THOSE who desecrated the image of Lapu Lapu City’s Nuestra Señora de Regla may have used a child to open the glass case and steal the icon’s jewelry.
Police are looking into this angle after forensic experts lifted two sets of fingerprints from the glass panels.
The smaller prints were believed to belong to a child while the other set showed tips of fingerprints from an adult.
The discovery led police to take the fingerprint samples of a 13-year-old boy who had a record of stealing money from donation boxes inside the shrine. “O, nakapangawat ko pero sauna ra ‘to. karon wa na (Yes, I stole from the donation boxes, but that was before. I don’t do that anymore),” the child told Cebu Daily News.
Inspector Atilano Fabilla, leader of the Scene of the Crime Operations (SOCO) team, said the prints will be sent to the the PNP Crime Laboratory in Camp Crame, Quezon City on Sunday where it will be processed.
The prints will be matched against fingerprint samples taken from church workers.
Fabilla said the latent prints of a child were found at the lower portion of the glass while the fingerprints of the adult were found on both sides of the panel.
No solid leads turned up on the second day after the theft of the jewelry of Mactan’s most important religious icon which is widely believed to be an inside job.
Senior Superintendent Rey Lyndon Lawas, chief of the Lapu Lapu City Police Office, clarified that no one is being considered a suspect yet.
He said police are still getting the written consent of ten church workers to undergo lie detector tests because forcing them to undergo the process will violate their rights.
“We are doing this because this also important in conducting an investigation although it is not admissible as evidence in court,” Lawas said.
Investigators are also tracking down the contractor and workers who repainted the church before the city’s Nov. 21 fiesta.
Lawas said they too would be subjected to fingerprinting and perhapy a polygraph test.
The shrine remains closed to visitors pending investigation.
Lapu-Lapu city pawnshops have been alerted to watch out for people who bring in a large batch of jewelry for sale.
Pending a final inventory, the jewelry stolen from the Marian image consisted of 69 necklaces, 70 rings and 16 bracelets donated over the years by devotees.
The value of the jewelry, still to be assessed, was believed to be worth more than a million pesos.
Fr. Agustin Polong, the shrine’s rector and assistant parish priest, said they parish will be adorning the Virgin’s image with another set of jewelry before the shrine reopens to the public. /Fe Marie D. Dumaboc and Norman V. Mendoza, Correspondents with a report from Jucell Marie P. Cuyos