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Cebu bank robbed while guard takes 'CR break'

August 22, 2007 10:55am

Following a bloody armored-van heist earlier this month, robbers on Tuesday struck again in Cebu City and made off with an undetermined amount of money, but no shots were fired this time.

Sun.Star Cebu reported Wednesday that the robbers, armed only with .45-cal. pistols, made their move while the lone security guard took a "toilet break."

Robbed was the Peninsula Rural Bank Inc. (Penbank)’s Ibabao branch along S.B. Cabahug Street. The robbery, which took place at 12:15 p.m., was over in less than 10 minutes.

Senior Superintendent Alexander Abadinas, Mandaue City police chief, was surprised that the robbery was timed when the guard was inside the comfort room and the other guard was absent.

"When the guard returned from the comfort room, the robbers were gone," said Abadinas.

He said the two robbers fled on board a black Enduro motorcycle. Nobody has come forward to reveal its plate number.

Inside the bank that time were manager Mar-vin Soco, Nemi Apali, Janis Muñoz, Jonabelle Estabillo, Cherryl Camus, Ronald Ty and a certain Lolit.

Meanwhile, the police got a break in the case a few hours after the heist after a witness identified one of the robbers through a colored photograph.

An official from the Cebu City Police Office Theft and Robbery Section said the suspect is a member of the Bohol Robbery Group, which was behind the bloody robbery earlier this month.

The police believe that Tuesday's heist and the P2.7-million robbery of a Metrobank pick-up teller last August 13 in Cebu City are related.

Mandaue City Vice Mayor Carlo Fortuna blamed the intelligence community for its failure to give warnings. He suggested setting up a “robbery threat alarm system."

Investigation showed guard Jovelo Jumawan of Socopa Security Agency was inside the comfort room outside the bank when the robbery took place. His partner John Sabacajan was absent.

Abadinas said the bank employees recognized one of the robbers going inside the bank earlier that day and asking about opening an account. The man then left.

When the man returned past noon, Ty, who was manning the door, allowed him in. The man went to the new accounts section and told them he wanted to open an account.

Moments later, the second robber, bringing a bag, tapped the door. Ty asked Estabillo if he will allow the man in. Estabillo said yes.

When the second robber placed the bag on the table, a loud bang was heard. Ty suspected a robbery was about to take place so he left the door unlocked to allow the guard to get in.

The men pulled their guns out and announced a holdup.

Ty’s friend Benito Desierto suddenly went inside the bank while the robbery was in progress and the robbers pointed their guns at him.

They took his cell phone and told him to go with the employees.

The manager noticed the commotion but decided not to go out of the pantry at that time.

Ty said the robbers asked for the teller. Apali approached them. The robbers then grabbed the teller’s cash.

One went to the vault with Muñoz and placed the cash in the bag. The robbers escaped on a black motorcycle parked outside.

Abadinas said five to seven minutes passed before the bank raised the robbery alarm.

The bank called up its branch on A.S. Fortuna St., whose personnel then called up the police.

Abadinas said they had been visiting banks, including the one that was robbed Tuesday, and pointed out their lapses in security such as the lack of a security camera.

He said the bank has three separate alarm buttons, which when pressed can alert the nearest police station. But nobody pressed the alarm.

Vice Mayor Fortuna, for his part, wants to know what the intelligence operatives have been doing to warn banks on the robbery group’s presence in the city.

“Apparently there was no intelligence activity to that effect," he said.

He proposed that the Philippine National Police to have a “robbery threat level alarm system" that declares high level alert when a suspected robbery group is present in the city and when there is an increase in bank transactions.

It was the second time a PenBank branch was robbed. On April 8, 2005, the group of Rey Torres robbed PenBank in Talisay City and fled with P854,000. Torres was arrested and charged.

On April 19, 1999, a man tried to rob a PenBank branch in Mandaue, but suspect Romero Ursal was arrested. He had a warrant for another crime. - GMANews.TV