Tunnel found near 2 banks in La Union

By Jun Elias, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 31 2014 04:08 AM | Updated as of Jul 31 2014 12:08 PM

SAN FERNANDO, La Union, Philippines – Is it for treasure hunting or a way to rob two banks?

Acting on a tip-off, authorities here discovered a tunnel that is being dug up just meters away from the Rang-ay Bank and a Philippine National Bank (PNB) branch in the central business district.

Mayor Pablo Ortega and Superintendent Julius Suriben, city police chief, rushed to the area after a certain Raffy Belleza reported the excavation to authorities.

The tunnel, according to Ortega, is about five meters deep, and is 10 meters away from the PNB branch and five meters away from Rang-ay Bank.

Ortega said Belleza told them that a Japanese national, a Filipina companion, and two men were involved in the diggings, although they were nowhere during the inspection.

Belleza said a relative, Antonio Belleza, was approached by the Japanese and Filipina and told him that there was supposedly a treasure hidden below his apartment.

The Japanese reportedly promised the Bellezas a 30-percent share of the treasure if they would agree to the excavation.

“I allowed them to dig near our house because they told me that there is gold below our apartment,” Antonio said.

Antonio was also convinced to allow the excavation because one of their elders, who died several years ago, supposedly told them though his spirit that there was treasure below their house.

The PNB compound near the Belleza property was the site of the first municipal hall of San Fernando built during the Spanish era but was reportedly bombed during the Japanese occupation.

Raffy Belleza said he reported the excavation as he fears what may happen if it continues.

Ortega and Suriben, however, were suspicious of the tunnel’s proximity to the banks.

“We are not just looking at the treasure hunting angle but we are also looking for motives of using the hole for robbery because two banks are very near the digging,” Suriben said.

Suriben cited several robberies in banks and pawnshops where members of the so-called “Termite” and “Acetylene” gangs dug tunnels leading to their targets.

In 2012, the Acetylene Gang robbed a pawnshop here through an underground tunnel, and also a bank along the national highway.

The robbers passed through a drainage concrete line across the street and dug a tunnel that stretched to the floorings of the two establishments.

Ortega ordered Suriben and his men to look for the Japanese national, his Filipina companion, and their two accomplices.