Martilyo Gang reflex: Why not regulate hammer sale?

Bea Cupin

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PNP will help security personnel improve security – but they draw the line at deploying PNP personnel to guard stores

PROTOCOL REVIEW. The Philippine National Police says it will work with mall operators to ensure safety inside shopping malls, especially during the holidays. Photo by Bea Cupin/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – How do authorities propose to prevent another mall robbery by hammer-wielding suspects?

Two days after the so-called Martilyo Gang struck at a jewelry shop at SM City North EDSA mallInterior Secretary Mar Roxas said shopping centers can regulate the sale of hammers, crowbars, and similar objects.

“The proposal is, if you want to buy hammers, crowbars, or other similar objects, you get a claim stub. Claiming [will be done] outside mall premises,” he said at a press briefing on Tuesday, December 17.

The idea earned the ire of netizens, but Roxas clarified that it is only a proposal. The decision to implement them ultimately lies with mall owners and operators.

He said police and mall owners have agreed to review existing procedures in preventing and responding to crimes inside shopping centers. Their recommendations include, but aren’t limited to, disallowing the sale of hammers and crowbars inside shopping malls.

The proposals presented by Roxas, who was flanked by NCRPO Commander Director Carmelo Valmoria and PNP Chief Director General Alan Purisima during the briefing, also include reviewing the way mall guards are trained.

The PNP also suggests that mall owners give breaks to security personnel manning the mall entrances, so they stay alert when on duty.

The PNP can also help security guards improve their skill sets – teach them, for example, how to profile and pinpoint suspicious characters inside malls.

Earlier, Roxas said the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) would meet with Metro Manila mall operators to create an information-sharing system and to review security procedures inside malls.

Lessons from Megamall?

Quezon City Police Department Chief Richard Albano told reporters they are investigating 3 groups so far in relation to the SM City North Edsa heist. “Hindi bale matagal, basta sigurado,” he said. (It doesn’t matter if it takes long, as long as we’re sure.)

This is the second time this year that the PNP reviewed mall safety protocols following a high-profile heist. In January, a group of armed men stole jewelry from another SM mall – the Megamall in Mandaluyong City.

Albano said it’s possible that the group behind the Megamall and North EDSA robberies are the same. “Pero walang kasiguraduhan,” he added. (But we’re not sure.)

From the get-go, changes to protocols were followed religiously right after the Megamall incident, but implementation became lax again eventually.

Lahat may [kagustuhang] magpatupad, pero somehow nalusaw [ang implementation],” Albano told reporters. (Everyone wanted to implement new protocols but eventually, implementation was faulty.)

The investigation of the Megamall heist revealed mall security were unarmed when robbers entered a jewelry store. Security checks at the entrance of the mall was also found to be lacking.

Security training, CCTV footage

But first, Roxas said, mall owners could activate real-time observation of CCTVs. Right now, he said, CCTV footage is usually only reviewed after an incident.

Roxas, who went to the scene of the heist on Sunday night alongside President Benigno Aquino III, said they cannot completely fault the mall’s security agency. It was an “opportunistic crime,” he said – the robbers entered the mall toward the end of the day, when personnel were already tired. 

“But we’ll check how they deploy personnel, among other suggestions,” he said.

Local government units (LGUs) will also be involved in improving security measures inside malls. The PNP will recommend passing ordinances that will require detailed security inside malls per city. Following the heist, the PNP has cancelled all leave of absences during the holidays. 

But the PNP will draw the line at deploying PNP personnel inside shopping malls. First, mall owners earlier requested not to have police inside malls, especially because they are armed; second, the PNP simply doesn’t have enough manpower to go around.

Hindi naman p’wede na ‘yung PNP maging security guard ng tindahan,” Roxas said. (The PNP can’t be security guards of shops.)

The PNP will, however, patrol the perimeter of malls to secure the areas. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.