Robber took vault and cash
Was the robbery an “inside job”?
Police are investigating the loss of P1.6 million cash
taken from the office vault of the Cebu City Sports Center, a robbery discovered early morning yesterday, barely six hours after the Sinulog grand finale was held in the stadium.
The vault itself was ripped out of the metal filing cabinet in the administration office.
“The perpetrator knew where we kept the money and how to get inside the office,” said Ricky Ballesteros, Sinulog Foundation Inc. executive director, who is also in charge of the sports center.
There was no sign of forced entry in the office. However, a metal cutter, believed used by the robber to remove the vault, was left behind at the office. The vault, which used a combination lock dial, occupied the top compartment of a filing metal filing cabinet.
A security guard of the Golden Dragon Security (GDS) agency assigned to watch the office is being questioned by the police.
“This has never happened before,” Ballesteros said of the burglary.
Asked why a large amount of cash was being kept there, Ballesteros said a big part of P880,000 in Sinulog foundation funds was supposed to be deposited in a bank, based on regular practice, but the money was just released last Friday after the close of banking hours. They had planned to deposit it yesterday, a Monday.
The total loss turned out to be higher after Victor Cuenco, choreographer of the Placer, Masbate contingent, revealed that he had left P700,000 in the vault, representing talent fees of his group’s performers.
Cuenco, a Cebuano, said he was busy on Sunday night attending to the final performances in the Sinulog dance competition that he decided to release the talent fees the next day, Monday, Jan. 16.
“If I had known the vault wasn’t safe, I would have brought the money to my house,” he lamented.
Ironically, Placer, Masbate province won first place and a P1 million cash prize in the Sinulog-based category of the competition, whose results were announced Sunday night. The Culturang Placereno dance troupe also won special awards for Best in Costume and Best in Musicality.
The town’s Tribu Himag-ulaw also won second place in the Free Interpretation category, and third place in street dancing.
WHAT WAS LOST?
The money in the vault included entrance ticket sales for the Jan. 15 Sinulog performances and other fees collected for use of the city government-run sports center.
The bulk of the P880,000 was intended for the expenses of dance contingents performing in the Sinulog parade as a subsidy of P50,000 per school or municipality or city from the Cebu city government.
Fortunately, the amounts were already advanced to the Sinulog contingents last Friday noon, using other foundation funds, said Ballesteros, while waiting for the budget to be released by the city government.
Also in the vault was a digital camera worth P9,000, ticket sales of the sports center worth P8,000, the bonus of staff members worth P7,50 and P11,000 which were to be donated for typhoon Sendong victims and P10,000 in petty cash, said Ballesteros.
A maintenance worker discovered the missing safe in the early morning.
Senior Inspector Chuck Barandog, chief of the Fuente police station, said the robbbery may have taken place between 2 a.m. ad 6 a.m. His men are checking the background of sports center employees although the Theft and Robbery Section (TRS) is on top of the investigation as first responder.
Normally, the staff would deposit collections in the bank, but the funds were released on a Friday afternoon after banking hours.
“We decided to keep the money in the vault because we thought that it is safe,” said Ballesteros.
“We have another vault in the Sinulog Foundation office but it’s supposed to be more secure in the sports center vault because there’s a guard assigned here.”
Twelve security guards provide 24-hour security of the sports complex.
Police will be questioning the guard force, including Joselino Jabagat of Golden Dragon Security agency. He was assigned to watch the administrative office of Ballesteros but reportedly went to the media center across the hall to watch TV.
“When I asked the guard (Habagat), he told me he had to go out of the room when he heard a commotion outside at the race track. How can he do that when someone is already assigned there too? That was not his area of responsibility,” said Ballesteros.
He said the office would normally close at 10 p.m. and be opened at 4 a.m. by the guardsto allow janitors to start cleaning the area.
A cleaning workers discovered the open vault at about 6 a.m. and reported it to the assigned guard who was in the room across the hall.
Ballesteros said he was still hopeful that the funds would be recovered.
“The loss hurts because the money belongs to the foundation. We could still do a lot with it,” Ballesteros said.
He said the foundation will ask the City Council to hasten the installation of security cameras in the sports ceneter for closer monitoring.
“We’ve been requesting for those cameras for a long time,” he said. “We may bring it up again.”
Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama said the police was on top of the inquiry.
“The police are already working on it. It (the answer) is just in here. This is where we’ll see the real ability of the police,” he said, hinting that an insider was involved.
He said the Cebu City Police Office will take a “closer look” and exhaust all means to solve the case so that the city government won’t be put in a bad light. /Candeze R. Mongaya, Reporter with Edison delos Angeles and Chito Aragon