Painful irony for gunman
Our heart goes out to the family—especially the mother—of Jessie Javier Carlos who has been identified by the police as the “lone gunman” who caused the chaos and deaths at Resorts World Manila early Friday morning.
Silencing fervid speculation on both mass and social media that the man captured on CCTV footage could have ties to the Islamic State, a “fact” seemingly bolstered by “ownership” claims made in an IS web page, NCR police director Oscar Albayalde showed photos of Carlos in a press conference saying he was the person who caused the deaths of 37 in the casino complex.
The explanation sounds pretty lame compared to conspiracy theories abounding on the shooting being but the opening salvo of a bigger terror operation by the IS, or else a prelude to the declaration of martial law nationwide. Instead, what we get is a pretty pathetic—though deadly—account of a man so mired in gambling debts that he hatched a seemingly harebrained plan to break into Resorts World, steal high-value chips and, it seems, exchange these for cash to settle his debts.
His setting gaming tables and slot machines on fire may have been meant as a mere distraction, but the flames ended up producing heavy smoke that caused the deaths of so many.
I can understand the depths of remorse that overcame Carlos’ mother, who tearfully apologized for her seemingly deranged son’s reckless actions. I am especially concerned for his children who must henceforth live with the stigma attached to his deadly, wrong-headed misadventure.
A friend, psychiatrist June Pagaduan Lopez, points out that gambling addiction should be viewed as much of a disease as drug addiction or mental illness. Friends and neighbors describe Carlos as a “nice” guy who was a familiar face in his neighborhood though he wasn’t much for mingling with others. What may have escalated the threat he presented given his desperate straits was his sideline selling firearms, some of which he brought along with him during his rampage.
Carlos may not have planned to use the guns to kill people, but clearly he knew these would intimidate security guards or anyone who got in his way. That the only person he killed using his gun was himself is a painful irony, but somehow fitting for a man unhinged by his addiction and desperation.
Yesterday, most schools opened their doors and let in students for a new school year. Every time I take a trip to the countryside here or in another country, I keep my eyes peeled for the schoolchildren on their way to school. In their uniforms and bearing brand-new school bags, the children are a heartwarming sight, and my spirits rise at the eagerness with which they proceed to a place of learning.
As is the media’s wont, stories once more focused on the difficulties facing the children and their families, the chaos and confusion in public schools, and the seeming impossibility of bridging the widening gap between a growing school-age population and an inadequate education infrastructure.
Education authorities say they are postponing the opening of classes for students in the general area of Marawi City, although children who had evacuated to nearby areas would be accepted by schools there.
What awful lessons these children have learned in the past month or so!
Right now, the concerns of Marawi’s citizens revolve around the future they will be facing once the shooting and bombings stop. Will they still have a city to call home when they finally make their way back?
Peace groups of all stripes are calling in particular for an end to airstrikes, which are indiscriminate in their targets and impact. Proof of this is the death of government troops by “friendly fire,” which makes their loss doubly troubling for their survivors.
President Duterte has said publicly that he could end the Marawi crisis “today” if he were just free to bomb the city to smithereens. But, he said almost with regret, ours is still a democracy and the government must still observe human rights. And also, Mr. President, bombs are not especially effective in bringing back peace, and can only prolong conflict.
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