Last week, a neighbor woke up to dismaying news. One or more thieves broke into his rented home and stole his laptop, his backup hard drive, his cellphone, his girlfriend’s cellphone, and his camera. Adding insult to injury, the thieves severed a vital connection on his rented motorcycle that rendered it inoperable.
Was it a criminal gang from other parts? I discussed this with two friends of the neighbor who were waiting with him at the house for the police. One of his friends thought it was, but to me this resembled a crime of opportunity.
The victim and his girlfriend came home early that evening. The woman bought something at the store after 10:30 p.m. She might have been observed and tailed. But the man felt that it was his neglect to turn on the main light that illuminated the house that emboldened the thieves.
According to the kids at the nearby taekwondo gym, this was the third time that this particular house had been robbed since December. Nine months ago, in December, two young men were noticed carrying off a Gasul container from the house. In March, the previous occupant’s tools were stolen. And now, in September, the house was burglarized again.
Gasul is the generic term for the container of LPG fuel for cooking. The term arose because the dominant brand of LPG fuel in Palawan (and probably in the Philippines too) is Petron Gasul. LPG, or liquefied petroleum gas, is a clean-burning fuel consisting of a mixture of propane and butane gas. In addition to being used as fuel for cooking, LPG is also used as fuel for lighting and industrial applications.
A full tank will last months depending upon the number of meals it will cook. The tank shown above is at least five months old although I don’t have the flame going for more than 30 minutes a day.
The occupants think the thieves broke in during the early-morning hours, maybe between 3 and 6.
The most frightening part of the break-in occurred because the thieves apparently stood in the presence of the sleeping couple.
The couple slept on the second floor. The thieves found most of their loot on the first floor but apparently, they ascended the second floor too. That was where they stole the victim’s cellphone.
The criminals were standing above the sleeping victims. What if the victims had woken up? Would that have forced the criminals to attack the victims? Were the victims better off having slept through the ordeal?
The victims reported the theft first to the barangay tanod. The tanod are the security officers of the smallest government unit–the barangay.
A barangay tanod is a local volunteer who has been deputised and received some training to be a tanod. They carry out basic security functions under the auspice of the barangay captain for their barangay.
This is likely to include basic police functions from arrests to traffic control although the post is quite flexible dependent on the context of the barangay in which they work.
From what research I have recently done they do not tend to carry firearms but sometimes they do, on occasion without a license and therefore are unlikely to have training in it. More often they will be armed with a baton, often made of rattan.
The tanod, in turn, told them to report the incident to the Philippine National Police (PNP). They were directed to the PNP base near junction-2 only to be told to proceed to another PNP office near Mendoza Park.
The victims were understandably unhappy about the referral confusion. At 5 p.m., I saw a PNP vehicle carrying three policemen headed towards the scene of the crime. The police had begun their investigation.
Catch the culprits?
A resident foreigner who’s lived here for over 10 years thinks the police will catch the thieves.
House thieves don’t have long careers in Palawan, he said. I hope he’s correct but in the meantime, the victims, a Belgian man and his Filipina girlfriend, have moved out.