House opens probe of Resorts World carnage

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Resource persons take their oaths at the start of the House hearing on the Resorts World tragedy. (photo by Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, InterAksyon)

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 3 – 9:55 a.m.) Three committees of the House of Representatives opened Wednesday morning an inquiry into last week’s deadly rampage at the Resorts World Manila, where 38 persons, including what authorities said was a gambling-addicted gunman, died.

The hearing by public order and safety chaired by Representative Reynaldo Acop, games and amusement (Rep. Gus Tabunting), and tourism (Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez) committees held the inquiry at the Ninoy International Airport Terminal 3, just across the hotel and casino complex, to make it easy for them to inspect the scene of the carnage if needed.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and other leaders of the House were among some two dozen lawmakers who attended the hearing.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (green shirt) and Majority Leader Rudy Farinas (blue shirt) at the Resorts World hearing. (photo by Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, InterAksyon)

The panels have invited 34 guests, including top officials of the Department of Interior and Local Government, Philippine National Police, Resorts World, Pasay City, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, as well as witnesses to the incident.

The tragedy happened when Jessie Javier Carlos, a former employee of the Department of Finance who authorities said had incurred huge debts from gambling, walked into the Resorts World with an assault rifle and containers of fuel.

Carlos fired shots in the air, sending hotel patrons and staff into a panic then set fire to gaming tables and slot machines at the casino before he killed himself on the fifth floor after being wounded in a shootout with hotel security. The 37 other fatalities died of smoke suffocation, authorities said.

The House inquiry hopes to come up with measures to prevent a recurrence of the incident.

In his opening statement, Acop said: “This unfortunate incident left many questions that need answers … While the police (have) dismissed the terrorism angle, the circumstances surrounding the incident demonstrates our vulnerability to terrorist attack.”

Tambunting, on the other hand, said “there’s a need to address gambling addiction.”