MANILA - The wife of Pampanga Rep. Aurelio "Dong" Gonzales lost thousands of pesos worth of valuables during the June 2 arson attack on Resorts World Manila in Pasay, a lawmaker said Wednesday.
Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said the Rolex watch, jewelry, credit cards and ATM cards of Mrs. Elizabeth Gonzales went missing after the shooting incident involving a lone gunman last June 2.
Gonzales was among 37 victims who suffocated during the attack after the gunman set fire to gambling tables in the casino.
The suspect, Jessie Carlos, died after shooting himself on the 5th floor of Maxims Hotel.
During Wednesday's hearing at the House of Representatives, Pimentel said P25,000 was withdrawn from the bank accounts of Mrs. Gonzales 3 days after her death.
Pimentel asked Resorts World president Kingson Sian if they have also lost belongings or cash.
Sian said casino officials have not yet retaken control of parts of Resorts World, which are still deemed as crime scenes.
Director Oscar Albayalde, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office, said personal belongings of the victims were taken by investigators. The items will be returned eventually to the victims' families, he said.
AID FOR VICTIMS
During the hearing, David Chua Ming Huat, chairperson of Resorts World Manila's biggest stockholder, Travellers International Hotel, also extended sympathies to the families of those who perished and were injured.
Chua however maintained that the casino was also a victim of Jessie Carlos, the lone gunman who set gaming tables ablaze and attempted to steal P130 million in casino chips.
"While we grieve with the affected families, let it not be forgotten that we are victims, too. This was an attack on our home and we lost people who are dear to us," Chua said.
"We have had no time to grieve as our priority thus far has been to take care of the deceased, their families and the injured."
Sian also told lawmakers that 35 people injured in the incident have all availed of the P500,000 in financial assistance from Resort World.
The families of 31 of 37 fatalities meanwhile have also taken the P1 million in aid from the casino.
The families of six fatalities have yet to avail of the assistance as they were still grieving.
Sian said Resorts World is also funding the education of the children of the deceased.
Upon questioning by House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas, Chua also assured lawmakers that Resorts World will be better prepared to handle similar attacks in the future.
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and the Pasay local government meanwhile agreed to ensure that Resorts World is safe before it reopens.
Pagcor chairperson Andrea Domingo also revealed that though the June 2 attack has not affected business interests in local casinos, the government has already lost some P325 million in revenue contribution from Resorts World.
Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting, chairman of the House games and amusements committee, asked PAGCOR to make sure casinos are well secured through its powers to issue gaming licenses.
Tambunting also called for all casinos in the country to brief his committee about their security preparations during an executive session.
EXEC EXPLAINS RETREAT
Resorts World assistant director for security Jun Quinol meanwhile explained the CCTV footage showing that he ran away from the gunman at a stairway.
Quinol said he sought cover after seeing Carlos from a distance. He also admitted that he was wearing slippers because he had already gone home.
He said he and Bernard Cajigas, hotel security team head, returned to the casino after hearing about the attack.
Cajigas, for his part, said he sustained a gunshot wound in his torso, but he was not sure who shot him.
Pasay Police Chief Dionisio Bartolome attributed the injury to a mis-encounter, saying there were two security teams that came from opposite directions.