Where does one draw the line between hotel security and guest privacy? Lorela U. Sandoval reports two points of view
(Editor’s note: This article was published in Hospitality News Philippines’ January 25, 2015 Issue with the title. Don’t miss out on the latest stories in the industry and subscribe now at firstname.lastname@example.org)
In 1999, a Norwegian guest was robbed and murdered in his hotel room in Makati City. Although the hotel argued the guest was negligent for allowing entry of the suspects, the Supreme Court still ordered the hotel to pay over PHP52 million in damages to the victim’s heirs. In 2014, a U.S. Marine officer was tagged in an ongoing court investigation of the killing of a Filipino transgender in a Subic hotel, while in January, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported about a robbery last year in a Baguio hotel where guests lost about PHP1 million in cash and personal effects in their room.
With such incidents, and possibly more unreported ones, the public couldn’t help but cast its eyes on accommodations, asking: Are guests truly secure in their establishment?
“All the hotels have measures to protect their guests including issuance of advisories reminding guests about inviting visitors or unregistered persons in their rooms. The hotels are obligated to do due diligence in ensuring guests’ safety,” says Philbert G. Togle, a Certified Security Professional and the security manager of Diamond Hotel Philippines since 2005.
Security or privacy
But he says security ends when guest privacy begins, that hotels have no right to stop guests from allowing someone enter their room “under normal circumstances.” In addition, whatever happens in the guest room is already beyond the control of security, as personnel are “sometimes called to act only after the incident.”
Information gathered from the Directorate for Operations of Public Safety Division of the Philippine National Police (DOPSD-PNP) in January this year also states that hotel owners should respect rights to privacy of guests, unless if the establishment is being used for illegal activities. “They should not tolerate it and should immediately report the same to the police.”
Based on Togle’s experience however, crimes—especially those said to be inside jobs—rarely happen “due to stricter control measures, good vetting, good compensation, and availability of security technology that helps identify an anomaly and who is responsible.” He also says hotel personnel are crime targets too, citing possible “loss of personal items left unattended and sometimes, stolen from lockers left unlocked or using unauthorized substandard padlocks.”
And even though females may appear to be easier targets than males, he says female guests seldom become victims.
Togle discloses that most hotel properties “have locksets programmed to monitor entry to rooms only, which is an effective security measure.”
Research says hotels abroad also retrofitted their rooms with big safes that have electrical outlets for charging devices to prevent theft.
Togle agrees to this, but the provision for chargers is another thing, noting the possibility of overheating and fire. In spite of a room smoke detector, early detection of fire will be difficult also considering the item’s confinement.
Some hotels require their guest to sign papers that conform the latter has liability in case of loss or theft of his belongings inside the establishment. Togle says doing so would make guest be more vigilant and less negligent, and “deter guest from making a false claim.”
Yet DOPSD-PNP says otherwise, reminding that under Article 2003 of the Civil Code, “the hotel-keeper cannot free himself from responsibility by posting notices to the effect that he is not liable for the articles brought by the guest,” and that “any stipulation between the hotelkeeper and the guest whereby the responsibility of the former as set forth in articles 1998 to 2001 is suppressed or diminished shall be void.”
To further curb crimes, Togle also reveals that most hotels partner with government agencies, such as PNP, AFP, NBI, and National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.
On the question of liability for such crimes, DOPSD-PNP says it still depends on the circumstances. But as a general rule from the Civil Code provisions, it says the hotel owner has liability “for any loss incurred by guests while at the establishment,” except when guest negligence can be proven, “without the contributory negligence of the hotel owner or its staff.”
Togle also says the hotel has liability “if it does not have security measures in place to prevent it from occurring.” For instance is failure of hotel to prevent “robbery or force upon things and persons occurs in the premises.” The hotel can’t be held liable in case the items lost weren’t turned over to the hotel for safekeeping.
He also adds that while hotels make known to their guests how they value their privacy, they continue advising guests certain security measures for personal protection as part of due diligence. —Lorela U. Sandoval