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J Centre Mall management speaks up, describes robbery incident ‘isolated’

By: Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo October 25,2019 - 07:05 AM

CEBU CITY, Philippines — It is one of Mandaue City’s neighborhood malls. 

It is huge enough to address the basic and most urgent needs of its patrons, and intimate enough to offer specialty stores which cater to buyers’ unique preferences. 

Located on A.S. Fortuna Street in Barangay Bakilid, J Centre Mall, which was launched on November 11, 2011, is owned by Everjust Realty Development Corporation. 

The mall is helmed by members of the Uy family, which also owns by Profood International Corp., the Cebu homegrown company that became popular for its dried fruit products which are exported to 54 countries. 

As its first foray in the mall business, Justin Uy, president of Everjust, then said that he takes inspiration from the story of SM and its founder Henry Sy. 

The mall has been experiencing steady growth for almost eight years. It has hosted singing contests, cosplay shows, and various exhibits.

J Centre Mall, located on A. S. Fortuna Street, is one of Mandaue City’s neighborhood mall’s. |CDND PHOTO / Norman Mendoza

It has been getting attention on social media for its Venetian-inspired food court which opened in early 2018. 

Nobody expected that the next time their name gets viral, it will involve a robbery incident. 

On Friday night, October 19, mall management and security personnel were shocked by the intrusion of at least 10 robbers who staged a daring heist that was completed within three to five minutes. 

Police Captain Marvin Fegarido, chief of Subangdaku Police Station, said four pawnshops and one money changer were robbed that night. 

Fegarido said jewelry items were stolen Ginros Gem and Jewelry (P20 million), Oro China Wedding and Engagement Rings (P10 million), M Lhuillier Jewelers (P50 million), and Jay-Ann Jewelry (P50 million).

A total of P6 million cash was carted away by the robbers from IChange Money Forex. 

READ: Subangdaku Police Station chief: Mall robbers took P130M worth of jewelry, P6M cash

As of this posting, the jewelry items and the cash have not been recovered. 

A security guard was injured during the incident.

Fortunately, there were no other casualties recorded by authorities.

A J Centre Mall security guard is being attended to by paramedics after he was beaten up by robbers during the heist. | CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

In a statement sent to CDN Digital on Thursday, October 24, J Centre Mall management said they chose to refrain from issuing an official statement because of the ongoing investigation and hot pursuit operation of the police. 

“Now that most of the perpetrators were captured and some were gunned down after reportedly choosing to fight it out with police, management decided to have its side heard, which are actually based on facts, as what appeared in the recorded video footage caught by the mall’s CCTV,” the statement reads. 

READ: Six armed men staged daring mall heist, carted away jewelry, cash; one security guard hurt  

Mall security 

J Centre Mall management said there were close to a thousand people inside the mall when the robbery happened.

Some of the customers of J Centre Mall wait outside the mall after this was cordoned by police after the robbery. | CDND PHOTO / Norman Mendoza

In social media, criticisms were hurled at the mall management questioning its security protocol. 

But J Centre Mall said they have not been remiss of their responsibility in making sure that every shopper doing business or any transaction inside the mall is safe. 

Among its security measures, the management explained, is requiring each person to pass a metal detector. This is followed by strict checking of bags in all entrance points. 

“Armed guards outside are more than what is really required; [the] same is true with the guards posted inside. Although the guards inside don’t bear sidearms,” the statement said. 

Management said there are reasons why the inside guards do not carry sidearms. 

The statement said the management does not want its guards to be the “source of an armed attack inside the mall.”

“Management realized even better now, after the incident, that alarming the guards could possibly result to a more serious incident, with not just loss to properties but to precious lives as well… had the guards inside were to possess firearms and had engaged a shootout against the robbers, lives of mall shoppers could’ve been in so much peril and may otherwise lead to hostage taking,” the statement further reads. 

Broken glasses of the jewelry display table of one of the pawnshops is all that’s left after the J Centre Mall robbery on October 19. | CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Based on the CCTV footage, the management said the robbery was well-timed and well-coordinated. 

They said the perimeter guards’ sidearms were no match to the robbers’ armalite rifles which were used to subdue the mall’s security personnel at the terminal area itself. 

“On their way inside, at least two guards resisted but were likewise subdued, their sidearms taken and were given to those perpetrators who were already inside,” said the management’s statement.

As the security personnel were being subdued, the management said other robbers were inside the jewelry shops to complete the crime.

The statement says that the robbers gathered the jewelry and sealed them in a bag in a “little over three minutes.” 

They left the mall  with getaway vehicle, a biege Toyota Innova, which ended up at the Polambato Wharf in Bogo City. 

Police arrest one of the suspects in the J Centre Mall robbery in Mandaue City at the Polambato Wharf in Bogo City, Cebu at past 11 p.m. of October 19, 2019. | Photo courtesy of Bogo City Police

Bogo City Police first caught four suspects inside the vehicle that was about to board a vessel going to Masbate at about 11 p.m. of October 19. 

They were identified as Roel Nano Sumingit, 35, from Tangub City, Misamis Occidental; Jun Batanguso Candelaria, 38, from Naga City, Bicol; Julivy Lumingkit Quirante, 43, Tangub City, Misamis Occidental; Arnel Sumingit Cimafranca, 38, from Tangub City, Misamis Occidental.

READ: Rob group leader among four killed; five others arrested in Bogo, Sogod

The four arrested suspects later told police that they had three other cohorts inside the vessel heading to Masbate.

The police and Coast Guard inspected the vessel and arrested Kevin Plaza Andales, 25, from Barangay Lorenzotan, Tangub City, Misamis Occidental; Wilfredo Suerte Enguito, 47, and Phillip Faburada, from Tondo, Manila.

Police arrest suspects in the J Centre Mall at the Polambato Port in Bogo City at past 11 p.m. on October 19. | CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

All seven suspects were loaded in a police vehicle to be transported to Bogo Police Station detention cell but police said Andales, Enguito, and Faburada allegedly tried to grab the firearms of the personnel of the Regional Special Operations Task Group in Central Visayas (RSOTG-7) escorting them.

The five suspects arrested in Bogo City are readied for transport from Bogo City to Mandaue City at past 2 p.m. of October 20, 2019. | CDND PHOTO / Alven Marie A. Timtim

This reportedly forced the RSOTG-7 personnel to shoot the three suspects who were brought to a hospital but were declared dead on arrival. 

Police response 

Recalling the happening on the evening of October 19, J Centre Mall management said it was the mall’s security personnel that called Mandaue City Police Office (MCPO) Station 2 as the robbery was still being committed at around 7:27 p.m.

Presenting the facts of the incident using data gathered from CCTV footages, J Centre Mall also noted that members of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) arrived at 7:36 p.m. while police officers came later. 

Scene of the Crime Operatives take the escalator from the basement to the first floor of the J Centre Mall where the pawnshops that the robbers hit were located. | CDND PHOTO / Norman Mendoza

The management requested the MCPO for police presence in the mall’s premises the following day, October 20. They also made a formal request by writing a letter addressed to MCPO Police Chief Jonathan Abella for a police and SWAT team visibility.

It was also in the light of the robbery incident that Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes called on businesses to beef up their security. 

READ: Following daring heist in JCentre Mall, Mayor Cortes tells establishments to beef up security

Business as usual 

Management said it is business as usual in the mall but it cannot be denied that frequent visitors are now hesitant in joining zumba sessions inside the mall. 

Ana Lisa Laurente, 43, of Barangay Banilad says she is now anxious when entering a mall or a closed space.

She was inside one of the retail shops when the incident happened. 

The zumba enthusiast says she now goes to zumba sessions held in open spaces. 

Management assures the public that they are beefing up the mall’s security “inside and out” while emphasizing that they are fully cooperating with ongoing police investigation.

In appeasing its patrons, J Centre Mall management described the robbery incident as an isolated case. 

“[It is] business as usual but do expect a stricter security check before going inside. Lastly, J Centre Mall humbly asks the mall goers to understand and most of all to cooperate,” the statement reads. / dbs

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TAGS: J Centre Mall, robbery incident

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