Cebu City, Philippines ? They were supposed to be the first on the crime scene to preserve evidence.
But personnel of the Crime Operatives (Soco) Central Visayas were five hours late.
Superintendent Nestor Sator said he wants the team to explain why they arrived at Food Saver's Mart almost 7 a.m. on Monday when the robbery alarm was reported at 2:20 a.m.
Chief Inspector David Alexander Patriana, Soco chief, was tasked to investigate.
Soco is a unit of the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory in the Visayas headed by Sator. It is tasked to gather evidence from the crime scene, including fingerprints, which could lead to the identity of the perpetrators. These will also be presented in court as evidence of the prosecution.
Under basic police procedure, policemen who received the alarm are the first to go to the crime scene to gather evidence such as a description of the suspects and their getaway vehicle.
The next to arrive are the police units. If it is a murder case, then it is the policemen from the homicide section. In the case of Fooda robbery, it is the members of the Thief and Robbery Section (TRS).
But investigators cannot get into the crime scene if the Soco operatives have not arrived to collect clues left behind by the suspects such as fingerprints, bloodstains, and slugs.
The Soco operatives first preserve the evidence gathered from the crime scene before allowing other investigators to enter.
In the Fooda robbery, the Soco operatives came five hours late.
Policemen from other units including those from the TRS and the Fuente police station had to wait outside the store.
Lucy De Guzman, corporate owner of the store, was irritated because she could not open the supermarket on time due to the delay in the arrival of the Soco team.
Sator ordered an investigation into who is liable for the delay.
Police Officer 3 Jurlick Roma was asked to explain why he was not at his desk at the time when the request for Soco unit was placed when he was supposed to be the desk officer on duty at that time.
Patriana said personnel from the Fuente police station and the TRS called up Soco office inside Camp Sotero Cabahug to request for assistance shortly after receiving the robbery alarm.
But the calls went unanswered.
About 6 a.m., somebody called one of Soco staff about the robbery alarm who in turn informed the others. A team headed by Chief Inspector Helen Pasoy finally arrived about 7 a.m.
Patriana said he declined to give initial findings so as not to preempt the investigation. But he said there were times when the desk officer was busy with requests from other police units.
?Bisan unsa orasa naay maabot sa office, especially drugs nga ipa examine (Something is always brought in to the office, especially drugs, for examination),? Patriana said.
It was not the first time that someone complained that a Soco team was late.
Cebu City Acting Mayor Rama suggested the Soco operates 24 hours a day.
He instructed his staff to write a letter request to Soco head office to have a 24-hour operation so its staff could respond immediately to crimes like the Fooda robbery.
?We should be more creative than the robbers,? Rama said during his press conference on Monday.
Rama said that owners of establishments and money institutions should be vigilant since he anticipated that the incidents of robbery would increase with the global economic crunch.
?The global situation will always make some individuals to make something illegal. Mao na karun dili na basta-basta mag kumpyansa,? Rama warned.
He also instructed Cebu City Councilor Sylvan Jakosalem to draft an ordinance to prevent unauthorized persons from wearing police uniforms like what the Fooda robbers did.
?Dapat naa tay local nga ordinansa. Sagrado na ang uniform sa Police, Military, Boys Scouts og uban pa (We should have a local ordinance. The uniform of the police, military, boy scouts and others are scared),? Rama said.
But use of uniforms or insignia by persons who are not authorized to is already illegal under Article 179 of the Revised Penal Code.
Under this provision, the violators faces a penalty of arresto mayor (six months imprisonment) to those who ?shall publicly and improperly make use of insignia, uniforms or dress pertaining to an office not held by such person or to a class of persons of which he is not a member.? Reporter Marian Z. Codilla