Gun-toting casino VIP Jerry Sy ordered not to leave Philippines as DOJ take over case

philippines-jerry-syAuthorities in China have launched a nationwide manhunt for the alleged perpetrator of the explosion that tore apart an illegal gambling den in Guizhou province on Monday. The blast, which killed 15 people and injured at least eight more, leveled a tent erected on a hillside in Longchang/Laoshan township outside Kaili City that was said to be popular with out-of-town gamblers. Macau remains the only area of China in which casino-style gambling games are permitted.

The explosion brought international scrutiny of illegal gambling in Guizhou, prompting China’s Ministry of Public Security to send a working team to the area. Police have detained eight individuals in connection with the investigation and authorities have since identified a 35-year-old Shibing Country resident named Wu as a person of interest. Xinhua quoted police saying Wu had a history of drug abuse. The explosion has already had effects beyond the tent’s occupants, as police have launched a special action over the past week, raiding 140 suspected gambling sites in the province and detaining over 1,600 individuals.

Over in the Philippines, the Chinese VIP gambler who brought grenades and a machinegun to Resorts World Manila has been ordered not to leave the country. Jerry Sy was detained in the casino’s hotel parkade after a Boxing Day scuffle with casino agent Joseph Ang and Ang’s bodyguard, during which Sy reportedly attempted to stab Ang. A subsequent search of Sy’s car revealed an arsenal of weapons, including a machinegun, grenades, five pistols, silencers, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a small quantity of illegal drugs.

Sy hasn’t cooperated with authorities, leaving his motives a subject of much speculation. Police told the Inquirer that Sy owed Ang P2.1m (US $46.5k) in gambling debts, while Southern Police District director Chief Superintendent Jose Erwin Vilacorte told local television stations that Sy was the “muscle man” for an international gang who’d been sent to Manila to do a hit on person(s) unknown. However, Ang and his bodyguard have since applied to rescind the attempted murder charges filed against Sy, now claiming the life-threatening altercation was just “a misunderstanding.”

On Jan. 6, Pasay assistant prosecutor Josefina Muego ordered Sy’s temporary release from police custody on the grounds that his arrest had been “questionable.” Police had arrested Sy in response to calls about the parkade scuffle, after which they observed two 9mm pistol clips fall from Sy’s coat pocket. Muego said the arrest – which led to the search of Sy’s car – had been made “without proper determination” of Sy’s legal right to carry firearms.

Police argued that Sy was a foreigner and therefore barred from carrying firearms in the Philippines. Muego countered by saying police had no way of knowing Sy was foreign when they first slapped the cuffs on him. Sy was handed over to the Bureau of Immigration, who put Sy in a detention center for foreigners awaiting deportation.

In response to mounting public outrage over Muego’s decision, the Philippine Department of Justice has since intervened, blocking the deportation order and transferring Sy’s criminal case from the Pasay City prosecutor’s office to the DOJ’s National Prosecution Service in Manila, where assistant state prosecutor Niven Canlapan has been assigned the case file.

Meanwhile, another source has claimed Sy is the victim of a frame-up. Before Muego suggested releasing Sy, an unidentified “retired military intelligence agent” told the Philippine Star he’d entered the parkade that night to find Sy being beat up by two of Ang’s bodyguards. When asked why they were beating Sy, the bodyguards – one an active duty policeman, the other retired – told the witness that they were simply trying to defend their boss from being stabbed.

The witness said Sy had attacked Ang because the casino agent wouldn’t return a P3m Rolex that Sy had pawned to Ang for P500k after Sy ran out of cash at the casino. The witness – who seems to possess an omniscient view of the facts – claimed Ang refused to return the Rolex even though Sy had repaid the P500k loan “including interest.” Ang had reportedly already sold the watch, which prompted an enraged Sy to go full-on Wolverine.

The witness also claimed Sy’s arsenal of weapons was found in two separate vehicles parked more than 100 meters apart and that Ang’s bodyguards had cautioned the police in advance that there were explosives inside one of the vehicles. The witness wondered how the bodyguards could have known in advance of the presence of the explosives.

It’s clear this mystery is anything but over. The police aren’t even sure if Sy’s name is legit. Villacorte noted that Sy had no passport and the Bureau of Immigration has no record of his entry into the country. The address on Sy’s driver’s license was bogus and Sy’s car was registered to a Sharon Sy, who turned out to be another fictitious identity.