Solons berate PNP, PAGCOR, Resorts World for supposed lapses

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 07 2017 06:24 PM

Solons berate PNP, PAGCOR, Resorts World for supposed lapses 1
Photo by Fernando Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Inside a packed lounge across the street from Resorts World Manila, leaders and members of the House of Representatives took turns in castigating representatives from the Philippine National Police, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, and Resorts World Manila for Friday's deadly attack at the casino. 

During the House of Representatives' probe, Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo pointed out the victims did not die from gunshots or the blaze but from suffocation from smoke inhalation. Castelo said Resorts World should have had a smoke extraction mechanism.

House leaders and members also zeroed in on the lapses in security and fire safety in Resorts World.

But Resorts World Manila President and CEO Kingson Sian maintained that the facility's sprinklers went off in a timely manner and that their protocols during fires were implemented. 

He also said there were sufficient fire exits and that over 12,000 guests and employees were able to safely leave the building.

Lawmakers issued a subpoena duces tecum compelling Resorts World to submit CCTV footage of the premises from May 31 to June 3, partly upon the request of Pampanga 3rd District Rep. Aurelio "Dong" Gonzales whose wife Elizabeth, died in the incident.

Reviewing the CCTV footage during the hearing, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas pointed out that Resorts World security should have engaged suspect Jessie Carlos at the stairwell but instead ran away. 

Fariñas also noted that the CCTV showed that security personnel on duty during the incident had been wearing slippers.

Armeen Basister Gomez, Chief Safety and Security Officer of Resorts World, explained that the security personnel was in slippers because he was already about to go home. Gomez also defended security personnel and insisted they did their best to fight the attacker. 

But Farinas hit Gomez for supposedly failing to properly coordinate with the PNP that there was a second CCTV monitoring room at the Remington Hotel that could have been used to watch movements in the area. 

Fariñas also hit National Capital region Police chief, Director Oscar Albayalde for failing to be proactive enough to ask about any other CCTV monitoring area. 

House leaders also zeroed in on PAGCOR's supposed failure to immediately suspend the operations of Resorts World after the attack. 

This, after PAGCOR admitted they initially found that Resorts World Manila violated a provision in their franchise that required them to follow PAGCOR security advisories. 

PAGCOR chief Andrea Domingo said casinos nationwide were asked to implement tougher security measures, increase security preparedness and follow applicable city ordinances and rules of government agencies on curfew.

Domingo said that from their assessment, there was a lack of security in the main entrance, and that PAGCOR should establish who ordered a lockdown of the premises and disallowed firetrucks from coming in.

Domingo also wanted to know why it took authorities three hours to get Carlos.

"I'm looking at these situations so I will know the answer, I'm looking into these, the answers will pinpoint the responsibilities," she said.

Albayalde admitted he ordered a lockdown of the premises but maintained he did not prevent fire safety personnel from coming in.

Domingo said previous PAGCOR boards did not require the submission of security plans as well as fire prevention plans as requirements for the issuance of a license.

When asked whether PAGCOR suspended the franchise of Resorts World Manila, Domingo explained that the company suspended all operations on their own.

This prompted a rebuff from Fariñas, who felt that PAGCOR should have immediately suspended the license.

Domingo, whose agency supervises and issues permits to casinos, explained that under the terms of the provisional authority to operate, due process gives the operator 60 days before their authority can be suspended.