CEBU CITY – An alarm saved a pawnshop in Cebu City from burglars who, according to the police, probably spent nearly two weeks digging a tunnel into the establishment.
“They hid and dug below the ground undetected, acting like rats,” said Inspector Bonifacio Garciano, head of the Investigation and Detective Management Branch (IDMB) of the Cebu City Police Office.
It was the first time thieves dug an underground canal to reach their target in Cebu City, he said. But the method has been previously reported in Metro Manila and blamed on a gang known to use acetylene torches during their heists.
The modus operandi is known in police circles as “daga-daga”, after the Tagalog word for “rat”.
An alarm system connected to the police foiled the burglary attempt on the Gemmary Pawnshop and Jewellery, and the culprits ran away without any loot, even leaving their equipment behind.
Garciano said the police are looking for three to five suspects behind Sunday’s attempt.
The aborted burglary was discovered at 9 a.m. when a device connected to the police hotline 166 was set off.
Police discovered a one-meter-deep hole inside a two-storey commercial building, which a man had leased for three months.
The 15-meter underground tunnel led to Angel’s Sportswear, a tailoring shop situated right beside the pawnshop.
The burglars dug upward to go inside the boutique, then bored a hole in the wall to get inside the pawnshop.
Fortunately for its customers, the pawnshop’s vault was equipped with dual locks, making it hard for the burglars to break in.
When the police reached the scene, they found bolt cutters, an acetylene mini-tank with complete accessories, bars, a wrench, galvanized scissors, a manual drill, and other equipment.
Police are trying to track down a certain Johnny Lo of Toledo City, who reportedly rented the building owned by Aurora Gotingco last January 6. He spoke with an Ilonggo accent. He told her he planned to convert it into a massage spa.
Gotingco described the man as chubby, dark and in his 40’s. She said Lo looked suspicious from the start.
“He didn’t even know how to spell Toledo correctly,” Gotingco said.
But after he presented an identification card and community tax certificate, they agreed through a contract that Lo would use the building for three months.
Lo paid P30,000, with two months’ advance.
Police saw no sign of him on Sunday, but found inside the building many sacks of sand and soil in its storage area—apparently the material the burglars dug up as they prepared their tunnel.
Several plastic bottles of distilled water were also recovered in the hole.
Violeta Logronio, a cousin of the tailoring shop’s owner, said they closed the shop at 11 p.m. last Saturday.
Logronio, who lives above the boutique, said they didn’t hear any sound, even until 1 a.m.
The pawnshop’s owner, who requested not to be named, for security reasons, said they designed their vault to be acetylene-proof.
“I assure my clients that their belongings and money are intact. They don’t have anything to worry about,” he said.
He said he will give rewards to those who could locate the would-be burglars, and also urged Mayor Michael Rama to crack the problem of burglaries.
The pawnshop, one of 60 branches nationwide, started operating two years ago.
Garciano of the IDMB theorized the burglars spent two weeks digging the tunnel. He said the attempt was well-planned.
Garciano said they will coordinate with the establishment where the recovered tools were bought, in case they can help identify the culprits.
He had long reminded the 11 police station commanders in the city to be observant, especially if they notice new faces in their neighborhood.
But while the tunnel-digging burglars failed, another burglar or group of burglars scored elsewhere in the city.
Unidentified persons walked away with valuables in Maria Theresa Village, Barangay Guadalupe.
The initial estimate said P300,000 worth of valuables were stolen while the family of Alex Gavida, 71, slept.
The burglary was discovered at 4:15 p.m.
Police Officer 2 Jovito Labra of the Theft and Robbery Section said the thief or thieves ran off with, among others, two iPhone handsets worth P80,000, a gold necklace worth P80,000, and a wristwatch worth P3,000.
The suspect gained entry through a glass sliding door and took the items placed on a table in the second floor, among other items. (Sun.Star Cebu)