‘XRM’ robbers sow fear in South Cotabato

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/06 September) — A series of motorcycle thefts involving only the Honda XRM model has stirred fear in South Cotabato as the still unidentified culprits did not just take the vehicles but also shot the owners dead.

The spate of XRM motorcycle thefts where the victims were killed started in this city in mid-August, with local police authorities claiming they have “leads” on the suspects or the group behind the criminal activity.

Early morning today (Tuesday), the thieves struck anew, this time in neighboring Tantangan town, about 20 kilometers from this city, with the victim dying from multiple gunshot wounds.

“Three bullets were lodged in the body of the victim. The suspects then took his white [Honda] XRM motorcycle,” said Police Officer 2 James Antenorio of the Tantangan police station.

The victim was identified as Jerry Giral, 45, of Barangay San Felipe, Tantangan town.

Initial investigation by the Tantangan police showed that the culprits pulled off the heist in Sitio Luayan, Barangay Poblacion, about seven kilometers from the heart of Tantangan town, at around 5 am while the victim was travelling.

Residents there heard several gunshots but nobody witnessed the crime, it added.

The stolen XRM motorcycles were reportedly sold at cheap prices or brought to the Liguasan Marsh, where the engines are used to power bancas (small wooden boats).

The fatal incident in Tantangan town came eight days after a similar one occurred in this city, the capital of South Cotabato and seat of government of Region 12.

Several motorcycle owners in this city have become cautious because of these violent incidents, with some saying they would rather stay at home especially at night.

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo has been informed of the series of deadly cases of motorcycle theft in Koronadal, according to Buagas B. Sulaik, regional director of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

A document dated last August 31 to Robredo, titled “Special Report on the Series of Shooting and Carnapping Incidents from August 19-29, 2011 at the City of Koronadal, South Cotabato,  detailed the following:

August 29, 2011—At about 7:25 pm., Noel O. Gandola, 40, of Purok Magsaysay this city, was shot dead at Purok Magsaysay, Barangay Caloocan. His XRM motorcycle, colored black, was taken by the suspects.

August 24, 2011—A certain Kenny S. Pagalan, 22, single, an employee of Honda Socsargen, of Barangay Punong Grande in Banga town, South Cotabato, was shot by motorcycle-riding men at 8:20 pm in Barangay General Paulino Santos this city. He sustained a gunshot wound in the neck and was brought to a hospital for confinement and medication. His XRM motorcycle, colored black, was taken by the suspects.

August 19, 2011—At about 5:15 pm, one Vittorio Carlo B. Bengil, 20, single, a Smart Bro installer, of Mabini Extension Barangay Zone 4, was shot to death in front of Occena Compound in Pantua Village, Zone 3. His XRM 125 motorcycle, colored black and white, was taken by the suspects.

Alarmed by the incidents, Koronadal Mayor Peter Miguel last week gathered the police to intensify security and intelligence measures against the motorcycle robbers.

But authorities so far failed to identify or arrest any suspects, with Supt. Michael Lebanan, acting city police chief, saying that operations have been ongoing to crack the string of deadly motorcycle robberies apparently carried out by only one group.

South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr. said the provincial government has assured the city government of support in solving the problem.  (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)