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Gang members still roaming Cebu–NBI

First Posted 06:31:00 10/31/2009

With their leader dead, surviving members of a robbery group linked to the Oct. 18 Rolex watch store heist in Greenbelt Mall, Makati City may still be roaming Cebu province.

Medardo de Lemos, director of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Central Visayas, said leader Alvin Flores? death in last Thursday afternoon's shootout in a seaside apartment in Compostela town, northern Cebu means they have six more suspects to round up.

?There are 11 suspects who staged a heist in (Rolex store) Makati. However, we are not certain as to how many members the group has,? De Lemos said.

Also killed were Flores' companions Ritchie Hijapon, Mark Salamanca and Roger Sanchez.

Rene Batiancila, a member of the group, was surrendered to the NBI when after wading into the waters realized he couldn?t swim.

Flores is a native of Malolos in Bulacan, while Salamanca hails from Isabela, the NBI said.

Sanchez is a native of Camarines del Sur, while Hijapon and Batiancila are from Sta. Fe town on Bantayan Island, Cebu.

Lemos said their central office will verify Flores' identity with the records of the Caloocan court that tried him.

NBI Agent Roel Bolivar, head of the Reaction, Arrest and Interdiction Division, said the group may not be over yet with the death of Flores.

?They have to lie low, as of now, because their leader is gone,? said Bolivar.

Batiancila will be brought to Manila for questioning.

Bolivar said there was no rubout that occurred since the suspects fired shots at NBI agents who tried to serve the warrants on two of the five suspects.

The suspects stayed in one of the cottages at the back of the apartment when they arrived. The 15-minute shootout left four suspects dead.

Police officials of Compostela and local media were allowed entry into the area past 10 p.m.

?The NBI agents were processing what happened. The evidence might be contaminated if we allow many people to enter,? De Lemos said.

He said NBI agents also secured the place since there may be explosives placed inside the area.

De Lemos said he called up Senior Supt. Jesus Gaquing, provincial police director, to inform the police about an ongoing NBI operation in the area.

The NBI first spotted Hijapon buying mineral water at one of the gasoline stations in Mandaue City.

The NBI followed Hijapon who went to the apartment in Compostela.

After the Rolex heist, Bolivar said the suspects went to Bulacan, Pampanga, Sorsogon and later in Cebu.

?Baka gusto nilang mapalamig dito sa Cebu dahil mainit sila sa Manila. (Maybe the suspects wanted investigations on the robbery incident in Makati to die down, prompting them to go to Cebu),? he said.

The suspects were also accused of staging robberies in Waltermart in Muñoz, Union Bank in Makati, Union Bank in Alabang, RC Cola in Valenzuela City, Semicon in Pasig City, and four warehouses in Pasig City.

Compostela officials voiced concern over the shootout and said they will discuss the incident in next week's session. With Reporter Ador Vincent Mayol

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