that can show you the wheels melted. Remember, tires produce a lot of toxic fumes that added to the smoke,” said Sian. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives 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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