President Aquino is alarmed by the spate of armed robberies in shopping malls and other high-profile crimes in Metro Manila despite a nationwide gun ban, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas said Wednesday.
Roxas said he met with Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima and other senior police officials at Camp Crame Wednesday for a discussion of the armed robberies in the metropolis in recent days.
“The President himself is alarmed and he is monitoring all these incidents,” Roxas said in a radio interview.
The robberies at two jewelry stores in SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City on Saturday and at a Western Union remittance center in Parañaque City on Tuesday have prompted the PNP to order security agencies to arm their guards in shopping malls.
In Makati City, police, local government officials, business and security agency owners agreed on Wednesday to undertake a joint security plan to protect businesses in the financial district.
The agreement came as a reaction to the attacks at SM Megamall where six men, one of them armed with a .45 cal. pistol, smashed glass display cases and made off with at least 200 pieces of jewelry.
Unarmed security guards were unable to stop the robbers.
Roxas said he shared the public’s concern that the gun ban and police checkpoints do not seem to deter criminals, who seem to be “taunting the government.”
He said police should improve the deployment of forces to stop criminals from launching attacks in the metropolis.
Roxas acknowledged, however, that manpower shortage was a major cause of the police’s failure to stop crimes.
“There is really a big problem [involving] manpower and we cannot solve that immediately. Besides lack of manpower, there is also the problem [involving] intelligence gathering and other resources,” Roxas said.
Still, Roxas said the police should intensify intelligence gathering and protection at shopping malls following the brazen attacks at SM Megamall on Saturday.
He said the PNP also must improve its coordination with security agencies and other “force multipliers” like village guards.
The Makati security plan involves the 8,000 to 10,000 security guards in the city’s commercial district, the village guards in Barangay (village) San Lorenzo, and the city’s traffic enforcers and parking authority, according to Senior Supt. Manuel Lukban, city police chief.
Under the plan, Lukban said police and private security teams would be deployed to shopping malls like SM Makati, Glorietta, Landmark, Greenbelt and Rockwell and to businesses along Padre Burgos Avenue and even to the Makati Stock Exchange.
In addition, four security patrols will rove around the central business district, Lukban said.
Police and private security agencies will also share an “emergency link” radio channel for monitoring and quick relay of information, he said.
In his radio interview, Roxas said he was also considering requiring businesses to have security cameras before they could be issued business permits.
Besides shopping malls, he said, jewelry stores, pawnshops, banks, money changers and other financial establishments should be equipped with closed-circuit television (CCTV) as part of their security arrangements.
“We are trying to look for a legal basis [for] requiring CCTVs in establishments [that] keep huge sums of money. We are currently studying this option,” Roxas said.
“This may not only help prevent or deter crimes, it could also help in arresting the perpetrators who might be caught on CCTVs. The footages can be used as evidence,” he said.
Arm the guards
The manpower shortage and the attacks at SM Megamall had prompted the police to order the arming of security guards in shopping malls.
The PNP on Wednesday ordered security agencies with shopping mall contracts to arm their guards.
The order covers shopping malls throughout the country.
Security agencies who would fail to arm their guards would be fined P5,000.
Chief Supt. Tomas Rentoy III, chief of the PNP Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agencies (SOSIA), announced the order at a meeting with officials of 12 security agencies serving major shopping centers in Metro Manila Wednesday.
Rentoy told reporters that mall guards were issued only nightsticks and metal detectors, making them helpless against criminals armed with guns.
“They are amenable [to the new regulation]. We will require all the security guards in the malls to [carry sidearms]. We will also require guards posted in malls to undergo the mall security specialized course,” Rentoy said.
The PNP is also requiring shopping malls to have security plans, Rentoy said.
“We will inspect all malls starting next week to check their operational readiness in executing their security plan to include emergencies and armed robbery,” he said.
According to Rentoy, the security guards who responded to calls for help during the attack on two jewelry stores in SM Megamall on Saturday night were all unarmed because shopping malls had a policy of not arming guards.
The policy was intended to show the public that shopping malls were safe places, Rentoy said.
“But [after the robberies in SM Megamall], we saw that the perpetrators [had become bolder] because the guards [were] unarmed,” he said.
Rentoy tried to ease fears that arming security guards may alarm shoppers, saying guards have firearms training.
“But they should always be courteous to the people entering the [shopping malls],” Rentoy said. With a report from Jaymee T. Gamil