House members are seeking to strengthen the competency of the internal security units of casinos in the country through their registration with the Philippine National Police (PNP) Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agencies (SOSIA).
The proposal cropped up during the second hearing jointly conducted by the House committees on public order and safety, games and amusements, and tourism chaired, respectively, by Reps. Romeo Acop (2nd District, Antipolo City), Gus Tambunting (2nd District, Parañaque City), and Lucy Torres-Gomez (4th District, Leyte) on the Resorts World Manila (RWM) tragedy.
Acop cited the need to strengthen the competency of the internal security units of all licensed casino establishments in the country in light of the security lapses that led to the loss of 37 lives during the attack on RWM last June 2.
During the two hearings, the lawmakers agreed that the tragedy has put the skill and competency of RWM internal security under question.
Acop proposed to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to register the internal security units of all licensed casino operators with the PNP-SOSIA.
“If we come up with (such) a legislation, would PAGCOR not disagree with this?” Acop said.
PAGCOR vice president Roderick Consolacion supported Acop’s proposal. “Definitely not, your honor,” said Consolacion.
Acop, a lawyer and former head of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) also queried on the recovery of firearms inside room 510 of RWM. The firearms are now for ballistic examination.
Among the questions raised by Acop pertained to the following: correct number of firearms found inside room 510; to whom such firearms were registered; and the precise circumstances as to why a firearm registered to the Taguig City government was questionably found inside the room.
Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon (Lone District, Muntinlupa City) inquired on the ‘misencounter’ between the PNP Special Weapons and Tactics team (SWAT) and the RWM Special Reaction Team (SRT) leader Bernard Cajigas.
According to Biazon, the RWM manual states: “There are procedures that are to be followed by its personnel whenever law enforcement personnel enter its premises during a crisis.”
Hence, Biazon said the RWM should perform its responsibility to conduct drills in accordance with what is written in its manual.
“If they had been doing their jobs in training their personnel and drilling them properly, then that misencounter would not have happened,” said Biazon.
Biazon also inquired about the fire safety inspection certificate (FSIC) issued to RWM. According to lawyer Ma. Georgina Alvarez, RWM chief legal officer, the valid FSIC issued to their establishment extends to their casino.
However, Biazon noted that “on more than one instance, the PEZA (Philippine Economic Zone Authority) said that their fire safety inspection certificate does not cover the casino.” Moreover, PEZA Dir. Gen. Charito Plaza supported this by stating that casinos cannot be accredited under the PEZA’s mandate, and such also applies to Solaire Resort and Casino.
Biazon said the issue has raised ‘confusion’ as to who has the authority to implement the fire code of the country that is being arrogated by PEZA upon itself.
“It is our firm belief that the Bureau of Fire (BFP) has the authority,” said Biazon. He said the PEZA is prohibited from issuing FSIC without a memorandum of agreement with the BFP.
“It is our position that the law passed by Congress in 2008 is the one that is prevailing over the law of PEZA which was passed a decade before the fire code,” Biazon said.
On another issue, Acop asked PAGCOR whether the establishment of a casino near an airport was a ‘wise decision’ and if the construction of the bridge way connecting the casino and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 was necessary considering issues on safety precautions.