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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

IS THE spate of robberies in Western Visayas a preparation for the 2010 elections?

Top police officials believe that robbery groups could be under the direction of some unscrupulous politicians out to raise funds for next year’s elections.

This, as two major robberies happened in Iloilo City and Hinigaran, Negros Occidental in a span of two days since Monday.

Around 10-12 heavily armed men raided the remittance center of Vallacar Transit, operator of Ceres Bus Liner, in Jaro, Iloilo City Monday evening.

The suspects, who were armed with M16 Armalite rifles, machine pistols and handguns, carted away an estimated P300,000 cash and personal belongings of Vallacar employees.

The Jaro police has yet to identify the suspects in the heist.

On Tuesday evening, six suspects attempted to rob almost P12 million from the RCBC Bank branch in the town of Hinigaran, some 60 kilometers south of Bacolod City.

Reports from the Negros Occidental Provincial Police Office said the heist happened 6:45pm when the RCBC Bank on Rizal Street was about to close.

Concerned bystanders reported the incident to the Hinigaran police headed by S/Insp. Sonny Boy Bernus.

Bernus together with PO3 Romelo Gentogao, PO3 Ernel Mudanza, PO1 Lyle Cañazares and PO1 Armar Mariano chased the six suspects who commandeered a tricycle as their getaway vehicle.

A running gunbattle erupted between the police and the suspects, resulting in the death of two robbers. One of the dead suspects was identified as Dennis Española of Brgy. Cansalungon in Isabela town.

Identification cards recovered from Española showed that he is an active member of the CAFGU auxiliary under the 12th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army based in Negros Occidental. The other killed suspect remains unidentified.

The four remaining suspects fled with three RCBC employees whom they used as hostages. The suspects later released the hostages at Brgy. Patique, Hinigaran

At around 11:45am Wednesday, the Hinigaran police and the 613th Provincial Mobile Group arrested suspect Ricky Billiones who is also a CAFGU member from Isabela, Negros Occidental.

The Hinigaran policemen recovered P11,958,000 cash in a sack which the suspects left inside the bank premises. Another P102,000 cash was left behind by the robbers in the tricycle along with the two hostages at Barangay Patique.

A caliber .38 revolver was recovered beside Española’s body. Also recovered were empty shells and live ammunition of caliber .9 mm pistol inside the bank and two magazine assembly of M16 Armalite rifle in the abandoned tricycle, two cellphones and a black shoulder bag allegedly belonging to Española.

Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, Police Regional Office (PRO-6) director, said he went to Hinigaran to lead the investigation on the RCBC robbery.

Cuevas said he learned that the group in the RCBC heist was also tagged in several robberies in Negros Occidental in 2006, a year before the 2007 national and local elections. 

“It is possible that robbery groups will be used in the coming elections. We are watching out for them in terms of intelligence monitoring to prevent more robberies from happening,” Cuevas said.

Cuevas said he ordered all intelligence units to remain vigilant following the series of robberies in the region. He also ordered all policemen to be on alert so they can respond to any incidents in their area.

“The good thing about the Hinigaran incident is that the police reacted and chased the suspects until some of them were neutralized and arrested. Our personnel should be alert at all times,” he added.

Ceres robbers ‘knew exactly where to go’

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE robbery of the remittance office of a bus line operator in Jaro, Iloilo City Monday evening might be an “inside job,” investigators said.

A group of 10-12 armed suspects carted away some P300,000 cash from the office of Vallacar Transit, operator of Ceres Bus Liner, at Brgy. Buhang, Jaro past 7 pm the other day.

Employees of the bus company said the suspects were on board a white Starex van and wielded M16 Armalite rifles, Uzi submachine gun and pistols.  

The van entered the Vallacar compound with ease as the gate was open while some of the guards on duty were having dinner.

Based on the accounts of Analou Fernandez, Vallacar supervisor, three suspects went inside the main office and hauled the money from the cashier. One of the suspects was disguised as a uniformed bus conductor.  The other robbers neutralized the security guards and served as lookout in and out of the compound.

The suspects also tried to forcibly open the safety vault containing P200,000 cash by shooting the lock with a 12-gauge shotgun but they failed.   

The remittance office is fashioned out of old Ceres buses, the same place where a former conductor held hostage several employees two months ago.

Apparently, the suspects struck at the time when Ceres bus conductors have just remitted their collections for the day. Some of the robbers wore ball caps while others donned masks.

Aside from the collection money, the suspects also took away the personal belongings and cash of Vallacar employees and the firearms of the four security guards on duty.

Fernandez said the suspects moved in a swift and organized manner knowing exactly where to go. The heist was over in more or less five minutes.

The suspects fled towards the municipality of Leganes. The ICPO asked help from the Iloilo Provincial Police Office to set up checkpoints in adjacent towns but they failed to net the suspects.

C/Insp. Orly Gabinete, Jaro police chief, said the suspects may have inside information on where the money was kept and when to strike.

“The suspects are certainly professionals. They moved quickly and knew where to go,” Gabinete said.

S/Supt. Melvin Moncal, ICPO director, ordered the deployment of the Special Weapons and Tactics team around the city following the heist.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

AROUND 200 drainage pipes are spewing wastes into the Iloilo River, according to a group of lawyers pushing for the enforcement of environmental laws in Iloilo City.

Atty. Norberto Posecion said their recent survey of the Iloilo River showed that more or less 200 pieces of 600-millimeter pipes are jutting out of the river and discharge liquid wastes.

Posecion said their survey covered the areas of Muelle Loney in Iloilo City proper to Carpenters Bridge in Mandurriao-Molo districts.

“It is possible that there are more pipes down there which will only be visible during low tide. And we believe that these drainage pipes disgorge pollutants into the river,” Posecion said.

Posecion, along with members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Iloilo headed by Atty. Marven Daquilanea, is leading the legal offensive to implement ecological laws in Iloilo City.

The Iloilo River survey was conducted in preparation for the filing of mandamus case against the Iloilo City government.

The mandamus suit seeks to force City Hall to clear the Iloilo River of obstructions and all types of pollution.

Posecion said they have to force the city government to clean the river as the problem has been there for a long time already.

“When do we act? When the river is already dead?” he added.

The Iloilo City government had said that untreated waste from no less than 100 of the 180 barangays of the city is being discharged into the river.

A recent study by the University of the Philippines-Visayas showed that the Iloilo River has been experiencing low dissolved oxygen. Dissolved oxygen is a measure of a water body’s ability to support aquatic life. Low dissolved oxygen can lead to fishkill and loss of other aquatic organisms.

The study also showed a high prevalence of intestinal parasitic infections among children living in urban slums along the river.

Thirty other barangays from the nearby towns of Leganes, Oton and San Miguel, Iloilo also drain their sewerage into the river.

Engr. Noel Hechanova, City Environment and Natural Resources Office chief, said some half a million gallons of wastewater drain into the river every day.

The IBP earlier filed a mandamus case against the city government relative to the conversion of the Calajunan dumpsite in Mandurriao into a sanitary landfill.

The lawyers said the conversion of the open dump should have been implemented sometime in 2006 in keeping with the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2001.

The law stipulates that open dumpsites must be converted into landfills three years after its implementation.

Five years after the enforcement of the law, only sanitary landfills will be allowed.

Daquilanea said the Calajunan dumpsite emits offensive odor that assault residents of the district.

Leachate or liquid discharges from the dumpsite also pollute the aquifer which is the source of groundwater.

The mandamus case impleaded the Office of the City Mayor, Sangguniang Panlungsod, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Department of Health.

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