House grills Resorts World Manila officials for security lapses
Officials and security team of Resorts World Manila were put in a corner after House of Representatives members scored their security lapses that allowed gunman Jessie Javier Carlos to barge into the casino with a rifle and torch the casino tables.
During the House probe on the attack Friday midnight that left 38 people dead including the gunman, Resorts World Manila President Kingson Sian dispelled reports that the casino management had lapses in its evacuation.
He noted that the sprinklers activated when the gunman torched the casino tables, and that there were enough fire exits for the evacuation.
Siang said there was “orderly evacuation” of around 12,100 guests and employees when the attack happened, adding that there were 13 fire exits on the second floor, nine of which were in the gaming area.
Sian said the CCTV cameras of the casino failed after 30 minutes due to the heat and fumes from the torched casino tables.
Despite this, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) chairperson Andrea Domingo said the casino management failed to implement Pagcor’s security advisory on the issuance of provisional licenses.
Domingo said the casino clearly did not have enough security personnel at the entrances to the hotel. The police earlier said there was only one security guard at the entrance because it was already graveyard shift.
“From our assessment, there was really lack of security at the entrance and parking lots of Resorts World Manila, because there’s hardly any presence in the area of adequate and competent and properly equipped personnel,” Domingo said.
“Even inside the elevator, this person (Carlos) is already putting his mask, already putting his bonnet. And they were able to monitor that. I think there are no ifs and buts about it. Talagang kulang ang security dun sa papunta ng hotel (The hotel’s security is really lacking),” Domingo said.
Domingo said questions remained about the events that unfolded between Friday midnight when he launched the attack, and 6 a.m. when the police identified the self-immolated body of Carlos inside a hotel room.
Resorts World Manila chief operating officer Stephen James Reilly admitted that the casino had serious lapses in its security when the gunman barged in for the attack.
“I say there’s 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,” Reilly admitted before the lawmakers.
Majority leader Rudy Fariñas meanwhile took issue on the qualification of Resorts World safety security and surveillance office chief Armeen Gomez, whom Fariñas chided for being discharged from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) due to personal reasons.
Gomez said he was a member of the PMA but he failed subjects that resulted in his being dishonorably discharged.
Gomez said the gunman was able to barge in the casino with his rifle and ammunition because he was able to overpower the security guard at the entrance.
To which Fariñas said: “There was one malefactor and you felt it was a superior force against your 200 (security personnel)?”
Nimfa Lanting, the general manager and owner of Resorts World Manila’s security agency NC Lanting Security Specialist Agency, said there was only one lady guard during graveyard shift in accordance with the contract of service.
“Naku po. May entrance, isa lang ang naka-duty. How can he possibly enforce security, ma’am? Mr. Gomez, iisa ang security, babae pa, walang baril,” Fariñas said.
(Oh, no. Only one person on duty at the entrance. How can he possibly enforce security, ma’am? Mr. Gomez, only one security guard, a woman without a gun.)
Public order and safety committee chairperson Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop continued Fariñas’ line of questioning, but Gomez refused to answer directly whether or not he had a college degree since he was dishonorably discharged.
When Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez threatened him that he may be cited in contempt, Gomez finally admitted he does not have a college degree.
Fariñas also chided one security personnel who was caught on CCTV running away from the door of the stairwell as Carlos came running up to him at the doorway.
“Siya ‘yung tumakbo. Nakita niyo he has superior position, narinig niya dumating, tumakbo siya eh. Mas magaling pa napanood kong nag-a-airsoft eh,” Fariñas said.
(He was the one who ran. You can see he has superior position, he heard the gunman coming, but he ran away. I’ve seen people who play airsoft who are better than him.)
Resorts World Manila chief operating officer Stephen James Reilly backed up his security team members whose qualifications were being questioned by the majority leader.
“Please understand Mr. Gomez is not just one man. Behind him are other professional and security team,” Reilly said.
Tourism committee chairperson Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres Gomez lamented the lack of urgency in responding to the people who suffocated in the smoke.
Sian admitted that the victims could not be seen in the cameras because the CCTV failed due to the heat and smoke.
“We did not see the locations of most of the deceased. We’re not able to see their locations because of the fumes that clouded the view. Within a certain period of time, the cameras are already failing. When they walked in the gaming salon, there was no body there. They hid in a very small pantry, apparently,” Sian said.
“The fact being the case, it seems obvious there were lapses in security protocol,” Gomez said.
During the casino attack last Friday midnight, Carlos barged in the casino carrying a rifle and fired shots.
He went on to torch casino tables and steal P113.1-million worth of casino chips.
As security was in hot pursuit, Carlos holed himself up inside a hotel room in Resorts World, and then shot and burned himself to death.
The police have deemed the attack as a robbery instead of a terroristic act even though the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
Carlos, a former tax specialist at the Department of Finance, was dismissed by the Ombudsman for alleged ill-gotten wealth and faced a forfeiture case before the Manila Regional Trial Court.
The police had described him as a gambling addict who was banned from all casinos and was in deep debt before he carried out the attack.
His parents have apologized to the victims, calling their son a kind man but addicted to gambling.
The police have decried Resort World’s failure to implement its security plan, adding that there was only one security guard in the entrance for the graveyard shift at the time of the attack. JE
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