Manila casino gunman an ex-govt worker who was heavily in debt

Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde with a photo of gunman Jessie Carlos at yesterday's press conference in Manila, with Carlos' mother Teodora and father Fernando. He said Carlos' casino attack was not an act of terrorism.
Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde with a photo of gunman Jessie Carlos at yesterday's press conference in Manila, with Carlos' mother Teodora and father Fernando. He said Carlos' casino attack was not an act of terrorism.PHOTO: REUTERS

A gunman who set fire to a casino in Manila last Friday, killing 37 people, was a former government employee who was heavily in debt and not a terrorist as some believe, said the police.

Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde yesterday identified the gunman as Jessie Carlos, 43, a Filipino and a Catholic who worked as a tax specialist for the finance department's One-Stop Shop Tax Credit and Duty Drawback Centre.

"We reiterate our prior statements that this was not an act of terrorism... This incident was confined to the act of one man alone, as we have always said," he said at a press conference.

Carlos had stormed into the casino wing of Resorts World Manila just after midnight last Friday in what investigators said was a robbery that went awry.

He had been sacked from the finance department in 2014 for corruption, having been investigated since 2011 for a scam involving tax credits in exchange for kickbacks.

Although he earned just 20,000 pesos (S$560) a month, he bought two farm lots worth 4 million pesos using cash. He also had a property worth 1 million pesos and a van.

After he was fired, Carlos began making huge bets in casinos, often fuelling his habit by borrowing money or pawning his properties. His smallest bet was usually 40,000 pesos. He lost his farm lots and Ford Ranger pickup truck.

 
 

In two years, he had amassed 4 million pesos in debt at one casino alone. He and his wife, who have three children, separated because of his gambling habit.

In April, two months before he went on a rampage at Resorts World Manila, he was barred from all casinos after a request from his family.

"This may be why he was so angry at the casino... He was not insane, but he was unstable. He was addicted to gambling, and so he was no longer in his right mind. It's like being addicted to drugs," said Mr Albayalde.

At 12.07am last Friday, Carlos boarded a taxi, bought about two litres of petrol and, with an assault rifle hidden in his backpack, went to Resorts World Manila.

He barged into the casino, set ablaze gaming tables, slot machines and a dining area.

He forced his way into a room where casino chips were stored, and stuffed his bag with chips worth 113 million pesos.

The fire left 37 people dead and dozens more injured in a stampede as they tried to escape.

Hotel security staff chased Carlos to the fifth floor of the hotel wing, where he was found dead hours later inside Room 510, after committing suicide by setting himself on fire.

Carlos' tearful mother, Mrs Teodora Carlos, said her son was a good man who had lost his way.

"We ask for forgiveness. My son was a good child to us. But since he started playing at the casinos, that's all he did. He did not visit us. It was painful for us not to see him," she said at the press conference.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had claimed responsibility for the attack, but police insisted that all evidence disproved this.

President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier warned that ISIS was gaining a greater foothold in the Philippines. Clashes between government forces and gunmen from the ISIS-linked Maute militant group started about two weeks ago in the southern city of Marawi and are still ongoing.

But Mr Duterte said last Saturday that he did not think the casino gunman was a terrorist. "That is not the work of ISIS. The work of ISIS is more cruel, brutal," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2017, with the headline 'Casino gunman an ex-govt worker who was heavily in debt'. Print Edition | Subscribe