|The Sterling Bank of Asia branch at the Molito complex after a shoot-out between mall guards and armed gunmen on Friday morning. Courtesy of Pinky Webb, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines (5th UPDATE) – A suspected robber was killed and at least 7 others were injured in a robbery incident at the Alabang Town Center in Muntinlupa City on Friday morning, the police said.
Muntinlupa Police chief Senior Superintendent Ramiro Bauza said mall guards engaged in a shootout with armed men at the lobby of the mall's Madrigal Ave. entrance at around 10:15 a.m.
Bauza said the suspects were sitting at the mall's driveway as an armored van delivering cash to Czarina money changer approached.
When the suspects were confronted by the security guards, they immediately opened fire at the guards and a shootout ensued.
The slain robber was identified as Pepito Paler. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the Alabang Medical Center.
Two security guards, identified as Lope Bacomo and Alexander Tablada, were injured during the shootout.
The other suspects were able to escape with one duffel bag. Authorities have yet to determine the amount of cash inside the bag.
Bauza said the gunmen also hurled a grenade at a Sterling Bank of Asia branch across the mall to distract the authorities as they escape.
The Sterling Bank of Asia management said four people were injured in the explosion.
"As a result of this incident, we have stepped up security and increased the number of guards. Our BF Homes Parañaque and Las Piñas branches will be servicing the requirements of our Alabang clients for the meantime. We are fast tracking the repairs so that our Alabang branch can get back to business as usual," the bank management said.
The mall was temporarily closed to the public as authorities are still investigating the incident.
According to a statement released by Ayala Malls, the mall resumed normal operations at around 2:30 p.m.
“The police have declared Alabang Town Center secure to operate and we have resumed normal operations at around 2:30 p.m. today. We continue to work closely with the PNP in the investigation of the incident. Rest assured that safety of customers is the utmost concern of Alabang Town Center and its security has been beefed up in and around the mall,” the statement said.
Police suspect that the robbery may have been an inside job.
Footage from a closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera shows that the personnel carrying the duffel bag dropped it when gunshots were fired.
“Bakit binaba lang nu'ng tao ‘yung bag, pwede naman bitbitin? They have to dig deeper,” said Muntinlupa Mayor Aldrin San Pedro.
Authorities also believe that the suspects are members of the Ozamiz robbery group, which has been targeting banks located in shopping malls.
San Pedro warned the public that crimes may rise due to the incoming Christmas season and the 2013 elections.
Muntinlupa Police chief sacked
Because of the incident, PNP chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome ordered the administrative relief of Bausa.
Bausa will undergo investigation by the National Capital Region Police Office to determine whether operational lapses were committed at his level.
He will be replaced by Southern Police District Chief of Directorial Staff, Sr. Supt. Conrad Capa as officer-in-charge of Muntinlupa Police Station. -- reports from Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News; dzMM