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Mall robbery by ‘martilyo gang’ compels PNoy, Mar Roxas to respond

December 15, 2013 7:45pm
(Updated 6:35am, Dec. 16) Using hammers and crowbars bought inside the mall to break jewelry display cases, a so-called "martilyo gang" caused panic in a Sunday shopping crowd at SM North Edsa mall in Quezon City before escaping with a reported P5M in loot.

The crime was alarming enough for President Benigno Aquino and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas to interrupt their Sunday evening to check on the crime investigation themselves, leading many to wonder what the national interest was. Aquino was seen interviewing security personnel.

NCRPO chief Carmelo Valmoria confirmed that firearms were not used to commit the crime. Receipts were found by police along with the hammers and crowbars.

“An incident involving (the) Martilyo Gang occurred in a store in SM North Edsa,” Annie Garcia, president of SM Supermalls, said in a statement sent to GMA News Online on Sunday night.
“The police are on top of the situation and handling the matter. No one was hurt and the mall remains open,” she added.

Steven Tan, SM VP for Operations, Premier Malls sent a separate but similar statement. No details were given by SM about how the crime occurred and how the robbers escaped with their goods.

The brazen act called to mind other crimes inside malls, where the heavy security did not deter robbers who took advantage of crowds to evade armed guards.

Although the gang on Sunday did not appear to have brought in firearms, others have sneaked guns through security at other SM malls in separate incidents in the past. Another crime attributed to the martilyo gang occurred in January of this year at SM Megamall, but with one of the criminals firing a gun.

In 2011, a woman shot to death her husband in the SM North EDSA mall basement, whle accidentally killing a security guard, in what appeared to be a domestic issue.

In the same year, a suicide-murder by a teen  apparently involved in a domestic issue with a boyfriend occurred in an SM in Pampanga.

Hammers bought inside mall

SM North Edsa assistant vice president for operations Renee Bacani also said in an interview on GMA News that “[the police] are investigating kung saan pinasok ‘yung martilyo.”

Later that evening, Interior Secretay Roxas told reporters that the robbers bought hammers and other implements inside the mall.
“We were able to control the crowd when everyone was reacting at that time. Our people were able to pacify and control the crowd. So, when you go and visit the mall, except for the area that was affected, everything is back to normal na,” she noted.

A GMA News Online reporter who was there said that the mall was congested at the time of the incident. 

"Nung nagkagulo, in fairness, 'yung staff, kalmado lang," he said.

"Akala ko may promo kaya tumatakbo yung mga tao, pero nakita ko na nagpa-panic na sila at papunta ng fire exit."

He said he did not hear any gunshots.
A tweet from GMA News Reporter Jun Veneracion showed mall security personnel looking at a jewelry display case at the mall. Pieces of broken glass can be seen on the floor.

In this photo, security personnel have cordoned off the area.
Rouchelle R. Dinglasan with a report from Marc Jayson Cayabyab/JDS/HS, GMA News
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