BUT for an alert Bogo policeman who was manning the gate at the Pulangbato wharf in that northern city on Saturday evening, seven members of the gang that earlier robbed five establishments, mostly jewelry stores, inside the J Center Mall in Mandaue would probably be enjoying their P136 million loot by now.
It was around 11 p.m. when the Innova van arrived at the pier, trailed by three motorcycles. There must be a VIP in that vehicle, Police Staff Sgt. Jojit Potot thought. But when he saw only ordinary-looking men stepping out of the van, he became suspicious and after directing the van driver to proceed to the ticket office--and farther away from the gate--asked the motorcycle riders to show their driver’s license.
At that time, he did not yet know about the J Center Mall robbery that took place more than three hours earlier. He and another policeman are alternately stationed at the Pulangbato pier and Saturday was his turn to serve in the night shift.
When Potot saw that one or two of the driver’s licenses expired, his suspicions were heightened. So he made sure that the four vehicles could not get out while he contacted his superiors. One of the riders, however, managed to approach the van where he got a bag before fleeing to a blue hatchback car that was parked some 200 meters away.
It was about that time that someone from the police Regional Special Operations Group called Potot by phone, informing him of the robbery and asking him to be on the lookout for suspicious-looking persons. When he told the caller about the guys in the Innova and their motorcycle escorts, the caller swore and instructed him to prevent the men from leaving at all cost.
A few hours later, RSOG arrived and arrested all the suspects. One of them jumped to the sea but apparently realized that he would soon die from drowning and climbed to safe ground using a lifeline that the policemen threw to him.
The above narration is from Potot himself whom we interviewed on “Frankahay Ta” last Monday. I have no reason to doubt his story; his answers were spontaneous and direct to the point.
There are two very significant revelations in his story, foremost of which is that the robbery alarm that the police issued to all their units province-wide, did not reach a policeman who was stationed in a wharf, which is a possible escape route, until more than three hours later.
The other is that which confirms the police version of the events that transpired after the arrest of the suspects: they were not killed in a shootout in the wharf but while in transit, probably to Mandaue City or the RSOG headquarters, when they allegedly tried to grab the firearms of the policemen.
Not surprisingly, not too many, in fact only the Commission on Human Rights, appears to be interested in finding out the circumstances of the killing. The CHR has no choice; it is their mandate to investigate killings of this nature. Otherwise, the general feeling is that of relief that the robbers, at least seven of them, have been accounted for.
Let’s see if the police can account for the rest of the gang.