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We must remain vigilant in the wake of this tragedy

THE death of 38 people at the Resorts World Manila hotel-casino in Pasay Ciy early Friday morning has drawn nationwide and even worldwide attention for many reasons, including the unusual circumstances of the tragedy and fears that terrorism abroad may now be threatening our shores.

Some quarters have expressed fears that it could be somehow related to the proclamation of martial law in Mindanao by President Duterte, but Malacañang, through presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, has reassured the public that this was no terrorist attack and that it has no connection at all with the ongoing fighting in Marawi City. Director General Ronald de la Rosa, chief of the Philippine National Police, has given his own assurance, along with Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Año.

The facts, as investigators have found, are that a lone gunman – who may have been mentally disturbed – was able to enter the casino and then started firing his gun. But he was not firing at anyone, according to a witness; he was firing upwards. He was later found dead in a room on the fifth floor of the hotel where he had wrapped himself in a blanket, doused himself with gasoline, set himself on fire, and shot himself in the head.

Totally unexpected was the discovery that 37 other people – guests and employees – were dead apparently victims of smoke asphyxiation. Another group of 54 people had suffered various injuries in the stampede that erupted after the shooting and were treated in various hospitals.

At this point, some people are likely to speculate on the possible causes of the Resorts World tragedy but investigators have quickly determined that it was no terrorist attack. Still the intelligence community continues to be alert to possible threats especially in Metro Manila.

Everyone should remain vigilant, alert to any possible danger, but should not add to public fears by posing irresponsible and unfounded speculations. We have had many tragedies before in our nation and we have lived through them, learning from the experience, and becoming ever more vigilant against possible dangers.

Meanwhile, we condole with the families of all those who died in this unusual tragedy. We have had many tragedies before – typhoons, earthquakes, and floods, along with fires and conflicts of war – but every death is a personal loss that is felt deeply by every victim’s loved ones. We join them in their sorrow.