MANILA, Philippines ? (UPDATE) Police have arrested one of the suspects allegedly involved a series of bank robberies, including the bank robbery inside the University of the Philippines campus in Quezon City early this month.
The arrest of the female suspect, whom police have identified as Jocelyn Hernandez, alias Nikki, was a ?breakthrough? following a crackdown by authorities against organized crime, particularly those involved in bank robberies across Metro Manila, Senior Superintendent Magtanggol Gatdula, Quezon City police district (QCPD) chief said on Thursday.
Hernandez was believed to have been part of a mix of organized robbery groups. She is also reportedly part of the gang whose four members were arrested last week in Guadalupe, Makati City. The four arrested were Edgar Cayanan, Dionisio Espina, Benjamin Conteno, and Armando Dehino.
The five suspects were believed to have been behind a series of bank robberies, the latest of which was at the Philippine Veterans? Bank inside the UP campus, where two security guards and one bank employee were killed.
Hernandez was arrested by operatives of the National Capital Region Police Office?s (NCRPO) Regional Police Intelligence Operations Unit (RPIOU) inside The Fort Bonifacio Global City around 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
Eyewitness accounts and video footages from closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras led to the arrest of Hernandez and the four other suspects.
An eyewitness to the bank robbery inside UP last November 10 narrated to the media her experience on the incident.
The witness, whose identity was withheld for security reasons, said Hernandez asked her if she could use the bathroom, which was connected to the nearby Philippine Veterans? Bank.
?Una sabi ko hindi pwede kasi may-utos sa amin na hindi pwede magpapasok ng taga-labas [First, I told her that this was not allowed because we have an order not to allow anyone from outside to use the bathroom],? she said. But Hernandez reportedly insisted and even snapped back at her. The witness had no choice but to allow Hernandez to use the bathroom.
When she realized that Hernandez had been inside the bathroom for almost 30 minutes, she went in to check but only to discover that Hernandez was gone.
Several minutes later, the witness reportedly heard gunshots near the Philippine Veterans? Bank and saw four bonnet-wearing suspects shoot the security guards and the bank employee. The four, including Hernandez, fled in a Mitsubishi Adventure vehicle, which they abandoned a few meters away from the site.
Superintendent Valeriano de Leon, regional police operations chief, said months of monitoring and intelligence operations revealed that the five were also part of a series of robberies across Metro Manila, because they employed the same modus operandi, the same getaway vehicles, and the same equipment.
Video footages from banks previously robbed by the suspects revealed Hernandez and other suspects storming into the bank and holding the bank employees at gun point. In a video footage, a woman, whom police alleged was Hernandez, was seen hitting one of the security guards and forcing the guard to lie down on the floor while other men took money from the bank vault.
De Leon said the modus operandi of this robbery group primarily involved the wearing of police or Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) uniforms.
De Leon has also linked the five to 23 cases of robbery across Metro Manila over the past months, including the robbery at the United Coconut Planter?s Bank (UCPB) in E. Rodriguez Avenue last October 2007; the January 22 robbery at the Land Bank of the Philippines in West Avenue; and the robbery inside the Market! Market! Mall in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.
Gatdula said the arrest of the five would eventually lead to the arrest of other members of the robbery group.
?As long as na-identify mo na [you have identified them]?eventually makukuhanan mo na yung [you will be able to get] information. Nag-start na yung breakthrough [The breakthrough has started],? he said.
At the same time, PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa has released P200,000 as reward for eyewitnesses, former NCRPO chief and current chief of the directorial staff Director Jefferson Soriano announced.
Hernandez is facing charges of robbery (in band) with violence or intimidation of persons and three counts of frustrated murder in connection with the January robbery at the Land Bank of the Philippines in West Avenue.