MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker has raised the disturbing possibility that the fatalities of the Resorts World Manila tragedy early this month may have been looted.
“Maraming looting talaga ang nangyari (There was a lot of looting that happened),” Surigao del Sur Representative Johnny Pimentel said at Wednesday’s resumption of the inquiry into the incident that left 38 people dead, including the gunman who barged into the hotel and casino complex, setting off a deadly fire and eventually killing himself.
He called on the victims’ families to report missing personal belongings.
Pimentel said he was told by Pampanga Representative Aurelio Gonzales that his wife Elizabeth, one of those who died, lost her Rolex watch, jewelry, and ATM and credit cards.
He added that he was informed that on June 5, or three days after the incident, P25,000 was withdrawn from Elizabeth Gonzales’ account through her ATM card.
“How could that be possible? Meaning, someone used the ATM, was it used to withdraw money?” Pimentel said.
“Who entered the premises of Resorts World first?” the Surigao del Sur lawmaker asked police.
Antipolo Representative Romeo Acop, chairman of the public order and safety, one of the panels conducting the inquiry, said the police had earlier said casino staff and security personnel as well as personnel of the Metro Manila Development Authority were among the first who entered the casino.
National Capital Region Police Office director Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde said as a standard operating procedure, all investigators surrender the items they retrieve from a crime scene.
Meanwhile, David Chua Ming Huat, chairman of the board of Travellers International Hotel Group Inc., which owns Resorts World Manila, called the incident “a tragic wake-up call not just for us but for the entire country.”
“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 among us,” he said in his opening statement, in which he also stressed the “need to be united so we can move forward, and work together for the common good and best interest of the Philippines, which I consider my second home.”
Chua is a Hong Kong resident.
Kingson Sian, Resorts World Manila president, said the families of 31 fatalities have received the P1 million cash assistance offered by the company.
The six other families have not claimed the money for various reasons, he added.
Meanwhile, the families of the 35 persons hospitalized because of the incident have received P500,000 each.
Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas said Resorts World should ensure the safety of patrons and the security of the casino-hotel before it resumes operation.
Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation chairperson Andrea Domingo said that with Resorts World’s temporary closure, the casino regulator is losing P325 million a month.
She also noted that the temporary closure had not increased the patrons of other casinos — Okada Manila, Solaire and City of Dreams.
“Hindi nadagdagan o nabawasan ang attendance sa tatlong casino. Iyong naglalaro sa Resorts World, parang hindi naglalaro ngayon (There has been no increase or decrease in the attendance at the three casinos. The Resorts World players are apparently not playing now),” she said.
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