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May 28

RCBC Robbery: An Aberration or a Prelude?

Arab News

RCBC Robbery: An Aberration or a Prelude?

 by Manuel L. Quezon III

 

On May 15, a payday, the Cabuyao, Laguna Province, branch of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation was invaded by armed men. They executed eight bank employees and a depositor before escaping with the bank’s cash. Filipinos from all walks of life continue to express anger and horror over the bank robbery: it was unusual not because it was a robbery, but because of the cold-blooded murders involved. The scuttlebutt among bankers, according to a colleague, is that bank robberies spike in May because tuition’s due. But that doesn’t explain why the civilians in the bank were executed by their captors.

Because Filipinos are spread all over the world, one way to gauge the genuine sentiments of the public is to look at what Filipinos write in their blogs on the Internet.

The reactions of one couple, both of whom blog, is instructive.

While Touched by an Angel focused on the human dimension of the grisly bank robbery, her husband, The Warrior Lawyer, delved into what was particularly horrifying about the crime, which was the methodical liquidation of witnesses. He says the loot must have been so vast that the robbers could afford to leave behind a small fortune because the banknotes were soiled with the blood of their victims. He also points to the murder, the week before, of Alfred Dy (columnist Geronimo Sy’s wrote that Dy had been held up once before, leaving the same bank branch).

The Warrior Lawyer says of the two crimes that, “Both incidents seem to indicate an “inside job”, as a tipster from inside the bank seems to have alerted the robbers in the killing of Atty. Dy, while there was no sign of forcible entry in the RCBC robbery. In fact, probers surmise that the RCBC victims were killed precisely because they knew or could identify some of the perpetrators.”

Unlike the Warrior Lawyer, I’m not so sure this is something that can be pinned on a general deterioration of society because of the negative example of the present administration. It might be more accurate to say that it reflects the low regard the perpetrators have for a specific institution, the Philippine National Police, and for the specific command holding the reins of command at present: the influence of the administration may be in that it attempted a kidnapping and liquidation and was caught, and police officials were left twisting in the wind when the Senate investigated the abduction of government fixer-turned-witness Jun Lozada — and the cops accepted the humiliation inflicted upon them by the Palace.

That, and the vulnerability of the civilian population in institutions like banks and in the provinces, which breeds a feeling of impunity on the part of robbers.

Indeed, I think we should be alert to whether we will start seeing more of these sort of crimes. There was an element of terrorism in this crime.

But there’s something else I’d like to point out. Just a hunch. It’s that the moneybags are building up their reserves. Syndicates are flexing their muscles.

Before elections, there’s a noticeable increase in bank robberies and an escalation in instances of general mayhem, from snatchings to drug deals gone sour: essentially, as Filipino businessmen have discovered they can go on vacation during the campaign season, and thus avoid having to donate money to politicians, the politicians have taken to raising campaign funds by means of robberies or accepting funds from gambling lords and drug dealers.

This was explained to me by professor (and prominent administration supporter) Alex Magno who explained to me in 2007 that the reason businessmen can afford to ignore and actually evade the politicians is that they are no longer at the mercy of the politicians they way they used to be. The era of currency controls is long gone, for example; and the old sugar bloc (divided into the faction of planters and millers) that lavishly funded politicians is long gone. Instead, Magno told me, politicians are really in a lose-lose situation: elections are getting even more expensive, but there simply isn’t enough money coming in to finance them. So, he says, the real kingpins in politics are those with illegal funds who now play the role the big businessmen used to play.

He breaks down the primary sources of political funding as follows: 1. Drug money; 2. Gambling money; 3. Quotas on customs and the Bureau of Internal Revenue; 4. The Philippine National Police.

Whether these dots can be connected to RCBC remains to be seen. But think about it. Was the grisly bank heist an aberration, or was it the prelude to something else?

Was it an isolated incident, which means that it will only be properly understood when the specific case is solved, or was it a manifestation of something that’s been going on before, or represents an escalation in the confrontation between organized crime syndicates and the police (sometimes one and the same)?

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