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‘Martilyo Gang’ strikes again at SM Mall of Asia; 1 arrested, 6 robbers escape

March 30, 2014 8:01pm
(Updated 8:26 a.m., March 31) The "Martilyo Gang" is believed to have struck anew at an SM mall, using the cover of a heavy weekend crowd to hasten their escape after a brazen jewelry heist, this time on Sunday night at SM's crown jewel, the Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

"At 7:14pm this evening the Martilyo Gang struck a jewelry counter at The SM Store in MOA," Steven Tan, SM Vice President for Operations, Premier Malls said in a tweet

The "Martilyo Gang" is called that because of its use of hammers and other tools to smash open jewelry display cases. At its last mall robbery at SM North in December, they were believed to have purchased their tools at a hardware store right before the crime.

One suspect has been nabbed while six others eluded arrest, a report on GMA News' Unang Balita said Monday.

"More or less mga seven robbers staged the robbery using pipe wrench," National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Police Director Carmelo Valmoria said.

"Four of our personnel responded. Two of them engaged... Nandun din SWAT, nag-response din," he added.

It was already past 9 p.m. when the authorities arrested one of the suspects who was found in possession of a .45 caliber gun and two pipe wrenches. 

The other six suspects reportedly changed clothes and mingled with the crowd during the commotion.

"Nagtakbuhan ang ano [robbers] natin. 'Yung iba, nag-mingle with shoppers," Valmoria said.

"In fact, 'yung nahuli natin may dala rin siyang set of clothes. May dalang damit," he added.

One of the suspects who escaped was wounded, police said.

"We also believe one of the suspects was also wounded. May na-recover kaming damit na hinubad ng suspek," Valmoria said.

Police are investigating how the suspects were able to bring in guns and pipe wrenches given the strict security measures of the mall.

SM's senior vice president for engineering and security affairs Antolin Paule told GMA News on Monday that they will just leave the investigation to the police.

It's the fourth time in four years that the Martilyo Gang – presuming it's the same group of robbers – robbed an SM mall jewelry counter using the same methods. None of the perpetrators have been caught despite ubiquitous CCTV cameras and a security guard at every dozen or so meters and guarded exits. Mall authorities have not developed an effective way to counter the gang's tactics of getting lost in the commotion after their deed.

"The police are already present in the area to conduct a thorough investigation. The mall is working closely with the PNP (Philippine National Police) to resolve this," Tan said.

Tan had earlier said no casualties were reported but later said an employee of a tenant store suffered a "grazing wound brought about by the confrontation" with police dispatched to the mall. 

"He was immediately brought to the hospital and he is out of danger," Tan said in a text message, adding the mall was "back to normal operations."

Shots fired

An eyewitness who refused to be named said over radio DZBB that shots had been fired at SM MOA.

"Nagpaputok ng nagpapaputok habang may mga tao," he said, adding the suspects went in through an entrance near a jewelry store. They also reportedly exited in the same spot. 

"Nakita ko na lang may binabasag sila pagkatapos magpaputok. Di na mapigil ng guwardiya at ang mga tao ay nagkakagulo," he said. The suspects allegedly smashed the jewelry display case while also firing shots in the air. 

"Wala naman natumba. Lumabas na ako dahil pinalabas na kami ng guwardiya," he added.  "Sa ngayon, pinalabas na lahat ng customer."



Pasay City police are currently investigating the incident, the radio report said. 

In a separate flash report, radio DZBB's Paolo Santos reported that the police has cordoned off the area.
 

Not the first time

This is the fourth time that the so-called Martilyo Gang struck a jewelry counter at an SM Mall. 

The group first attacked at SM Bicutan in November 2010. The group smashed open display cases, took the jewelry and threw a hand grenade as they left. 

They attacked anew three years later, using crowbars and hammers at the department store of SM Megamall.

Last December, the group struck again, hitting another jewelry counter at SM North Edsa. President Benigno Aquino III and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II personally dropped by the crime scene to check on the situation.   Rouchelle Dinglasan/JDS/HS/KG, GMA News
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