The RCBC Bank Robbery and Its Aftermath

It has been called, without exaggeration, as the bloodiest bank robbery in the country’s history. Ten dead, all methodically shot in the head. And the killers literally got away with murder, at least for the time being, and with an estimated P9 million to P12 million in cash. That’s an average of P1 million for every dead body. So successful was the heist that the robbers left behind millions more at the vault and scattered around the bank.

Additional details of the robbery have recently surfaced. According to the Philippine Star:

Based on the logbook, it was established that the robbery took place between 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., or an hour before the RCBC-Barangay Pulo, Cabuyao branch could open for business following the arrival of several supposed policemen aboard a white Toyota Revo without license plates at little past 8 a.m.

The logbook also contained the name of the supposed policemen led by a certain Inspector Alvarez. The guard on duty then was Aguilando Baltazar. Baltazar was among those executed by the suspects.

Also in the same entry, one of the supposed policemen even deposited his M16 rifle with the guard on duty.

When Task Force probers checked the PNP list of personnel, it was found that the names listed in the bank’s security logbook were all fictitious.

Bolstering suspicions that the men who introduced themselves as police were the perpetrators of the crime was the testimony of a lady client who witnessed one of the suspects clad in a police jacket pull one client, who was still outside, inside the bank.

After seeing this, the lady client called the attention of the Laguna Industrial Park authorities who in turn called up the Cabuyao police.

The time of the crime was also confirmed to have been between 8 to 9 a.m. last Friday, because as per the bank’s computer security alarm, which is connected to the RCBC head office, the door of the bank opened at exactly 8 a.m.

“Nobody can enter the bank during night time, not even the security guards because the establishment is fitted with a security alarm which if opened will automatically register at the computer of the RCBC’s head office in Makati,” a member of the Task Force RCBC said.

It was certainly a professional job. The perpetrators executed their plan with military (or police) precision, disabling the branch’s security equipment, herding the bank personnel inside, including an unlucky client’s representative, and patiently waiting for the vault’s time lock to deactivate just before the usual opening time. They grabbed the cash. Then they went about systematically slaughtering all possible witnesses, which was everyone inside the bank who wasn’t a member of the robbery gang. Afterwards, they drove away in one of victim’s vehicles with their loot. All without being detected.

A smooth bank robbery, just like in the movies. Except that this is real life. And it involves a mass killing, something which puts it beyond the pale. It has been described, rightfully so, as the “handiwork of the devil”.

The brutality of the crime has scarred the national psyche. The rationale seems obvious: kill all possible witnesses, the better to evade the so-called long arm of the law. Still, the blatant inhumanity of the act is almost incomprehensible. This is an aberration, even for country where violence is commonplace. In a taxi ride I took yesterday, the driver spent the better part of a half hour explaining why and how the bank robbers should die, should he get his hands on them.

Consider Baghdad, acknowledged as the bank robbery capital of the world. A typical bank robbery has been described thus:

The attack had been planned with military precision. Twelve men, masked and carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles stormed into the al-Sanik branch of the Bank of Baghdad, disarmed the guards, tied them up and then terrified the staff by firing into the ceiling. About $800,000 (£400,000) in US dollars and Iraqi dinars was grabbed before the gang drove away in three cars, untroubled by the many checkpoints in the area.

Amid the bombs and gunfire, there is one “industry” is doing remarkably well — Baghdad is now the bank robbery capital of the world.

Four years after “liberation” and the coming of the free market, Iraq is almost entirely a cash economy with a mushrooming group of private banks and vast sums of money being moved daily across the country.

But in all the stories of bank robberies in Iraq, there are remarkably few casualties. Even though, as we are reminded every time we see the news, one thing Iraq is not short of is men with guns.

Even in the U.S., where bank robberies have a long history as part of Wild-West lore, fatalities are rare. And Americans are not gun-shy, the right to bear arms being a constitutional right. But they’re clear about what they want: Just the money, please, and no one will get hurt.

And it’s plain why the RCBC massacre is so horrifying.

These were ordinary people, very much like us, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. Ordinary people trying to make a living in an occupation which, though not without risks, would normally not put them on a collision course with mass murderers. In fact, they are instructed and trained not to be confrontational, to hand over the money in the event of an armed robbery and to avoid looking at the criminals’ faces. But they were killed anyway.

No one can enter a bank now without a shiver of fear and without recalling, consciously or not, the fate of the RCBC robbery victims. It could be me next time. Or my spouse. Or my children.

Its not an overstatement to say that crimes like these undermine the banking system and the economy as a whole. No person or institution is safe. Even if you play by the rules (which the RCBC staff apparently did, as there were no overt signs of resistance or struggle; the phrase “like lambs to slaughter” jumps to mind) you will still be killed.

As I was writing this post I got an email containing graphic pictures of the killings in Cabuyao, Laguna. As in gory. Someone has been circulating these pictures, for what purpose one can only guess. What’s this country coming to ?

I wanted to write a more detailed analysis of the aftermath of this heinous crime but now I feel like throwing up.

Ma. Ceres P. Doyo feels unsafe in banks.

Conrad de Quiros is mad, and places the outrage over the RCBC massacre in context.

Two of the six robbers responsible for the RCBC bloodbath are “uniformed personnel,” but authorities have yet to confirm whether they belong to the police or military, or if they are still active in the service.Senior Superintendent Aaron Fidel, chief of Task Force RCBC, also said they have identified four of the six robbers but refused to elaborate.

Four suspects are killed in shootout in Tanauan, Batangas but cops say that they have no evidence yet to link the four men to the Cabuyao robbery and killings. Predictably, kin claim rubout.

16 thoughts on “The RCBC Bank Robbery and Its Aftermath”

  1. Banks should start removing tinted doors and window. Be transparent from the outside somehow, without compromising the security of clients.

  2. True, the structural design of banks must integrate security elements while at the same time making it accessible and convenient for clients. And with today’s high-tech electronic gadgetry, there’s no reason why fail-safe alarm systems cannot be included, i.e. lasers etc. Old mechanical alarm systems just won’t work.

  3. Banks should have like the movie “The Panic Room” (Jodie Foster) with telephone & other things needed in that room in cases of emergency. Or like a cage where they can press up and down in cases of robbery and automatic closing of the main door w/c locks out the robbers just like we see on TV for security purposes. And the suspects will be captured.

  4. Very innovative, Candy. One thing that would limit the implementation of your suggestions is cost. Banks keep a close eye on the bottom line, and expenses, even if justified, would have to be rationalized against the bank’s profit motive.

  5. Were there no security cameras? Shouldn’t all banks have those, like little hidden cameras in the ceiling? Even my billiard hall had a surveillance camera once upon a time!

    In Baguio, most banks do not provide parking, a situation which seems totally acceptable to our 300,000 residents. This is why I transact only over the phone, and actually set foot in my bank once every three months. In fact, I believe I bank in the Manila branch more often.

    What happened is simply too awful to contemplate. I feel for the families of those who kissed the bank employees good morning and never expected such horror to befall them.

  6. I feel very sorry for all the victims and their families. I’ve been working overseas for quite a long time and it’s for these news the reason that I’ve shunned myself from subscribing to any Filipino network or even checking any related filipino website. Until this forwarded e-mail with all the gruesome pictures of the dead came. It is so sad that someone had been passing it around for self-satisfaction. Always the Filipino mentality. We can’t blame anybody else for crimes like this but ourselves. How can we prevent cases like these when our society savours watching t.v. gratifying hoodlums cum heroes, sex-oriented shows, and even corruption. Where is our morality? There is no way of ending these things unless we first change ourselves.

  7. the perpetrators appear to be more of being professional killers in need of cash, and definitely lousy bank robbers.

    they are professional killers, and not professional bank robbers.

    bank robbers, rob banks… they don’t kill people — killers do.

  8. All wickedness shall be judged and punished. Although divine wrath may seem to tarry, yet at the appointed time it will come.

  9. I am a bank employee and a law student as well, I was terrified that something so inhumane happened like that, JUSTICE is all they need.

  10. I was a bank employee for 20 yrs.and it gives me the shivers just thinking about what coul have happened to me if the robbers before were as daring as they are today. God never sleeps,they will finn justice.

  11. Banks should start using internet banking. Philippines is years ahead of New Zealand when it comes to internet stuff. But Philippines does not have internet banking while NZ do and been using it for AGES. Btw, you can do all your payments, money transfers from oversees, etc in the internet. I do mine on my phone while stuck on a traffic or just when i goto bed.

  12. its been a long time since the robbery happend. nakakapangilabot super, its something that would make anyone traumatized esp if you were related to the people involved…
    i’m sorry, this made me feel bad and this is something that made me realize na maraming halang ang kaluluwa i should say…

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