LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 12 (PNA) -- Police investigators have filed robbery charges against a village official and a relative for carting away Php3.4 million in cash intended for thousands of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino (4Ps) beneficiaries in the island-town of Rapu-Rapu in Albay, the town police chief said Friday.
Sr. Insp. Arnel Bellen, Rapu-Rapu town police chief, said robbery charges were filed before the Albay Provincial Prosecutor's Office against suspects Eddie Bibat and his nephew, Henry Bibat, after witnesses executed affidavits pinpointing the duo as the robbers.
Bellen said the witnesses' affidavits and pieces of evidence could be used as strong evidence to pin down the suspects that staged the close-to-midnight heist on Jan. 26.
In a phone interview, he said that based on the victims' testimonies and those of other witnesses, police investigators are looking into a possible angle of an “inside job.”
The police chief said that during the initial investigation, Bibat, a village councilman, was the owner of the boarding house where victims were held up, tied and gagged.
Henry went missing and could not be located since Tuesday, the police chief said.
Bellen said witnesses told the police that they saw Eddie and Henry days before the robbery, but the police could not use the witnesses' testimonies because they refused to sign and execute affidavits, “so we have to treat these as hearsays or rumors.”
Combined elements from the regional, provincial and municipal police units have been issued a police "all points bulletin" (APB) for the arrest of the suspects.
Two bonnet-wearing suspects armed with bladed weapons, barged into the boarding house of Bibat in Barangay (village) Villahermosa in Batan Island, Rapu-Rapu town were two employees of the Saint Anthony Development Cooperative (SADC) were preparing the cash envelops intended for 1,350 4Ps beneficiaries of the island-town, according to Glorei Lindio, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DWSD) 4Ps project spokesperson.
The SADC is a sub-conduit of the National Confederation of Cooperatives (NATCCO), the authorized conduit of the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), which is the depository bank of funds for the conditional cash transfer (CCT), or the cash dole-out given to 4Ps beneficiaries.
Lindio said the suspects staged the robbery during the time when the power on the island was turned off.
The island-town's electricity need is provided by a power-generating set that is turned off from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following day, she said.
Bellen said the SADC employee-victims were identified as Allan Competente and Rechilda Batang who were tied and gagged before they were stashed of cash by the suspects.
Barangay Villahermosa in Batan Island is a two-hour boat ride away from from Rapu-Rapu poblacion and 4 to 5 hours ride to this city.
Bellen said that before the robbery incident, the victims were already distributing about Php4.6 million cash assistance to some 1,466 4Ps beneficiaries in the island-town's poblacion.
Then the two SADC employees sailed to Barangay Villahermosa in Batan Island to distribute the Php3.4 cash assistance to another 1,350 beneficiaries, he said. (PNA) RMA/FGS/MSA/CBD/RSM