Manila Mayor, police raise doubts as authorities hunt for Binondo bank robbers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 11) — Seven men robbed a bank in Binondo, Manila City in broad daylight on Thursday, but Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and authorities are looking at suspicious details surrounding the incident.

The suspects entered Metrobank in Sto. Cristo Street in Binondo around 8:43 a.m. — a few minutes before its operating hours.

Moreno said all the bank employees are safe, but there's a possibility cash was taken.

"Ipinasok mga empleyado sa isang kwarto. Ang good news, wala naman nasawi o nasaktan na mga empleyado, but there is a possibility na may nakuhang pera. Ito ay kabubukas lang ng bangko," Moreno said in a media briefing.

Breached protocol, tampered crime scene?

Moreno and Manila City police slammed the Metrobank branch security and management for barring the police officers from immediately going inside the bank. They said the bank personnel insisted they follow a so-called protocol of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). 

But Moreno is not buying it. He and the police said certain actions of the bank employees are questionable.

"No amount of rule — even BSP — cannot intervene in police operation or investigation... If you will not cooperate, especially we have doubts in our mind, kailangan ma-erase ang doubts ng policemen sa initial na impormasyon," the mayor said.

BSP Deputy Governor Chuchi Fonacier said banks are only required to report the robbery and investigation results to BSP. As to the conduct of investigation, it will be up to the bank how it will be carried out, she added.

Manila City Police Chief Brigadier General Vicente Danao Jr questioned why the security guards opened their doors well before the operating hours. He also wondered how the suspects knew where the CCTV footage was kept.

"Bakit nakapasok 'yung dalawa before banking hours which is 9 a.m.? Nakita niyo naman na nakapaskil sa pintuan. 'Yung dalawang suspect na nakapasok entered the premises around 8:43. Naka-helmet. Ang nakakapagtaka diyan bakit nakapasok sila nang before banking hours? Number 2, alam nila saan kukunin ang CCTV footage," Danao said.

The mayor said the facts surrounding the robbery "does not add up," saying he has "doubts" about it.

"Tell me, before banking hours, kumakatok at 8:43, bubuksan mo ang pintuan? Holdupper alam saan ang CCTV? Now you tell me, ano ba tayo, malisyoso? Kailangan lang natin pagdudahan... Humawak 'yung suspect, may fingerprint. Eh hinawakan din nila ang fingerprint," Moreno said.

Moreno issued a warning against branch employees if they are involved in the robbery in any way.

"If there's abuse on the part of the chief security of the bank, of the branch head, whoever calls the situation in interfering police operation, we will make them liable and we will think they are part of the criminal elements," he said.

There in an ongoing police operation to arrest the suspects. Moreno offered a P1-million reward for information that could lead to their capture.

Metrobank said it is coordinating with the authorities. It added no clients were affected by the robbery.

"Metrobank condemns the robbery at our Sto. Cristo branch in Manila earlier today. We will be working closely with the Philippine National Police and other authorities to ensure that the perpetrators are apprehended," it said in a statement.