MANILA, Philippines – The smell of burnt objects continued to waft through the second floor of the Resorts World Manila casino five days after the tragedy that killed 37 people, lawmakers who inspected the scene on Wednesday said.
“Grabe, mahigit sa kalahati ng second floor nasunog. Maamoy mo pa iyong fumes [More than half of the second floor was burned. You could still smell the fumes],” Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano said.
Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said, “my heart aches and breaks by what I saw there.”
The victims – guests and employees – died through suffocation after a lone gunman fired indiscriminately and set gambling tables ablaze, causing a huge fire that gutted more than half of the second floor.
The gunman, later identified as dismissed Department of Finance employee Jessie Javier Carlos, reportedly shot himself and then burned himself to death. Police found his charred remains at Room 510 of the adjoining Maxim’s Hotel.
At the House of Representatives hearing conducted Wednesday at the NAIA Terminal 3 across Resorts World where the lawmakers conducted the inspection later, Fariñas and several other lawmakers pinned the blame on Armeen Gomez, Resorts World chief security, for failing to respond appropriately to the crisis situation.
“Kasalanan mo ‘yan [It’s your fault],” Farinas said to Gomez. He later on apologized to the Resorts World officials for being “passionate” about the matter.
He said that “any decent man will be enraged” knowing how the innocent victims died of the smoke, without receiving any attention.
The congressional inquiry was initiated by three committees of the House — public order, games and amusement, and tourism — to find out why the tragic incident happened.
During the hearing, the lawmakers quizzed Resorts World officials led by its president, Kingson Sian, and chief operations officer, Stephen Reilly, and Gomez about the building’s fire exits, sprinklers and other facilities in place in case of fire.
Reilly reported that there are 13 fire exits at the second floor, nine of which are in the gaming area. He also said that the sprinklers were working when the fire happened.
‘No crisis management’
Zamboanga Representative Celso Lobregat observed that “there was not just a lack of communication, there was no crisis management.”
Pressed to reveal his education background, Gomez admitted that he dropped out of the Philippine Military Academy and failed to finish college.
“The security lapses were the results of hiring an ineligible security officer,” Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop said.
The Resorts World officials said the fire was aggravated when the BMW car displayed on the second floor as a casino prize exploded. It reportedly contained a few liters of gasoline.
Earlier on Sunday, police presented a witness, a gas station attendant from whom Carlos bought two 1.5-liter containers of gasoline that he doused on the gaming tables and slot machines.
Hotel officials were able to evacuate more than 12,000 guests and employees amid the panic that ensued after the gunman shot the ceiling and set on fire gaming tables, creating panic among the people.
All of the fatalities were found on the second floor, including some who sought refuge inside a comfort room. One of those who died was the wife of Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales.
A total of 54 people were injured in the stampede.
Sian said that the family of each fatality will receive P1 million, while those injured will receive P500,000. Resorts World will also set up an educational foundation to assist the children of the victims.
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