Mall heist suspects 'small-time robbers' - PNP chief

By Non Alquitran and Sandy Araneta, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 01 2013 09:39 AM | Updated as of Feb 01 2013 05:39 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The men behind the robbery at two jewelry stores in SM Megamall on Jan. 26 are "small-time robbers," Philippine National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima said yesterday.

“They don’t know how to distinguish the expensive pieces from the cheap ones,” he said during a press conference in Camp Crame.

The robbers took a total of 176 pieces of jewelry, according to Mandaluyong police chief Senior Superintendent Florendo Quibuyen. Investigators estimate the value of the haul at around P1 million.

F&C Jewelry lost 10 rings and 17 chains, all made of Saudi gold, as well as 21 earrings and a bracelet while The Jeweler store lost 71 necklaces, four men’s rings and 52 pendants, all made of Saudi gold, Quibuyen said.

Purisima said the robbers apparently wanted to earn money in the quickest way possible.

When told that two of the primary suspects in the robbery were actually in jail at the time of the heist, Purisima said, "We are investigating this report."

'Slapdash probe'

Alleged members of the Martilyo Gang Ben Panday, Mark Calama and Basir Basilon were linked to the Megamall robbery, but Manila City Jail warden Superintendent Lyndon Torres said the three men were arrested on Oct. 6, 2011 and remain detained.

Torres challenged those insinuating that MCJ detainees are allowed out of jail to carry out heists to prove their allegation. He said surveillance cameras are set up at strategic positions in the jail and they are willing to have the footage reviewed anytime.

“Implicating (the three suspects) in the Megamall jewelry store heist is a mere result of a slapdash investigation, if only for investigators to name suspects,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Torres is considering filing charges of perjury and malicious prosecution by presenting false witnesses “against the people who have been making these malicious imputations – if only to give them the opportunity to prove their stories in the proper forum.”

Guards to undergo retraining

Purisima said Chief Superintendent Tomas Rentoy III, PNP Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agencies head, ordered that mall guards should carry firearms while on duty.

“The firearm is part of the uniform,” Purisima said. “We will also review the security systems and procedures, including retraining of security guards on marksmanship. We could not just give these guards firearms without ensuring they are capable of handling firearms.”

He said the training would also cover self-defense as well as emergency response in medical, hostage and suicide situations. Rentoy said the retraining will start next week.

Purisima justified the policy requiring guards to carry firearms, saying they would help protect mall-goers. “It’s up to security officers of malls to determine who among their guards should be armed,” he said. “If we see that they do not have firearms then we can cancel licenses…that’s why we are regulatory.” – With Cecille Suerte Felipe