PARANAQUE, September 24, 2003 (STAR) Another UnionBank branch in Parañaque City was hit by three armed men just before noon yesterday, losing P600,000 in cash from the teller booths in a three-minute heist.

Superintendent Ronald Estilles, Parañaque City police chief, said witnesses positively identified Noel Enakmal, as one of the suspected robbers who earlier hit the Equitable Bank in Makati last April 4.

Initial investigation showed the suspects, all carrying caliber .45 caliber pistols, entered the Union Bank branch located along the Airport Road at around 11:30 a.m. yesterday. Nobody was hurt.

"The armed men blended with a number of bank patrons who were about to enter the establishment. Once inside, they immediately disarmed the detailed security guard and after taking the cash from the tellers walked out of the bank," Estilles said.

Robert Sangco, of the Robe Security Agency, lost his service firearm, a caliber .38 caliber revolver, to the suspects. The suspects, he added, no longer bothered with the bank vault and were content in walking away with P600,000.

Police said they have yet to confirm if the suspects had a waiting getaway vehicle or if they merely boarded a passing jeepney or taxi.

" We immediately set up a dragnet to secure the area and launched a manhunt for them," Estilles said. "It happened so fast. Even the security guard said he just pressed the buzzer to alert the police when the suspects left. By the time police from the nearest substation located in Baclaran arrived at the scene, they were already gone."

This is the second time that a UnionBank was robbed in Parañaque. Last Sept. 1, three motorcycle-riding men hit the bank’s branch in Sucat and carted away P300,000. Two days later, they apprehended one of the suspects, a certain Gerry Antonio, outside his house in Pasig City. He was also tagged as part of the group that hit a UnionBank branch in Quezon City earlier this year.

Estilles admitted UnionBank’s lax security could be one reason why their banks are the favorite target of robbers. "We have told the UnionBank management that they should add more security guards. At present, they only have one security guard. They should increase the number to two or three."

While the city’s peace and order is the concern of the police, support is needed from the private sector and concerned barangay to beef up security, he said.

There are 127 banks in Parañaque, while the local police force has only 187 personnel and are divided into two shifts or about less than a hundred per duty.

Parañaque Mayor Joey Marquez said with the crime rate expected to rise because of the approaching Christmas holidays and election period, police should increase their vigilance and improve their response capabilities.

The city government is set to turn over three Besta vans to local law enforcers and promised to purchase 30 bullet proof vests and 30 long firearms to strengthen the police force. A few weeks ago, he gave them 50 radio units and several multicabs. Top Cops To Meet

Meanwhile, top police officials of Metro Manila and nearby provinces will meet today to come up with a concerted effort in the campaign against criminal and drug syndicates.

The meeting was initiated by National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) chief Deputy Director General Reynaldo Velasco amid reports that criminal and drug syndicates are maintaining safehouses in Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal. "They are holding out in their safehouses after conducting criminal activities or making major drug deals in Metro Manila," said Velasco referring to criminal and drug syndicates.

Velasco told The Star Senior Superintendents Roberto Rosales, Edwin Corvera, Leocaldio Santiago and Felizardo Serapio, police directors of Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan, respectively, have signified their intention to attend the meeting at Camp Bagong Diwa at 2 p.m. today. Also expected to be in attendance are the police chiefs of Bacoor in Cavite; San Pedro in Laguna; Cainta, Taytay, Antipolo City and San Mateo in Rizal and San Jose del Monte and Meycauayan in Bulacan.

According to Velasco he will impose upon fellow police officials the establishing of heavy police presence in certain areas within Metro Manila to prevent criminal and drug syndicates easy access on their escape to their "safehouses."

The NCRPO chief noted that criminal syndicates are maintaining safehouses in Metro Manila’s neighboring provinces, making it difficult for police to get them. "It will take us time before we monitor their safehouses in the provinces," said Velasco.

Velasco stressed that Pentagon kidnap gang leader Faisal Marohombsar was killed last year in a shootout with government agents in his safehouse in Cavite.

Three members of the dreaded Kuratong Baleleng robbery gang, responsible for the series of bank robbery incidents in Metro Manila are also maintaining a safehouse in Cainta, Rizal. Three of their alleged members were killed and five others were arrested during an encounter in Cainta last week.

Combined NCRPO, Camp Crame police and military agents raided a safehouse in Palar Village in Taguig last Sunday and arrested more than a dozen suspected bank robbers who yielded assorted firearms and ammunition.

The NCRPO, Region 4 police and Anti-Drugs Special Operations Task Force (AID-SOTF) also neutralized in the past months shabu laboratories in Cavite and southern Metro Manila.

According to Velasco, he will also ask police officials to intensify their intelligence gathering to trace the safehouses of the criminal and drug syndicates.

"We are bent on curbing the movements of criminal syndicates and a close cooperation among us is needed for the PNP to succeed," said Velasco in an interview.– With Non Alquitran

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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