MANILA, August 27, 2003 (STAR) Some groups must be hell-bent on embarrassing the country and the Arroyo administration. Money could not have been the only motive in that daring robbery the other day. The target was Citibank, one of the biggest banks in the world. The place was the heart of Makati, in a building that houses the Philippine headquarters of Citibank. And the time was 3:30 p.m. ó broad daylight, a busy hour in the nationís financial district.

Reports said the robbers, some of them wearing fatigue jackets and hoods, were armed with M-16 and M-14 rifles. They opened fire on an armored van and fired warning shots into the air. There was a brief exchange of gunfire between the robbers and policemen on patrol as well as bank security guards. The robbers fled with their loot in three vans. Police said the operation was similar to four other bank robberies staged in Makati this year.

The robbery can only increase jitters in this country. A month ago mutinous soldiers took over a plush apartment building favored by foreigners and set up booby traps around Makatiís commercial district. The nation still has not recovered from that military misadventure. Now an American bank is robbed by heavily armed men, some of them dressed like soldiers, who move with precision and are obviously well equipped for their nefarious activities. Even the sight of elite police Special Action Force members in full battle gear patrolling the streets of Makati was not reassuring. Such troops are not supposed to be seen in a financial district in the first place.

Because the culprits in the Makati robberies have not been caught, rumors are running wild as usual. There is speculation that certain politicians have once again turned to robbery to bankroll their campaign for the 2004 elections. Another speculation is that the latest robbery is part of a continuing operation to destabilize the administration. Because of the wea-pons used, the daring and the precision of the operation, many suspect that members of the uniformed ser-vices are once again involved.

Speculation will end only if the culprits are arrested. Letís hope the cops arenít too busy with scandal and intrigue to do their job.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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