They could have been saved

They could have been saved

EVERYONE woke up to the horror that was happening at Resorts World Manila (RWM), a casino-hotel in Pasay City, just across the NAIA Terminal 3. There was shooting incident around midnight inside the casino area. By morning, police authorities announced that it was not a terroristic act, nor was there any involvement of ISIS; that a lone gunman was involved; that he engaged the police authorities in an exchange of fire; that he went to a room at the 5th floor, “burned himself and then shot himself.”

Police authorities earlier reported no casualty. At that time, there was fire inside RWM and heavy black smoke were coming out of the hotel. Before noon that day, the police made a shocking report. They found piles of bodies inside a comfort room and in some parts of the casino area. The bodies of the victims were black, proof that they died of suffocation due to heavy smoke coming from the fire at the casino area. The casualties did not die from the shooting incident. Body count was 37, excluding that of the lone gun man: 24 are hotel guests, 13 are RWM employees. Worst, the EXIT sign is just 5 meters away from where they died.

Days later, RWM released the CCTV footage, from the time the lone gunman named Jessie Carlos alighted from a taxi shortly after midnight. He was able to enter the hotel carrying heavy weapon and a bag, ignoring the security check. It was later learned that the bag contained a bottle of gasoline, which he used to torch the casino tables and carpets.

The incident in RWM could have been prevented and the number of casualties mitigated had the security and safety measures been strictly enforced in the casino-hotel. The CCTV footage showed that there is more than an hour from the time Carlos entered RWM up to the time when he exchanged fires with the police authorities, more than enough time to neutralize him.

When Carlos entered RWM ignoring the security check, the security guard could have radioed the other security guards about it. The personnel in charge of the CCTV monitor rooms could have seen what was happening, enough to alert the head of hotel security and the police authorities. The RWM security could have told the police authorities where the CCTV monitor room was so that they can trace the whereabouts of Carlos and see where the fire was. They could have shown the police authorities the floor plan of the hotel. What happened? All the areas where the security guards and in-house security personnel were supposed to be posted were abandoned. There was no one inside the CCTV monitor room.

As to safety measures, had the smoke detectors of the hotel automatically activated, the security personnel would immediately know the floor/area where the heavy smoke was coming from. Had the water sprinklers on the ceilings of the hotel functioned, the fire could have been controlled. Had the fire alarm activated, everyone would have known that there was fire. Had the EXIT signs been fully lighted, the people in the casino would know where to go. How about the fire extinguishers, are they accessible and are there enough numbers so that the authorities could use them when they entered the area?

The public hearing being conducted by the House of Representatives must shed light on the many questions in the mind of the people. RWM had to explain the failure of their security and safety measures or protocols. The Pasay City Fire Department and Engineering Department must show that they strictly enforce the Fire Code and the Building Code of the Philippines, respectively. The security agency contracted by RWM must explain why were there lapses in the implementations of its security procedures.

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We deplore and condemn to the highest level the desecration caused by the Maute Group to the Cathedral of Our Lady Help of Christians in Marawi. The video footage showed this group destroying the religious icons, sacred vessels and vestments used in the Holy Mass. Not yet satisfied, they set fire on the icons and burned the Cathedral. Muslim leaders condemned such shameful and disrespectful acts. They claim that it was a “blatant disrespect and disregard” of the teachings of Islam. They said that the perpetrators do not represent Islam but they are enemy of Islam; that Islam commands to protect places of worship even during war time.

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Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen and Maldives cut their diplomatic and economic ties with the small but rich country of Qatar. News report said that they ordered Qatari citizens to leave their countries, recalled their own nationals from Qatar and closed its air, land and sea borders to Qatar. They alleged that Qatar is supporting terrorism. Qatar denied the allegation and stated that “it is a sovereign nation that will not bow down to outside interest.” Qatar is a member of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), an organization of countries in the Gulf region. The Emir of Kuwait and the German Foreign Minister seek to resolve the crisis in the region. There are at least 240,000 Filipino overseas workers and professional in Qatar. Should this crisis escalate, the Philippine Government has to repatriate them. It would pose a problem of hundreds of thousands Filipinos unemployed.

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My Inay, Gloria Angeles Santiago, would have turned 100 on June 13, two years after she joined our Creator. My siblings and I lost Inay after almost 5 months of illness due to mild stroke. Although we prepared ourselves for the eventual passing of Inay, it was still a very painful experience losing her. At her age, she was very strong and could move around until she suffered mild stroke, which made her bedridden. It was very frustrating for her to be bedridden when she used to be very active in the house and was always with us on family outing and eat out. It really hurts, especially when she had a very cheerful disposition, and nice to be with; she was like an older sister to us. Inay, Happy Birthday in Heaven! We know you are now with our Creator accompanied by all the angels and saints in heaven. We love you, we miss you, we will always remember you.

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Happy Independence Day to all. May we truly experience being a free country. God bless the Philippines!