MANILA, Philippines - Two rookie policewomen manning a police assistance desk at the SM Mall of Asia (MOA) Sunday night responded "within seconds" to a robbery at a jewelry shop, officials said yesterday.
Pasay City police chief Senior Superintendent Florencio Ortilla said the policewomen, whom he identified only as Police Officers 1 Juliet and Delia, traded shots with four suspected members of the Martilyo gang, who used wrenches and steel pipes to smash the glass cases of the FNC jewelry store at past 7 p.m.
“ PO1 Delia and Juliet heard the gunshots and waited for the robbers to get out and traded shots with (them). Their response prevented the robbers from scooping all the jewelry,” he told The STAR.
Ortilla presented to Pasay Mayor Antonino Calixto yesterday a .45 caliber pistol seized from Ryan Bantawan (not Licao as earlier reported), who was cornered by Special Weapons and Tactics police officers who also responded after hearing the gunshots.
Ortilla said the policewomen hit one of the robbers, who managed to change into a clean shirt and escape by blending in with the crowd. The bloody shirt the robber left behind is being processed by crime scene investigators.
He said of the 10 members of the gang, only three were armed. Others either acted as lookouts, broke the display cases or scooped up the jewelry, according to Ortilla.
Bantawan told investigators that his role in the heist was as a lookout and it was his first time to join a heist by the gang, Ortilla said.
The Pasay police chief also clarified that only one person – restaurant employee Brandon Abdullah – was hit by a stray bullet.
“Other minor injuries were sustained during the commotion and (due to) shards” of glass panes shattered during the shootout, he said.
Meanwhile, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Director Carmelo Valmoria noted that at least four of the 10 robbers wore caps or hats to hide their faces from closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras.
Valmoria said MOA guards did not enforce his suggestion to mall operators to ban the wearing of hats or caps in malls.
“We strongly believe those wearing hats and caps are involved in other robbery cases. They don’t want themselves to be recognized to prevent us from filing cases against them in court,” he said.
Valmoria said the NCRPO is investigating the incident to determine the lapses of the security guards at the mall. He noted that based on CCTV footage, several of the robbers managed to smuggle wrenches, guns and steel pipes into the mall. – With Non Alquitran