POLICE are now looking for the three men caught in a viral video preying on a female passenger on board a public utility jeepney (PUJ) in Cebu City.

The Theft and Robbery Section (TRS) of Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) identified the three as Rodel Gaban, the one who dropped the coin to divert the victim’s attention; Apolonio “Botchoi” Tolibas, who slipped his hand into the victim’s bag; and Isidro Dabudo, who served as the lookout of his two companions.

All of them reportedly hail from Mindanao.

Chief Inspector David Señor, TRS chief, said the suspects had been arrested several times before and for similar offenses, but because their case is bailable, they simply post bail for their freedom.

Because of this, Señor urged commuters to be vigilant when they board PUJs, as the suspects are still at large.

Gaban, Tolibas and Dabudo and other members of “laglag-barya” gangs reportedly operate in PUJs that pass through Osmeña Blvd., Escario St., Archbishop Reyes Ave., P. del Rosario St., and roads going to Barangay Talamban.

More undercover cops

Because of the continuous theft incidents in the city, Señor is planning to deploy undercover policemen to ride on random jeppneys, observe unusual actions made by passengers and arrest a person caught in the act of stealing.

The plan was seconded by Cebu City Police Office officer-in-charge Marciano Batiancela Jr., although Batiancela also admitted their lack of operatives in the city.

Batiancela noted that the city only has around 1,100 operatives, even if it needs more than 2,000 of them.

Ang ratio gyod (The ratio) is one police personnel is to 500 civilians, and our population in Cebu City is more than 900,000,” Batiancela said.

Batiancela said that if passengers can plan to apply citizen’s arrest against suspected thieves, they are encouraged to do so.

However, Batiancela said passengers must observe at how strong the suspects are and if they have deadly weapons.

He said theft victims must report the incident to the nearest police station.

Señor said, though, that the fight against thieves does not end there.

Señor urged complainants of theft and robbery cases to never forget coming back to the police station where the suspects were jailed.

Kinahanglan ila ning balikon gyod para dili makagawas kay (Victims should come back because if they don’t) the suspects can be released from jail if the complainant fail to appear,” Señor said.

Usual suspects

Señor said that Gaban, Tolibas and Dabudo had been released from jail for several times because, aside from the fact that their cases were bailable, their complainants also failed to come back.

Tolibas, who is also fondly called as “Botchoi,” is reportedly the leader of their group.

Señor said that passengers must also be vigilant to other forms of theft in jeepneys, such as the sticking of a bubble gum in a victim’s hair or throwing an insect to his or her feet.

The video was taken last June 12 inside a jeepney plying the 13C route that traverses Barangay Talamban to downtown Cebu City and vice versa.

The video showed a woman sitting in between three men, with one of the three men deliberately dropping a coin.

The victim, unaware of the modus operandi, moved closer to the other two suspects as the other one fumbled to pick up the coin.

A minute into the video, the clip showed the man with the backpack holding what looked like a white wallet. He can also be seen checking the contents of the wallet.