PAGCOR: Resorts World may face sanctions for not following our security advisory

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 7) — The management of a hotel-casino in Pasay City was given a heads up to boost security days before the deadly attack happened but this was not heeded, gaming regulators said Wednesday.

Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) chair Andrea Domingo told a House investigation a security advisory was issued to gaming operators, including Resorts World Manila casino, on May 24 — nine days before a gunman attack tha hotel and set fire equipment at the gaming room that resulted in the death of 37 guests and employees from suffocation.

Domingo said the establishments were reminded to add precautionary security measures in the wake of terrorist activities and the martial law declaration in Mindanao.

"We issued a security advisory to all of our licensees and all gaming site operators… 'We advise you to implement the following additional precautionary measures: (1) increase security preparedness in your respective venues and properties to ensure safety to your employees, staff, and guests (2) abide by the rules and curfew in other city ordinances that may be issued by the local government and other government agencies where you are situated in connection with this latest incident,'" she said as she read the advisory.

PAGCOR is a government entity that regulates casinos, and issues the license and authority to operate.

Domingo said PAGCOR was unable to suspend Resorts World's license immediately after the incident because the hotel voluntarily suspended all operations.

She said on June 9, PAGCOR will issue "punitive measures" on Resorts World.

The PAGCOR chief noted that licenses require gaming operators to follow their security advisory.

"The violation that we know now is they did not listen to our security advisory, which they are supposed to follow according to their provisional license conditions," Domingo said.

She said it was clear in the security camera footage that the casino lacked security, especially at the mall entrance of the establishment.

Based on the video released by the casino, the lone gunman entered with two guns and liters of gasoline on June 2. He went past a security guard and a metal detector and brandished his firearm.

The gunman, Jessie Carlos, a former Finance department employee and gambling addict according to his relatives, fired his M4 carbine inside the casino and set gambling tables on fire.

He later died when he set himself on fire inside a hotel room and shot himself in the head.

Resorts World Manila Chief Operating Officer Stephen Reilly said the management "openly admits there were some lapses on security."

The casino-hotel's security chief Armeen Gomez said the company has 250 security personnel and an emergency reaction team, which handles situations connected to fire, security, and medical concerns.

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas questioned the qualifications of Gomez. Gomez said he had 10 years of experience working in the security field.

Fariñas, however, bared the security chief was dismissed from the Philippine Military Academy for personal reasons and that he failed to graduate from college.

'PH's vulnerability to terrorism exposed'

House Committee on Public Order and Safety chair Romeo Acop said while the police dismissed the terror angle, the incident exposes the country's vulnerability to a terror attack.

Domingo said while the incident was a terror act, there was no proof of connection to terrorism, adding the lone gunman does not fit the terrorist profile.

Police earlier said Carlos was not a terrorist because he did not harm guests and employees.

Alvarez: Incident an act of terror

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez had a heated exchange with Metro Manila police chief Director Oscar Albayalde on the incident being an act of terrorism, and not only a case of robbery and arson.

Alvares asked Albayalde to define terrorism.

"Terrorism is an act of violence that would create massive casualties, fear in the population. Deaths caused by Resorts World incident were all incidental, not intentional," Albayalde said.

But Alvarez insisted the attack caused terror such that it should be strictly defined as "an act of terrorism."

"Do not confuse crime with act of terrorism," he said.

Duterte to receive report

Domingo said they will submit a 20-page report to President Rodrigo Duterte, which recounts the events of the incident.

"It's a very long report because we wanted it to be thorough...Of course, we cannot discount the death of many people, but we'are also balancing here the business aspect of it. Like, it could affect tourism. So we really want to be very, very through and very, very objective," Domingo told CNN Philippines' News Night on Wednesday.

Domingo also raised the lack of communication among the Resorts World personnel.

"It seems that there is no unified command, there was nobody really harmonizing what to do," she said.

The PAGCOR chair disclosed they would recommend the suspension of Resorts World Manila until the security and safety concerns are addressed.

"Suspension until they would have satisfactorily...and convinced us that they have put the necessary and sufficient security and safety measure so that this will not happen again," Domingo said, "They should have more competent, more courageous security guards posted at all entrance and exits."

CNN Philippines digital producer Ver Marcelo contributed to this report.

This story was updated on June 8 to reflect the report to be submitted to Duterte