• Claims that IS attacked Resorts World covering up management negligence

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    RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

    RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

    THE death from asphyxiation of 37 people, triggered by the attack by a lone gunman at the Resorts World Manila Friday, is our worst fire tragedy since 1996 when a conflagration at a disco called Ozone killed 162 people.

    It has severely tarnished the country’s image, with reports, mainly pursued by the online news site Rappler and the Doha-based TV al-Jazeera that it was a “lone-wolf” attack by an Islamic State (IS) adherent. Occurring on the heels of the attack on Marawi City by verified IS-linked gunmen, that fake news has had some traction.

    If the lone gunman was a jihadist, he certainly wasn’t an adherent of the belief which motivates many such terrorists: that if the mujahid kills an infidel and is killed, he will be rewarded in Paradise with 72 virgins. He shot with his assault rifle not a single person in the hour that he roamed the casino complex unchallenged. Instead, he fired his gun at the ceiling, to scare people away, the usual behavior of bank robbers.

    Very strangely, he poured gasoline on the baccarat tables and set them on fire. Is it too far-fetched to believe that he was really pouring his anger on the gambling table where he lost his shirt? This is a strange jihadist, who knew where the casino kept its gambling chips, forced its doors open, and stole the most expensive gambling chips, equivalent to P130 million. I don’t think he believed he could cash the chips in Jannah, Islam’s notion of an after-life heaven.

    The attacker was shot, and retreated to a hotel room. It’s not too far-fetched to imagine the following scenario: He realized how stupid his plot to rob the casino was, and decided to kill himself, setting himself on fire with the gasoline he used to scorch the gambling tables, in order to conceal his identity, and save his family from humiliation. Before he died, he certainly didn’t know that there were 37 people killed in the wake of the fire he started.

    Screen shots from CCTV show hotel security startled by gunman and running Away.

    Professional journalists do not just believe any report they come across. The news site Rappler.com, in its article entitled “ISIS claims Resorts World Manila,” said this was according to the “communique of the ISIS East Asia division”. The news site didn’t find it odd that the “communique” reported that the IS man ”killed and wounded nearly 100 Christian combatants”. The 37 killed at Resorts World of course weren’t combatants, and none of them was even a security guard. They were casino employees and guests, many of whom probably were merely fleeing the heat of the city.

    ‘Abu Khair al Luzonee’
    Rappler’s editor-in-chief Maria Ressa claimed the gunman was an IS adherent named “Abu Khair al Luzonee”. “Al-Luzonee,” as in Luzon island? The lady didn’t get it. (A more credible IS news site is Almasdar News, which even backed up its reports that it was IS-linked groups that attacked Marawi with photos of the fighters, one even showing them raising their rifles atop a destroyed armored personnel carrier.)

    That the Resorts World attack was by an IS militant was obviously the kind of fake news one reads every day in Facebook. These over-eager IS social-media activists though are devious: How can the killed gunman deny that he was an IS fighter?

    However, the claim that it was an IS attack, is a huge distraction from the task of implementing our laws, and getting justice for the 37 victims, as it serves to cover up Resorts World Manila’s negligence that could even be criminal.

    The most obvious instance of negligence is Resorts Worlds’ total failure to stop a man in combat attire with an assault rifle, and carrying two huge sinister-looking military-style duffel bags.. This is a especially huge lapse in security, considering that the metropolis has been on a high security alert status in the wake of reports that the IS-linked groups would attempt an attack in Manila to distract government forces away from Marawi.

    The CCTV footage showed the gunman bypassed the metal detector at the entrance. After walking with him asking him to go through the metal detector, the female security guard ran away terrified. What’s the use of a security at the entrances if armed men cannot be stopped there?

    Resorts World Manila chief security officer Armeen Gomez claimed that “security personnel attempted to stop him, but the assailant managed to overpower the security.” The CCTV footage shows that he is lying. There was only one security guard at the entrance, an unarmed female. The assailant “overpowered” the female security guard by just staring at her.

    Entrances to malls and five-star hotels have typically at least four security people, routinely with sniffer guard dogs. Resorts World had only one unarmed security guard, a female. Was it scrimping on costs?

    Sprinkler system?
    The attacker doused four gaming tables with gasoline and lit them. Resorts World Manila’s chief operating officer Stephen Reilly claimed that the hotel-casino’s “fire safety equipment worked as it should do and the sprinkler system activated.” The CCTV footage showed no water or fire-extinguishing chemicals showering on the game room nor any other place in the casino complex.

    Reilly made an asinine statement: “The issue we actually had was with smoke, not with fire. Unfortunately, those victims suffered from smoke inhalation. There is proper ventilation within the property. Unfortunately, a lot of it was a degree of panic.” Isn’t the function of sprinklers to put out the fire, and with no more fire, there is no more smoke? The 37 victims died because they panicked?

    If there were sprinklers, how could smoke have spread so much as to reach even toilets far from the fire, where several victims were found? How on earth were the 37 people killed unable to exit the casino?

    Resorts World Manila owners Tan and Malaysian Genting Group chairman Lim

    Didn’t it have proper exits with brightly lit signs? Could the hotel-casino have been really a fire-trap, with a layout that precluded an orderly swift evacuation in case of a fire, especially since, as Reilly claimed, there were 12,000 guests that tragic night? Aren’t there limits to how many guests a public establishment can have at any one time?

    Quite eerily, the CCTV footage showed the gunman throughout the episode calmly and slowly walking, as if he were just a patron in the casino. The gunman entered the casino at 12:11 a.m., and the terrified lone security guard immediately called for help over her radio.

    The Resorts World chief security reported that the “security team” found the gunman and exchanged fire with the gunman at 1:10 a.m.. Even with CCTV covering practically every nook and cranny of the complex, it took them one hour to find the gunman? “Exchanged fire?” What the footage showed was that a security guard with an assault rifle was startled and ran away after seeing the gunman, who ran after him but stopped at the doorway, firing.

    If the gunman was a terrorist, he would have in that one hour shot everyone he saw, killing more than a hundred “infidels”.

    No breach, no tragedy
    National Security Adviser Roilo Golez pointed out in his lengthy Facebook post: “The better exercise is to focus on how a gunman with a long assault rifle and a container of gasoline was able to breach the hotel’s security. Without that breach, there would have been no tragedy. Perhaps that crazed man would just have vented his rage somewhere else less deadly.”

    All this talk that it was an IS attack is a distraction from what seems to be obvious: It was to a great extent a repeat of the Ozone Disco tragedy in 1996. Because that disco had not enough sprinklers, had defective fire extinguishers, and an exit that swung inward, 162 mostly young people were killed by smoke asphyxiation. That’s roughly what also happened to 37 Resorts World guests and employees.

    I thought it was a quantum leap in our justice system under President Ramos’ watch: cases of criminal negligence were filed, and after six years of trial, the president of Westwood Entertainment that operated the disco and its owner were found guilty of criminal negligence by a Quezon City trial court and sentenced to a four-year prison term, and fined P25 million each.

    It would be a national shame, and a demonstration that we are a country totally ruled by big business, if there is no thorough investigation to determine whether Resorts World Manila was negligent in its security and fire-response systems that led to the death of 37 people

    Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr, whose wife, Elizabeth, was tragically one of the 37 who perished in the incident, should demand that Congress undertake an investigation, if only to prevent such tragedies due to negligence. If an investigation would lead to laws that would make big businesses extremely punctilious in ensuring their guests’ safety, her death would not be in vain.

    Resorts World Manila is a joint venture of property and alcohol billionaire Andrew Tan, Forbes’ magazine’s 10th richest tycoon in the country, and the Malaysian-based Genting Group, mostly owned by Lim Kok Thay, Malaysia’s 6th richest.

    For such a tragedy that occurred in his casino, Tan hasn’t even bothered to appear in public, to express condolence to the families of the 37 killed, and apologize for whatever lapses his people may have committed that led to the disaster.

    The Duterte administration will be negligent if doesn’t investigate thoroughly how the 37 people were killed, and to seek justice for them if it is proven they died because of Resorts World’s negligence. We have had enough of big businesses washing their hands of whatever damage, death, and tarnishing of the country’s image resulting from their enterprises’ lust for profits, whether these be mining firms, bus companies, and media outfits..

    Email:tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
    Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao
    Twitter: @bobitiglao

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    23 Comments

    1. “How on earth were the 37 people killed unable to exit the casino?”

      Putting myself in their shoes, its possible that these 37 or at least more than half of them, were probably aware of the gunman. A gunman is different from a fire or an earthquake. There is no preplanned fire escape and the attacker can be at the fire exists himself, waiting for his victims. A good reason for them to be located at the CR is because its most likely the perceived safest spot of not getting hit by stray bullets, or maybe its simply the easiest place to hide. When you are scared and if the situation is not what you practiced (i mean, how many of us practice Terrorist/Gunman Drills?) you will end up thinking of the what is safest at the moment, even with its not.

      Im still angry at Resort’s World poor security. I understand they feared for their life, but i had imagined better coordination from the CCTV team and the armed security. There were plenty of opportunities to ambush the gunman. Something must have gone wrong with the communication between CCTV and security during the attack.

      Also when i saw the CCTV videos, there was no indication of sprinklers at all (correct me if im wrong pls) which probably led to the fire spreading.

    2. We should accept the reality that there are different kinds of evil. May it be in a
      Form of terrorists or a deranged
      Gambler who hit lower than rock
      Bottom. Guards should be armed, you can not fight evil
      With flashlights
      And chopstick looking search thingimajigs.

      The answer to why there is only a single female
      Guard
      At the entrance was already pointed
      Out by Mr.Tiglao, its
      Just cost
      Cutting.

    3. Gary Lockwood on

      Thank you for pointing this out in your column, Mr. Tiglao. At this point, Megaworld will be probably contacting every publisher to book four page ads in the newspapers to shut them up. I hope the Manila Times doesn’t bite the bait.

    4. We used to hang around Resort World 2 yrs ago to watch the band and performers at 360. We noticed that the ceiling of the said establishment is too low and the exhaust system is not adequate enough to suck out the cigarettes/cigar smoke. The same is the observation on the second floor of the gaming area.If ur a non smoker u better go somewhere else..(other casinos)Now it happened that only a small fire caused the death of 37 people by asphyxiation. I believed the authorities should cordoned the establishment and find out who are the culprits …knowing that the said casino is owned by the billionares. Baka mag ka lagayan lang at sabihin ng agencia na ,it was an act of Gods from Olympus..

    5. pablo sanchez on

      rappler and aljazeera should also be held responsible for the deaths of the victims for disseminating false news that may cause panic and feat to the victims.

    6. Erwin Briones on

      This is also the fault of the Bureau of Fire Protection, since they did not inspect the sprinkler and smoke exhaust systems of the casino. They should regularly inspect such establishments.

    7. A few years ago at RW, I was about to board one of the two taxis that were dropping off their passengers at the main entrance when the guard told me it was prohibited to take a cab in this area and that I should wait for one at the other end of the building. I was about to walk to where he pointed me to go when a Caucasian stepped out of the building and boarded one of the taxis in front of me. The guard didn’t stop him. I was so angered at the guard I told him what kind of a person his mother is and took the second taxi. I vowed never to return to that place.

    8. Obviously, this is security lapses! This must be investigated and punished those responsible.

    9. Inept and stupid security details of Resorts world, that’s it! With so many guards and personnel, no one was able to tackle or even shoot the gunman. The gunman out of boredom just decided to take his own life since everyone from the security of the hotel are so scared hiding and running away.

    10. Indeed, offering a paltry one million pesos for the family of every deceased is an insult. Twenty Million will still be coffee money. Why not a class suit and sue them for Ten Billion Pesos, at least?

    11. batangsulpok on

      The casino is still new and should have the latest alarm and water sprinkler system that automatically works when it sense smoke or fire, what happened?

    12. Today I totally agree with you on practically all points you raised.

      But I do hope that you Mr. Tiglao and other idealistic journalists will exert a lot of effort in exhorting the rich to moderate or is it to drastically reduce their greed. There is a lot of money now in our country but most of it is floating up in the air in the playgrounds of the high and mighty.

      All these is mainly due to the “UNLI” practice of taking profits of businesses in our country.

      People like Andrew Tan are earning billions practically every month. But are these people being fair to their own employees, to the community around them in particular and to Filipino society in general?

      The ultimate question to all businessmen I think is. Do they deserve the billions that they get from excessive profits? And if not how many deserve to be punished and sent to jail?

    13. As per Building Codes, Laws, Rules, Regulations, Requirements (both Local/International) from Bureau of Fire – all public bldgs and business/commercial establishments must have provisions for Fire Protection, Suppresion and Detection System.

      FIRE EXIT STAIRWAY
      (Smoke Free Enclosure)

      In addition to Fire Rated (2-3HR min.) Walls, Panic Door Latch (swing-out), Emergency lights and Exit Light, it also should be “smoke free enclosure” – equipped w/ pressurization system and must have an Airlock w/ 2-sets of fire rated Steel door to prevent entry of Carbon monoxide or any harmful gas.

      • jun locayon on

        HVAC should also have shutdown automatically upon activation of fire/smoke detection system to prevent smoke from spreading to other rooms via air duct.
        Activation of fire alarm should have initiated immediate personnel evacuation to designated assembly area.
        Was there any effort on scene from local fire department for rescue operation using their breathing apparatus?

    14. I only hope to have a proper inquiry and if found there is negligence to the management they should be punished in accordance with the law.

      • On the contrary, it is all about the commercial establishment’s security management. Gun men may pop time and time again, may it be ISIS or some whacked-out dude. A lone unarmed female guard manning the entrance is no match even for a woman with just a knife. RW was obviously lax with their security. With VIP personnel coming in and out of such resort, their security is nothing compared to the security provided by 7/11, an armed guard.

      • So, what do you want to know about the gunman? His life? Stupid. The point of the article is SECURITY and it is the responsibility of RW.

      • Allen Aniciete on

        i believe it can be as well…the issue with the management of RW….the concern really is safety….if there were adequate security measures present that gunman would not even gotten pass the entrance….if there were adequate safety measures in-place, not only the fire – sprinkler system, but safety officers on duty as well…those 37 would not have been fatalities…this should be a wake up call to every resort/hotel/casino personnel, as the adage says “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”… safety management is paramount in all structures…

    15. the grand economic plan is to build condos and casinos for the chinese throughout the country, destroying the environment in the process.
      if duterte wants to save the next generation he should shut the casinos, but he was largely silent about the attack. gambling addiction also kills, but duterte cannot afford to upset his backers and the future rulers.

      • And now it’s Duterte’s fault again.. hahahaha… You yellows don’t know anything except it’s somebody else’s fault..

        You people sound like your “kayo ang boss ko” boss….