Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Monday said detained Senator Leila de Lima is partly to blame for the deaths of 37 casino patrons and employees of Resorts World Manila.
Aguirre cited the legal opinion issued by De Lima in 2014 when she was still Justice secretary where she opined that the Bureau of Fire Protection has no authority to regulate fire security in casino establishments in the country.
De Lima’s opinion resulted to the transfer of jurisdiction on fire safety regulation in casinos from the BFP to Philippine Economic Zone Authority. “Because of the said legal opinion, it is the Peza, a government agency without competence and experience in fire protection, that was given the authority to implement the Fire Code and its implementing rules and regulations on Peza-registered companies like casinos,” Aguirre told reporters.
Aguirre said that this power was not provided in Republic Act 7916 or the Special Economic Zone Act. Aguirre said that this could be one of the reasons for the lapses seen in the fire safety measures in Resorts World Manila.
Aguirre, however, clarified that this does not necessarily make De Lima liable.
He explained that the senator could only be held liable only if it would be established in the investigation that there was irregularity in the issuance of the legal opinion, which he already ordered for the National Bureau of Investigation to look into.
Nonetheless, Aguirre vowed to review the legal opinion and would most probably reverse it.
A total of 37 employees and clients of the posh casino died due to suffocation and smoke inhalation as they failed to leave the building that was set fire by gunman Jesse Carlos.
The Resorts World Manila administration earlier said the casino’s sprinkler systems were activated during the attack last Friday.
Last Sunday, Aguirre has ordered the NBI to conduct a parallel investigation and case build-up over the Resorts World Manila incident to determine possible criminal, civil and administrative culpability on any agency, office and instrumentality of the government and whether the same can be found against the owners, managers and employees of Resorts World Manila.
“We need to know and to determine the responsibility and the liability, if any, of anyone which made possible the tragic events at Resorts World Manila. Whoever is responsible for allowing this tragedy to occur should be made accountable under our laws and before our courts,’・Aguirre said.
The DOJ chief stressed that the end goal of the investigation is “徼o file appropriate charges, if any, as the evidence may warrant.
“Tragedies like this should not be allowed to happen again,”・he said.