Four local ‘Martilyo Gang’ members tagged in heist

POLICE Colonel Romeo Baleros, director of Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Nocppo) during the regular press conference at Nocppo headquarters in Bacolod City Tuesday. (Glazyl Y. Masculino Photo)

By: Glazyl Y. Masculino

BACOLOD City – The Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Nocppo) is helping the Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO) identify members of the “Martilyo Gang” robbery group reportedly based in the province, following the robbery incident inside Gaisano City Grand Mall in Barangay Singcang-Airport here on Aug 7, 2019.

Police Colonel Romeo Baleros, Nocppo director, said in a press briefing at the Nocppo headquarters yesterday that out of the nine robbers who barged in the mall and took P4.5 million worth of jewelry from two jewelry stores, four were locals or residents of Negros Occidental.

Baleros said these four locals were already members of an organized crime group that became the contact of the Martilyo Gang which is primarily based in Luzon.

Baleros said they already have photos of all the suspects in the jewelry heist, but he refused to show it to the media in the meantime while they continue their intelligence monitoring.

Earlier, BCPO said they are validating reports about the alleged presence here of an armed robbery group from Ozamis City.

“They would usually cross over in some parts of Visayas like Bacolod, Iloilo, and Cebu, and in other areas in Mindanao,” the provincial director said, adding that these criminals would not strike in an area if they don’t have contacts.

Baleros said he was able to arrest 18 out of 32 members of “Martilyo Gang” when he was with the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG). However, despite the arrest of the other members, the gang would still recruit new members to continue their operation, he added.

“It is possible that they also have involvement in illegal drugs but opted to engage more on robbery incidents because of the intensified campaign of policemen against narcotics,” he said.

Based on the manner of the crime, he said the suspects were the same perpetrators who also robbed a jewelry store and the Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco) here few years ago.

He also said they are checking the link of the said group to the suspects who also robbed a jewelry store, bank, and other establishments in Luzon previously.

Right after the incident, Baleros directed all police chiefs to closely monitor ports and other entry and exit points in the province to hunt down their targets.

He also urged them to coordinate with the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and port staff for reporting of any suspicious individuals and activities in their respective areas.

Despite what happened, Baleros does not consider it as alarming; instead he encouraged the public to be vigilant and cautious because of the existence of these criminals.

“We need the support of the community by means of reporting the sightings of these criminals,” he said.

Meanwhile, Police Colonel Henry Biñas, BCPO director, said they are still preparing the filing of robbery charges against the nine suspects.

Biñas also dismissed reports about the reported terror threat in the city, following the robbery incident.

Biñas earlier assured the public that the police are still on top of the situation and that the robbery incident was an isolated case.