Police 'foil' robbery but Tuguegarao bank's depositors lose millions
TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines – Days after police reported a robbery was foiled at a Tuguegarao bank, safety deposit box lessees of EastWest bank claimed they lost millions of pesos worth of jewelry and valuables to 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 City branch went off around 12:45 am on May 5.
While police said they responded immediately after the call and that investigators suspected the robbery happened between 12:45 to 1:30 am, no suspects were apprehended. Police said they heard noises inside the bank when they arrived. But by the time the bank manager authorized the bank doors opened, there was no one inside.
Initial inspection of the crime scene showed the robbers passed through a hole and tunnel from the drainage system underneath the bank. The bank's CCTV showed only one suspect coming out of the hole.
Police said the bank management had told them that nothing was taken from the bank. The robbers did not enter the vault, the report said.
However, lessees of the bank's safety deposit boxes (SDBs) said this was not true.
Jeffrey, one of the SDB lessees who asked not to be identified for security reasons, said a bank representative called him up Saturday morning, May 5, informing him that his deposit box was among those opened and pried open by the burglars.
In his account, about P5.9-million worth of jewelry, luxury watches, gold coins, gold bar Swiss credit, and other valuables were lost in the robbery.
The jewelry, he said, was his family's collection for about 4 decades.
Another victim, Teresita, who also asked that her identity be withheld, said she lost about P9 million worth of jewelry.
An emotional Teresita on Friday, May 18, told Rappler in a phone interview that this was the second time she lost millions. In 2017, she claimed she also lost over P10 million from swindling.
"Ang laki-laki, halos ito na lang naiwan sa akin kasi 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.
(It was a big amount. That was the only property left to me because I also lost money in 2017. I was swindled of more than P10 million something. And then this in 2018. I lost more or less P8 to P9 million.)
Both Jeffrey and Teresita suspect that the robbery was an inside job.
In an interview on Friday, Jeffrey said he doubted the bank manager's explanation. He asked why the bank management reported to the police that nothing was stolen.
He also could not believe that the robbery lasted only 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 were 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 was "impossible" for the suspects to 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 like it was untouched.
Teresita said she made sure that her jewelry kits were "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.
(Thirty minutes is not enough time. I have long nails and I'm used to opening my jewelry kit, but it still takes me time to open it. I tie it up every tight. But this time, no one got wounded. If they were really burglars, they would pry it open or take the whole jewely kit. They would not untie it.)
She added that she placed pins in the zippers for safety. The robbers, she said, took time to untie the kit and remove all the pins, and restore it to its original state.
"Ako gusto kong magbitaw ng salita na may inside job ito. Totoo, inside job ito dahil walang mangyayari na ganoon kabilis," Teresita added.
(I wouldn't want to say it. But this is really an inside job because how could they do it so quickly.)
Rappler wrote the management of EastWest Bank Tuguegarao to get their side, but it has not responded. – Rappler.com