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TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines- Ten days after burglars ransacked the safety deposit boxes (SDBs) of EastWest Bank Tuguegarao branch, victims who lost millions were told by the bank it had no liabilities to them.
In a letter to the victims, bank branch manager Rommel Tumbali apologized to the victims, but said the bank was not be liable for their losses. EastWest bank claimed because it was not responsible, the clients will not be recompensed.
The incident happened past midnight of May 16 when police were alerted by the alarm sounding at the EastWest Bank Tuguegarao branch.
The police report about the incident said it was a “foiled a robbery attempt.” Tumbali did not mention damaged SDBs in the report. He also did not report anything stolen.
However, at least 3 victims have claimed they have lost millions worth of jewelry, luxury watches, gold coins, and other valuables from the robbery. The victims added there were 7 more SDB clients expected to file complaints.
In his letter to the clients, Tumbali said the robbery was an “unforeseen” event “independent” of the will of EastWest bank.
“The burglars were able to carry out their criminal acts notwithstanding bank’s exercise of reasonable care and prudence,” Tumbali said.
With this, he said, the agreement between the bank and the SDB lessees stands.
Under the agreement, “the liability of the bank is limited to the exercise of ordinary care in the custody of the box, but shall not be liable for any loss due to fire, flood, earthquake, theft, burglary, robbery, embezzlement, other force majeure and fortuitous event, contributory negligence by renter, his agents/and or representative or any other cause, except failure to exercise such care.”
The manager also encouraged the victims to report to authorities any loss of transfer certificate of titles, car registration, and other important documents to prevent robbers from disposing it.
The bank’s response, however, did not sit well to the victims, who suspect the bank robbery was an inside job.
The victims described the May 16, 2018 letter sent by Tumbali as “informal” and “insincere.” It was printed on a plain legal-sized bond paper without the official EastWest Bank letterhead. The signatories by Rommel M. Tumbali, store manager, and Hazelle I. Manio, service manager. There was no signature of the bank’s legal team.
At least 3 victims said they will contest the bank’s response.
A victim, who lost more than P8-million worth of jewelry, said she has reported the incident to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) because the bank “was negligent” by not securing their deposit boxes.
“One hundred percent pagbababaya nila, sobra. Kasi dito wala silang guard, alam mong malaking company itong Eastwest Bank, bakit walang guard,” the victim, who requested not to be identified, said.
(They were 100 percent negligent. That’s too much. They don’t a securit guard in their branch. EastWest Bank is a big company, why didn’t they hire guards? )
One victim, who also requested for anonymity for his protection, said he has not read of the rules and regulations nor did he sign it.
He said they would not have availed of an SDB from EastWest bank had he known that the bank had no liabilities in case of robbery.
“The reason you get a safety deposit box is because of the word ‘safety’ and the bank should (provide) above and beyond protection, and protection their clients and protecting the bank and clients’ interest. I felt that they’ve failed us,” he said.
‘Poor security system’
Nearly 9 years ago, police were able to foil a robbery at a bank adjacent to EastWest also along College Avenue. Authorities said the robbers also used the same modus of passing through an underground tunnel, then boring a hole on the ground to enter the bank.
Now, another victim, who also requested for anonymity, is questioning what actions did the bank undertake to prevent a similar robbery from recurring.
“I will question that normal care kasi unang-una, paano nabutasan ‘yung loob mismo ng vault, e nagkaroon na ng incident na ganyan sa BPI before. (First, how could they bore a hole in the vault when a similar incident happened to the BPI bank across the street) What measure of control did they exercise to prevent that from happening in your bank,” the victim said.
In the latest EastWest bank incident, the suspects also used the drainage system underneath to enter the branch. – Rappler.com