TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines- Days after police reported of a foiled robbery attempt at a bank in Tuguegarao, box deposit lessees said millions worth of jewelries and valuables were actually taken by the burglars.
In an earlier report, Tuguegarao police said they received a call from the officer-in-charge of the bank’s monitoring security center in Metro Manila. The officer told police the alarm of EastWest Bank Tuguegarao branch rang around 12:45 midnight on May 5.
While police said they had responded immediately after the call, and that investigators suspected the robbery happened around 12:45 to 1:30 am, the suspects were not apprehended as they were able to escape already by the time the bank’s manager authorized its opening.
Initial inspection of the crime scene showed the robbers created a hole and tunnel from the drainage system underneath, and used it as their points entry and exit. Only one suspect was seen from the CCTV to have reportedly entered the hole.
Responding police said the bank management had told them that nothing was taken from the bank. The vault was not penetrated, the report added.
This, however, was later belied by lessees of the bank’s safety deposit boxes (SDBs).
Jeffrey*, one of the SDB lessees, said a bank representative phoned him Saturday morning, May 5, informing him that his deposit box was one of those opened and robbed by the burglars.
The SDBs were located outside the vault, Jeffrey said.
In his account, about P5.9-million worth of jewelry, luxury watches, gold coins, gold bar Swiss credit, and other valuables were lost from the robbery.
The jewelry, he said, was his family’s collection for about 4 decades.
Another victim, Teresita, lost about P9 million of jewelries.
An emotional Teresita on Friday, May 18, told Forum in a phone interview that this was the second time she lost millions. In 2017, Teresita claimed she also lost over P10 million from swindling.
“Ang laki-laki, halos ito na lang naiwan sa akin kasi na 2017 nawalan na ako. Naloko na ako ng halos P10 point something [million], tapos eto sumunod na naman, 2018. Siguro more or less nasa P8 to 9 million ‘yun,” Teresita, a single mom, said.
Both Jeffrey and Teresita suspected that there was an inside job on the robbery.
In an interview on Friday, Jeffrey said he found the bank manager’s explanation “shady,” as he questioned why did the bank management initially tell the police that nothing was stolen from the bank.
He also expressed disbelief that the suspects were able to perform the robbery in just 30 minutes.
“They said it was so fast, that they have done it in a span of 30 minutes. The manager said that when they arrived, the suspects were still inside, so the question was, why was the suspects not caught? The manager just told us that the suspects were no longer there when they opened the bank,” Jeffrey said in a mix of Filipino and English.
Jeffrey said it is “impossible” for the suspects to “cleanly” execute the robbery in just 30 minutes.
“It was an inside job or something. That’s what everybody thinks, because it was cleanly executed. It’s impossible… Of course, they want us to think that they were prompt in responding. But I think the burglars had all their time in world to accomplish it,” he added.
Jeffrey’s disbelief was also shared by Teresita, who said the way her jewelry kit was “properly” arranged was “questionable,” since it would take them time to dismantle it, and to bring it back to original state.
Teresita said she made sure that her jewelry kits are “too complicated” to open.
“Hindi kaya ng 30 minutes. Ako nga na mahaba ang kuko, na sanay na ako sa jewelry kit ko, ang tagal kong tanggalin ‘yun. Sobrang higpit kong tinatali, ngayon wala man lang nasugatan. Kung talagang magnanakaw ‘yun, i-slash mo o ‘di kaya bitbitin mo ‘yung jewelry kit, hindi ‘yung pa-safety mo pang tatanggalin ‘yung tali,” Teresita said, adding that there were pins in the zippers for safety.
The robbers, she said, took time to untie the kit and remove all the pins, and brought it back to its original state.
“Ako gusto kong magbitaw ng salita na may inside job ito. Hindi, totoo, inside job ito dahil walang mangyayari na ganoon kabilis,” Teresita added.
Forum wrote the bank management to ask for their reaction, but has yet to receive a response. – Northernforum.net
*The victims’ real names were concealed as per request, and for their protection.