Robbers in police uniforms made a daring heist at the Rolex store in Greenbelt 5 at 11:30 in the morning on Sunday October 18, 2009. Greenbelt 5 is a posh mall located in the Makati Business District.
Fortunately, there were two cops inside the mall who had just their lunch there, and managed to kill on of the robbers.
More information about the robbery from an Inquirer article after the jump.
MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 4) Armed with high-powered firearms, six men in bonnets and bomb squad uniforms staged a daring heist at a luxury watch store inside Makati City’s premiere mall on Sunday.
Security guards in Ayala Center were no match to the men posing as cops, who brandished M-16 rifles and a grenade launcher, as they robbed the Rolex store on the ground floor of Greenbelt 5 mall around 11:30 a.m.
One of the suspects was killed by two Taguig City cops who were coincidentally on the mall’s second floor. The shootout lasted for about three minutes before the robbers fled on two getaway vehicles with no plate numbers, which were later recovered by police in Magallanes.
“Masyado nang daring ito. Parang naghahamon na sila. (This is too daring. Itâ€™s as if they were challenging us.) This seems like adventurism to them already,” admitted Chief Insp. Dennis Macalintal, head of the Makati police investigation unit.
He confirmed that an unidentified hotel employee was injured in the crossfire but was reportedly in stable condition at the Makati Medical Center.
More than 50 slugs of M-16 rifles were found by scene of the crime operatives at the main entrance of Greenbelt 5 to the escalator going down to the street, where the robbers escaped onboard a Toyota Corolla and a Honda City.
Greenbelt 5, the newest of the malls in Ayala Center, is home to high-end brands.
The dead suspect laid face-down on the store’s entrance. The store’s glass windows were shattered. Watch containers were scattered near him.
An inventory is still being conducted to determine if the robbers managed to cart away some of the watches, which cost anywhere from P300,000 to more than a million each.
Shoppers were stuck inside the Greenbelt malls for more than an hour as the mall’s security initially locked down the entrances and exits.
Vehicles in the parking areas were also not allowed to leave.
The Greenbelt 5 robbery is the latest robbery involving heavily armed men either police or military uniforms.
“This was not the first time that criminals used police and military uniforms in their operation. But so far the proper authorities have not taken steps to restrict their sale and use,” said Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay in a statement.
Macalintal said the six pointed their guns at Rocky Paningbatan, security guard of the Greenbelt 5 main entrance, and dragged him to the Rolex outlet.
He said the two Taguig cops identified as PO1 Efren Ceniza Jr. and SPO1 Cesar Tiglao, who were detailed with Taguig Mayor Freddie Tinga, saw the robbers smashing the store windows from the second floor and immediately engaged them in a shootout.
The two Taguig policemen, who were only armed with .45 caliber pistols, were credited for killing one of the robbers.
“We were having lunch outside, not far from where the robbery took place. Matapang talaga yung dalawang pulis ko… from what I saw handa nilang itaya yung buhay nila. (My two cops were courageous…. from what I saw, they were ready to risk their lives.) Other people might have just walked away but they fought it out,” Tinga told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Tinga said only the two cops engaged the robbers in gunfire, but Macalintal claimed some security guards also helped.
The mayor said the two cops would be recognized by the Taguig city government for their bravery.
“Ang mahirap sa insidenteng ito, nakalusot yung mga may dala ng ganong klaseng armas sa loob ng mall. And they were in police uniforms so it was difficult to distinguish them from our cops (The problem was those with powerful firearms were able to get into the all),” said Tinga.
Although the Makati police had roving cops in the area, Macalintal said the Ayala Center management was in charge of the security inside their malls.
Ayala Land’s Dindo Fernando called the robbery unfortunate but still credited their security guards for engaging the robbers in gunfire.
He promised mall goers that Ayala Land was looking into the apparent security lapse at the mall.
“Security is an evolving issue. Ang maipapangako namin sa aming mga shoppers ay walang katapusan ang pagpapaigi namin sa seguridad sa aming mga malls (What we can promise to our shoppers is that we are continually improving security measures at the malls),” said the senior division manager of external affairs.
Macalintal called the mall robbery “isolated” and should not cause undue alarm to the public.
“Kung ako ang tatanungin hindi ko papasukin ito (Greenbelt mall) kasi napakahigpit ang security… so it was probably adventurism on the part of the suspects. Baka meron silang gusting subukan. Pero nalagasan sila (If I were the robbers, I wouldnâ€™t break into the mall because security was too tight, so it was probably adventurism on the part of the suspects. They probably just wanted to test things. But they lost one member),” he said.
He praised the two Taguig cops for quickly responding to the robbery and credited them for preventing what could have turned into a hostage-taking situation.
“Kung ano man yung damage na magagawa nung holdapers na-minimize natin yun. (We were able to minimize the damage caused by the holdup men). Na-intimidate sila (They were intimidated) so they had no other recourse but to escape,” said Macalintal.
Mayor Binay called the brazenness of the act “alarming” but said the robbery highlighted the importance of vigilance and preparedness.
“I suggest that the proper authorities anticipate a possible surge in brazen and high-profile criminal activities because of the hard times, especially after typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng,” he said.
Police investigators learned that one of the watchmen manning the periphery of the shopping mall saw at least seven heavily armed men in black uniforms alight from a van near the entrance of the mall’s basement parking, just a few meters from the stairs going to the luxury watch shop.
“They all looked like policemen. They got off their vehicle very quickly and headed for the stairs,” said Jomil dela Cruz.
Dela Cruz said a man carrying a long firearm told a watchman stationed near the stairs that they were responding to a “bomb scare” in Greenbelt-2.
“They even instructed my fellow security guard to step aside as they were responding to an emergency call,” he said.
Dela Cruz said his colleague immediately informed their supervisor on the radio about the presence of the armed men.
Just a few minutes later, he said he heard successive gunshots being fired from inside the mall.
Another watchman, Danilo Santosan, said he heard two men in civilian clothes accost the armed men as they entered the mall.
“Mga pulis ba kayo (Are you cops)?” Santosan quoted the man as telling the men in black police uniform.
“Fortunately, those two men were able to fire their pistols before the robbers shot them,” he added.
The men in civilian clothes turned out to be the close-in security aides of Taguig City Mayor Freddie Tinga.
During the shootout, Santosan said five of the robbers quickly fled toward the basement parking, forcibly taking a passing Honda sedan as their getaway vehicle.
Before they left, Dela Cruz said the robbers shot at the watchmen and a group of shoppers on the second floor of Greenbelt-3.
A man said he heard at least three episodes of gunfire, each lasting for a few minutes.
“I heard shots being fired for about five minutes,” he said.
The robbery prompted mall security officials and policemen to close down the entire Greenbelt-5 building.
Shoppers, tenants and employees of establishments in adjacent malls milled around the area. Some asked if there was truth to reports that a group of customers were being held hostage by the robbers inside.
Mallgoers questioned the apparent lack of security within the sprawling Ayala-owned mall complex.
Rowena Bito-on, 37, noted that the brazen robbery occurred just a day before the second anniversary of the deadly explosion that rocked Glorietta 2.
The explosion, which the mall owners claimed was caused by the methane gas that accidentally leaked from the building’s sewage system, left 11 people dead and over 100 others injured.
“After the explosion in Glorietta, we thought the mall administrators and the local police beefed up the security here. But it looked like nothing much was improved,” Bito-on, a bank employee from Pasay City, said.
The robbery affected the operations of a number of restaurants and shops in Greenbelt-5 and adjoining shopping areas.
Watchmen interviewed by the Philippine Daily Inquirer said they noticed a significant drop in the number of people entering other Greenbelt malls.
Roel Tongol, manager of the posh restaurant Felix in Greenbelt-5, said they lost at least P150,000 in expected revenues because of the firefight.
Tongol said the 12 customers who were dining at the 150-seater restaurant at the time of the shooting decided to leave at once.
“Our place is usually full during lunchtime especially because Sunday is family day here. You could just imagine our losses,” he lamented.
A number of foreign tourists who either witnessed or was told of the robbery said they were dismayed by what happened.
“It (the robbery) was really shocking considering that Makati is the center of commerce in the Philippines,” said an Australian tourist who declined to be identified.
“I think the government should be more circumspect in assigning security people in this place,” he added.
“The police must see to it that the whole place is secure. As frequent visitors of this area, we would probably think twice going here at night after what happened today,” his female companion said.