January 28, 2010
Police arrest 5 Basag Kotse suspects, recover loot
By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Tara Yap
POLICE are hoping to unravel the wily Bukas Kotse gang after the arrest of five suspected car robbers in Jaro, Iloilo City early morning Wednesday.
Miffed by a series of car robberies Tuesday, the Jaro and Mandurriao police stations and intelligence operatives of the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) literally burned their candles way past midnight to catch the suspects.
Arvin Pablico, 28, Francisco Reyes, 32, Benjamin Salvacion, 38, all of Brgy. Silway Gen. Santos City; Faustino Lumaniog, 38, of Libmanan Camarines Sur; and Jade Cariño, 29, of Landheights Tambo, Brgy. Sabang, Lipa City were arrested in Room 202 of Moritz Hotel in Lopez Jaena Street, Jaro, Iloilo City.
The five suspects are believed to be behind the four latest incidents of Basag Kotse in Jaro and Mandurriao districts between 2pm and 8pm Tuesday. The first incident took place in front of a grocery outlet in Brgy. Tabuc Suba, Jaro around 2pm. At around 5:30pm, four engineers working for a contractor hired by Panay Electric Co. (PECO) lost four laptop computers after car robbers broke open their vehicle parked outside a massage center along Diversion Road, Mandurriao.
The third Bukas Kotse incident happened in the parking lot of Carlo’s Bakeshop and Café at Brgy. Dungon A, Jaro, just beside the house of Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas.
The last reported incident happened outside a chicken inasal restaurant on Commission Civil Street, Jaro, near the house of Iloilo City Councilor Erwin Plagata who happens to head the committee on police matters.
C/Insp. Orly Gabinete, Jaro police chief, said they were able to trace the suspects after getting the plate number of the vehicle they used. The same type of car, a blue Isuzu Trooper with registration plate number GHR-257, was seen parked near the robbery scenes Tuesday afternoon.
Witnesses of the heist at Commission Civil Street told the police that they saw the Trooper go towards the area of Central Philippine University which is across Moritz Hotel.
Roving intelligence officers spotted the Trooper parked near the hotel around midnight Wednesday.
Members of the ICPO intelligence section, Special Weapons and Tactics Team and Jaro police accosted the suspects inside their hotel room.
The ensuing search on the Isuzu Trooper led to the recovery of stolen items: four laptop computers and projector owned by the four PECO contractors; assorted jewelry, wallets, cash amounting to P2,419 and a Samsung digital camera.
The police also recovered from Cariño a fake P1,000 bill (serial number GH53144) and a fake P100 bill (serial number BL48123).
Several maps of key cities and provinces were also found in the suspects’ possession. The Bukas Kotse gang’s loot amounted to P270,000, the police said.
Based on information obtained by the police, the suspects are part of a bigger syndicate operating in the country.
S/Supt. Melvin Mongcal, ICPO director, said the suspects also victimized car owners in the cities of Cebu Dumaguete, Iloilo and Bacolod.
“This is one well-organized group operating in various parts of the country. We are inclined to believe that they have contacts in the cities where they operate and that is what we want to extract from them,” Mongcal said.
Mongcal said the suspects, after striking in Iloilo City, move to another place to sell their loot and conduct more robberies.
“They will not be gung-ho enough to rob cars if they don’t have financiers who buy the stolen items. They have a bagsakan (marketplace) because the objective of their operation is to steal and sell,” he added.
Mongcal said the arrest of the five suspects will lead to the resolution of car robberies in other cities in Visayas.
“We will share the information with our counterparts and we hope to get to the bottom of this syndicate and stop their operations. We believe that some of their colleagues are still out there,” Mongcal said.
Mayor Treñas said he will reward the police officers who arrested the gang members even as praised law enforcers for working overtime on the cases.
“They will be rewarded and I am very happy for the dedication of our police officers,” Treñas said.
Treñas earlier asked the Commission on Elections to place Iloilo City under its control after a police bodyguard of Sec. Raul Gonzalez Sr. allegedly harassed his four children.
The mayor said he is disappointed with the sub par performance of the police officers in responding to the harassment incident.