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Last year’s P1.6 M loss a ‘learning experience’ Ballesteros says

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Almost a year has passed, but the Cebu City police have yet to solve the theft of about P1.6 million cash taken from the vault of the Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI).

“The police should have looked at all angles,” said SFI executive director Ricky Ballesteros, who said he was frustrated with the unsolved case which took place in the early hours of Jan. 16 last year or a day after the Sinulog Grand Finale.

It was a “learning experience” he said.

To beef up security, two policemen will be assigned on 24-hour watch at the office in the Cebu City Sports Center where cash is kept.

Ballesteros said more blue guards will be added.

Last April, 16 closed circuit TV (CCTV) cameras were installed in various parts of the sports center as part of a plan approved even before the burglary.

Senior Supt. Mariano Natuel, who assumed his post as acting Cebu City police chief this week, said there was “no new evidence to implicate anyone in the crime.”

The police chief at the time, Senor Supt. Melvin Buenafe, was recently transferred to Camp Crame for career advancement.

The theft was widely believed to be an inside job, but no name has surfaced as a suspect.

The security guard on duty at the time, Joselyndon Jabagat, was cleared of liability by the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office who said the qualified theft charges against him were based on “suspicions and insinuations” but no proof.

Stolen from the vault was about P1.6 million in cash, which included P888,000 as the city government’s financial assistance to out-of-town Sinulog contingents, a P757,000 talent fee for choreographers and dancers, and a Sony digital camera.

The foundation’s board of directors agreed to write off the missing funds as a loss.

“Until now, there’s no new evidence that will implicate anyone with the crime,” said Natu-el.

“I’m just hoping and praying that it would be solved. If we can get a new development we can file a case,” said Ballesteros, who also manages the sports center.’

“People shouldn’t be complacent at this time. We have to be extra-careful with the people you deal with,” he said.

Ballesteros said he remains positive about he growing attendance in this year’s Sinulog.

“As early as October the hotels are nearly fully booked. That’s a good sign,” he said.

Over 1 million attended the Sinulog last yearbased on police estimates.

Mayor Michael Rama said he wants to focus on preparations for the Sinulog which kicks off on Jan. 11 than on the unsolved theft. With Correspondent Edison delos Angeles


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