Pawnshop loses millions in broad daylight robbery-A A +A
Monday, March 18, 2013
BACOLOD CITY -- Heavily armed men initially identified by police as members of the Ozamiz Parohinog crime group struck anew in a broad daylight heist and victimized F&C Pawnshop and Jewelry Store along Gonzaga St. in this city around 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
The pawnshop is located just a couple of hundred meters away from Police Station I at the heart of the city.
The heist came at the heels of the robbery of another pawnshop in Bacolod's downtown area that lost reportedly more than P20 million in cash and jewelry to suspected members of the acetylene gang barely 30 days ago.
Initial estimate of the jewelry and cash carted away by the 12 to 15 suspects were placed to be worth millions of pesos, as all the jewelry on display in the glass cabinet of the F&C Pawnshop and Jewelry Store were taken by the suspects.
Superintendent Santiago Rapiz, head of the Special Operations Group and spokesman of the Bacolod City Police Office, said the pawnshop management is still conducting an inventory as to the total worth of cash and jewelry they lost to the robbers.
The crime happened in just about two minutes after the suspects disarmed the pawnshop's two security guards of their .38 caliber service pistols, entered the store and broke the glass cabinet display with tire wrenches.
Based on the pawnshop's CCTV footage that captured the incident inside the store, two of the six suspects amassed the jewelry and put the loot inside the bag, while the other suspects closely guarded the store's sales attendants who were ordered lie flat on their bellies after the robbers declared a hold-up.
Rapiz said the suspects were all armed with short and long firearms, such as .45 caliber pistols and M-16 Armalite rifles, based on the account of the sales girls and security guards of the pawnshop.
Six of the armed suspects entered the pawnshop while the other suspects served as lookouts on board a van and two motorcycles outside the store.
The suspects used a red Escapade Van rented from Voyage San Soucis in Singcang, Bacolod City, around 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
Based on a contract, James Gonzales, 30 years old of 143-B, Cubao Quezon City, was the one who rented the van at P12,500 for 10 hours. He introduced himself as an engineer. The police, however, believed that the name is fictitious, despite Gonzales's presentation of his voter's ID.
After the hold-up, the suspects abandoned the van in Alunan Baybay, Barangay 35, Bacolod City, and transferred to a black F150 pick-up.
The van driver, identified as Rodolfo Tambasin, was hogtied, blindfolded and his mouth was tied with masking tapes. He was left at the van by the suspects after they escaped.
Tambasin narrated that from their office in Singcang with Gonzales, six suspects boarded the van along Gaisano City Mall in Araneta St., three others boarded along Planta Hotel and two more boarded in Barangay 39.
The suspects then hogtied and blindfolded him when they were in Barangay 39 and they may have proceeded to the downtown area to carry out the crime with one of the suspects driving the van.
Based on witnesses' accounts, the suspects wore jackets with hoods and were Ilonggo and Tagalog speaking and were around 25 to 30 years old.
The Police Regional Office (PRO)-Western Visayas immediately sent to Bacolod last Saturday Senior Superintendent Ricardo Dela Paz, former Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO) director and currently the head of the Special Intelligence Group of PRO, to conduct an investigation and possibly connect the incident to a heist with a very similar modus operandi that happened in Iloilo.
Special Investigating Task Group F&C was created to be the lead agency to conduct an investigation.
Rapiz said that with the way the crime was carried out, the suspects apparently belong to an organized crime group. He said hot pursuit operations are being undertaken by the police.
In a press statement, the police said it took several minutes for the members of Police Station 1, which is located just a couple of hundred meters from the crime scene, to respond because of miscommunication.
BCPO headquarters reportedly received an alarm that the robbery was happening in another pawnshop. They were able to ascertain that the heist was happening in F&C Pawnshop only after several more minutes.
The crime happened first hour of the store last Saturday, that some of the side walk vendors along Gonzaga St. have not yet displayed their goods.
The sales ladies and attendants of F&C were still cleaning the display cabinet and arranging the jewelry when the robbers struck.
Rapiz appealed to the public to immediately report to the police any suspicious looking individuals in their areas, as police theorized that the suspects are still in the city.
Investigators are also eying an angle that the suspects may have some local contacts, or may have established a hideout just in Negros Occidental.
Rapiz said that based on some witnesses’ accounts, two suspicious men entered the pawnshop last Friday and pretended to be buyers of jewelry.
He said the suspects may have already conducted surveillance on the area a few days before they carried the crime out.
He said aside from the van driver, the suspects' identities were divulged through the pawnshop's CCTV. The suspects were not using bonnets during the heist. (Sun.Star Bacolod/Sunnex)
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 18, 2013.