On August 6, 2019, Tuesday, at the Food Court particularly at the side of Chowking in Gateway mall, I was snatched of my sling bag containing valuables. I reported this both to Cubao’s Police Station 7 and to the security office at Basement 1, as I felt an aggrieved party here.
I lost around P30k worth of valuables and cash for this. I just bought the Samsung A50 at the Automatic center which is also adjacent to the food court last month. The same is still under installment for two years. I used a credit card and still have to pay now even if I don’t have the item in my hands already. The torment that this thing has to give upon me was unbearable, what with all that was lost. All the IDs which are for business transactions are all in one bag. One Oppo F5 phone, one new Samsung A50 phone, one original Asus power bank, five BDO ATM cards, Metrobank ATM and PNB ATM, four Credit cards and more or less P1500 in cash.
After a tiring trip to Divisoria, and as planned, RF and I would later meet in Gateway. I let him use my Toyota Wigo first, so he can attend today’s business lunch meeting. I was so tired and hungry coming from Divisoria today that I decided to order at Chowking. The Gateway Food court is the usual destination for me whenever I watch a movie at Gateway Cineplex. As always, today is just an ordinary dine at the food court not realizing this is going to be real trouble for me as an unfortunate incident is about to transpire. This happened when a lady in pink shirt, suddenly swift my sling bag away from my back without me being aware of it. Apparently, she made several attempts to suspend my consciousness until finally I let go of the bag while I was busy having my meal.
I consider this place, the whole Gateway mall and the food court area as safe from snatchers. But these events entirely change my perspective of eating inside a mall not to mention there were roving security personnel. Ok, so what are the stakes here? Well, inside my bag is a treasure chest for snatchers. I surmised I was one valuable catch for the culprit. I’m not here suggesting to netizens to beware of going to Gateway, not even that, coz I like the place, but the fact that this happened is something of great concern not only for me but for all the patrons of this mall. Fact is there is relatively good ambiance of the place – thus I kept frequenting it. It’s just that it’s very alarming indeed that just like that, in a moment all my valuables are gone in a place where I felt secured and safe.
It’s also very disappointing that a gesture of verbal apology is the only thing security heads and the Gateway management can do while saying that a thorough investigation of the matter is underway. I will yet have to wait and see for the day that a final summary result of the same is done.
As of this writing, it’s been a week already and all they are saying particularly the security and the food management team, somehow is pointing to my fault short of being irresponsible of my own affairs, without them having to say that literally. I felt I was to blame by the way they handled the case. Ok fine, given that I messed around and left my bag unattended. I was still expecting an immediate response by roving guards in the area, which I did not see visible during that time. The only CCTV that was able to capture my angle directly was the one that was privately owned by the tenant, Chowking, which was across where I was seated. I learned later on, that the food court has only four CCTV cameras at the center ceiling. The other 8 CCTV cameras were near the Food Express management office which was far from where I was eating.
About a few minutes after I realized my bag was gone, I asked around from the people at my back, Two ladies said a middle-aged woman in pink dress got my bag, but they did not tell me right away not until the snatcher was gone and not until I was looking for it. Were they part of the cast?
And since I couldn’t find a guard at that time, I walked fast as I went down to the next level where LRT exit at Aurora side is located and as I know the area is where the guards are stationed. So they were the ones who probably radioed the roving guards at the food court. After trying to find the snatcher down Aurora Blvd, I went back to the food court. It was only at that time that a commotion took place. And people were already aware I was looking for my stuff.
Friday morning, August 9, 2019, I got a call from Mr. Edgar Mundo, head of Food Express, the food court management department of Gateway. He said that the case has been elevated already to top management and the legal department and talk to the senior vice president of operation, Mr. Morriel Abogado as of yesterday. He said he will meet me personally tomorrow to discuss the matter. We did not meet until Sunday when both of us were available. I told him I wasn’t able to meet him this midweek since I was busy processing the replacement of all the cards that were lost starting with my driver’s license. I told him that in fact, it was very inconvenient and troublesome to secure back all the cards.
I also told him I was accompanied by security of Gateway to Police Station 7 on the night the incident took place and got a certified copy of the Police report. I was already asking him what is the course of action of the management and if they are willing to settle my claims of the items that were lost notwithstanding the moral damages that were incurred. I told him I wasn’t able to sleep well because of this. He said we just meet and I said if I’m not satisfied with the meeting, then I will have to talk to the operation management themselves. I said I don’t think this is the first case that happened in the food area, its just that I was intent on reporting it to them and to the police authorities. I said this is going to be a precedent of all the case that could happen in the future. I added this is something that is a serious issue and that the security system has to be reviewed and increase the degree of alertness on its ranks.
I presume there wasn’t any round the clock or 24/7 monitoring on the office of the Command Center of the CCTV. By the time there was a sighting of a possible suspect by the monitoring team, there would have been a prompt response to call the attention of roving guards by radio on the area where I was located. Questions like how many people really monitor your CCTVs? He cut me and said tomorrow we will discuss everything. I also told him, I wasn’t able to drive and I couldn’t even resume on all my business activities. I use to make notes on my cellphone on all my business data and transactions and all were lost just like that. I could not afford to have my business online comes to a halt but in essence, it did. I said it was indeed a heavy burden on my shoulder. I asked Mr Mundo, if they were able to do a profiling of the snatcher but the only reply he told me is that he already coordinated this to the head of Araneta Center security. I remember the last time I talked to them is only with the security personnel of Gateway mall. He said it’s now Col. Bulalin who is taking charge of the case. He said they already talked to the respective police department about this. We talked for 10 minutes on the cellphone and before I could hang up, he said an apology on behalf of the administration.
Following is a transcript of the meeting I had, (five days after the incident), with the Security agency key personnel who manned the food court, Mr. Mundo, who heads the Food Express management office and including the head of security, Col. Bulalin, cumulatively called here as the Team. (KJ is Kibi Journal)
Mundo: We are on the process of reviewing the footages. We are backtracking the CCTV footages to trace and get a clear view of the suspect. From there, we can report to the police station and see their rooster gallery and when identified we will file appropriate charges.
KJ: I already went to the police station as accompanied by your security staff. So for the last seven days, you are still in the process of investigating the CCTV and you haven’t seen an angle on the account of the snatching?
Team: We will file appropriate charges once we see the final angle and a clear view of the suspect.
KJ: Actually I saw the video from Ms. Crystal, one of your aide, but that one was also blurred and taken from Chowking’s CCTV not yours. The same camera is alighted directly to where I was seated.
Mundo: That one is blurred because we only had it viewed on our cellphones. The reason we required all our tenants in the food court for their own CCTV, is to augment the additional security in the area. We have the internal CCTV for the Gateway Mall. There are angles that we cannot see clearly so we get help from our tenants’ camera and a chance to build from there angle. The footage from Chowking gave us a preview from 2:01 p.m. to 2:05 pm when the suspect was taking advantage of the opportunity. And there we saw you got up around five times to follow-up on your order.
KJ: At the time I was standing and going to Chowking’s counter, my belongings were still there intact as I was keeping an eye on it. Actually, the sling bag was taken away at the time I was eating already. But before dining and during the ordering, I was looking at my belongings since the counter is just near.
Mundo: That is what we are trying to establish when you kept on standing and going to the counter with your belongings left in the table, the same we are raising to the legal department. There is an element of personal responsibility of every individual to look after their belongings knowing that like yours, are valuable items like cellphones, cash and numerous number of cards. And we are concerned with the number or volume of customers we are handling. Each person there are individually responsible. Our concern is though we have the CCTV cameras in place, aside from the fact that we have roving guards in the food court. Based on our review it was 2:05 when the incident happened. Around 1:58 or 1:59, our roving guards are already in position at Wendy’s very near where you are seated. Meaning the visibility of our security was there as opposed to the initial report.
KJ: Wendy’s is quite far from Chowking.
Mundo: The path where the guards walk is around towards that direction and the element of visibility is there. But on that condition where there is an influx of customers, the opportunity was there for bad elements even with visibility. There was an opportunity for the suspect, but still, we apologize for you as a victim. Rest assured that it does not happen here with us. We have statistics from the security department. It’s just sad that it happened.
KJ: How many staff monitors your CCTV?
Team: There are staff there at the admin office.
KJ: Are the staff that monitors the CCTV part of the security agency?
KJ: So the whole CCTV system is owned by Araneta Center but monitoring is with the security personnel?
Team: Yes Araneta center owns the CCTV system and monitored by security personnel.
KJ: So do they have an automatic response system to radio the roving guards? So the moment that you see a suspect there, it would be easy for you to radio. If you are really round the clock on your monitoring, a call would have been done moments before the suspect could pick up my bag, because I was busy eating. So for me personally, yes I was partly responsible as I placed my valuable and bag at my back inside the chair, but what I’m saying is that prior to that I am an unsuspecting victim. I felt secured and as you mentioned there were security guards and there are CCTV monitors and roving guards. And if there is really someone who is monitoring on the CCTV unless otherwise none. So probably you missed the suspect. Or if you have less staff who monitors.
Mundo: Actually the file from Chowking is more clear.
KJ: But aside from Chowking CCTV, you also have your own CCTV, right? So my expectation is I’m not really worried someone will take my stuff. We were seated back to back the suspect and me. There is no opening on the back of the chair for her hand to enter.
Team: Didn’t you felt she was taking your bag?
KJ: I did know something slipped out and dropped. This was the time I know someone got it, so I stood up and started asking people around if they saw my bag. That was when the two lady at the nearest table said a lady in pink got my bag. This was the time I was looking for security guards but found no one.
Mundo: Actually sir when you stood up, there was occasion already to inform or make a commotion or talk to the busboys. And when you were walking the aisle you also saw team members there.
KJ: I left the place because I didn’t saw any guard.
Mundo: There were incidents here that people left their belongings and we did help them recover it.
KJ: I left and went down as I can’t find someone to help me. And I head down next level for the security guards.
Mundo: if security guards are not visible there are staff in the food court. You have the change to inform my staff because you meet three staff there and the opportunity to call our attention. You should have given us the chance to inform us. You were just walking casually out. We were only prompted from 2:05 pm. And reporting on the security was already 2:30 pm. The interval is too long.
KJ: Yes but I don’t know if the security guard at the LRT entrance made a call to the roving guards at the food court as the two security guards were the first to know about what happened. If I saw a security guard at the food court I was looking around and found none. So because there is none I went down as the only guard I know is found in the LRT entrance area. Because I was after the suspect at the same time go to the exits near the Aurora LRT entrance. There I reported to the guards and asked if they saw a lady in a pink dress. They said they can’t tell me because they are at the entrance door, not the exit. The only point is why do I have to go down? What is the reason why I went down? Because I was after the snatcher and the guards at the Gateway entrance.
Team: Sir you talked to guards at the food court.
KJ: Yes I talked to the guards after I came back to the food court as I left my food there. I had it taken out. And left again to the direction of Farmers Mall to try to look for the woman in pink.
Team: The guard you talked to back at the food court was the one on duty.
KJ: Yes I talked to him but that was when I came back to the food court but never talked to him seconds after the incident.
Team: But you did not talk to the staff inside the food court all you did was to run after the snatcher because that was your focus. We were asking where is the complainant? then one of the guards said he left as he wants to run after the snatcher. You went down to Mcdo and outside the Gateway building.
KJ: Yes, I went down to take the chance to find the suspect along Aurora Blvd.
Team: You should have talked to one of the three staff at the food area.
KJ: I have no knowledge they are part of your security team. My first thought was security staff that’s why I went down.
Team: The three Team members you passed by were already there.
KJ: I don’t have prior knowledge that they can respond as part of the security team. I was looking for officers in uniform. And then since I didn’t see any, I went down. If it’s your policy that your food court staff is part of the security, I don’t know that unless otherwise, you posted info about it.
Team: Our staff represents also the operation there.
KJ And that’s why I need to explain to the management why I run down to the second level. If they see my camera angle that there was no security there or even if there was, he could be far away from my location. So two reason why I went down, one to run after the suspect and two to tell the guard at the entrance about the snatcher.
Team: The whole information was not immediately relayed to us.
KJ: But I gave the info to the guard down. Why did the roving guards went to Chowking at this time? probably it was radioed to them already. Did they guard at the LRT entrance made the call?
Team: Yes they did, but it’s late already, by 2:05 pm the suspect is gone. So we talked to the legal department and the contributory factors we are trying to establish is where are the negligence part. So the instruction from the management is that we cannot settle any of your claims if that is the case.
KJ: Ok if that is the case, I will set the next course of action like I could file a civil case at the Q.C. Prosecutor’s office and every department like the security agency should be made to answer there. I would ask for the help of the Public Attorney’s office. That will be my course of action plus I will blog about this. I haven’t really blogged about this as I was waiting for the settlement. And since it’s negative, that will be my course of action. I will also write a position letter to the administration of Araneta center. And one of the things I will suggest is for them to add more cameras. I have 8 CCTV cameras in my house myself including my garage and here you are, a public place and you have only four at the center ceiling. And you only relied on your tenants’ camera.
KJ: So the security agency was not the provider of the CCTVs in the area?
Team: Yes, Araneta center set it up.
KJ: If there is no one who monitors and signals the roving guards by radio that a suspect is there, and the fact that the 8 cameras from admin office are quite far from my location, snatchers can easily get away.
Team: In our lost and found log book, it shows that those lost items come back to the people who left them. Our team was trained to communicate and we have instructed them all on matters like this.
KJ: I know for a fact that there were roving guards in the area but I want to make it clear that at the time my incident happened I did not see a single officer in the vicinity. I won’t go down if I saw a roving guard there. Maybe you yourself can recommend to the management for additional cameras because of what happened. Even this office in Food Express should have a manned CCTV monitoring system.
Team: Our 8 cameras are projected from the office up to the chapel area.
KJ: But the ones in the center ceiling are the only four cameras.
KJ: Ok so plus the four all in all you have 12 cameras. I think the one in the center should be upgraded to more because it where all the tenants will be in full view and a strategic location at that. Those things that I lost I can get it back but the one thing that was lost is the trust I have of this place. I frequent this food court because I always watch movies here every Monday and Tuesdays and it’s more than two years that I come here and nothing like this happened. I trusted this place that I can’t imagine this could happen to me, I felt secure in this place. But now I don’t feel the same anymore because of what happened. This time my personal level of alertness is inevitable.
Team: Sir these bad elements always look for opportunities, so being a public place, the responsibility of everyone is to look after their own belongings. And so those times that you were leaving your things behind while at the counter gives them an idea that you are easy prey.
KJ: Yes you can say that, but my eyes were looking at my belongings directions every now and then while ordering.
Mundo: What I’m saying is the opportunity was there for the suspect. There was an opening.
KJ: While we’re talking now, it’s a given that there is plenty of opportunities. But if the security level is not at the highest level, and there were no alertness, so to speak, then this will not also help curb crime.
Mundo: If I were at your shoes and I know I have valuables like cellphones, I will not leave it.
KJ: I did not leave it, in fact it was taken from me while it was attached to my chair. At the time I was ordering, yes I left them on the table, but my eyes were on it and there was no snatching yet at that time. The snatching happened while I was eating. I was busy eating so naturally, that was where I was concentrated on. So if you’re eating you don’t hold any of that stuff right? I was thinking no one is going to steal it since it’s just beside me.
Mundo: It happened 2:05 pm and there were visibility of the guards there at that time.
KJ: So it’s impossible the guard never noticed the suspect if he was there.
Mundo: 1:58 pm there was guards roving.
KJ: If the roving guard was there, I have not seen him on the right side maybe he was on the other side. And so I decided on instinct to go down and look for one.
Mundo: During that time they were there. I have a team member pushing his cart and another one at other points. But you didn’t prompt those staff about it. They represent our operation. At the time you were looking for your bag, I have a team member there.
KJ: Do you have a policy that those so-called team members are aware that they are part of the check and balance.
Team: They were trained as reinforcement of any circumstance there. They are a force multiplier in part and we briefed them about it. We had a staff meeting and they learned about this. And even them they didn’t get info from you about what happened during that incident or that moment particularly those three members.
KJ: So you did not set a meeting after the incident?
Mundo: We did a post briefing and monthly staff meeting. And last Friday’s meeting the agenda is about the incident.
KJ: So you had a briefing with the staff?
Team: Yes separate briefings for admin and security before work and after. This is the incident why you have not seen it? For the security and for the operation we do the briefing every day for people on shift.
KJ: Did this briefing happened only after my incident and only this year? Since last year and up to now has anything similar account took place as the one with mine? Because I think I am the only one who took this case so vigilantly to reporting such an incident. I felt I was the aggrieved party so that’s why I reported this. Maybe some of those that had a similar account, did not report what happened to them. And I did this to set a precedent and an example that others will take heed and that this kind of thing will not happen again. And if this happens again I pity those who will go through this ordeal. Preventive measures should be done.
Team: The guard goes through a briefing before they start work and what specific work they do and another briefing after work. Security measures are in place and as with the waiters and busboys they also have briefings and part of it is issues of security and this is daily.
KJ: I asked you if what happened to me did happen before or even last year? Is this the first reported incident?
Team: Yes. It’s all in the statistics. But other incidents were prevented, example accounts relating to lost and found.
KJ: No, you don’t get it, what I’m asking is there a similar incident like mine that was recorded or in your logbook?
KJ: My case could be likened to a “salisi or budol” when someone in the area said to me that she may be not alone, she must have a lookout there.
Team: It could be a presumption but on our investigation, she is alone until she left by herself.
KJ: Do you have a bulletin board where you have to post a clear shot of the suspect and did you post it outside the dining area?
Team: It is against the law all ready to post it outside.
KJ: I saw some time ago of such postings in public places.
Team: It’s not allowed anymore under the law unless there is a warrant. It’s a human right violation if you do.
KJ: But did you ever had a posting for a warning like for example “Do not leave your valuables unattended, possible snatchers might be lurking in the area”? Just sort of a warning to alert patrons and could be posted on every corner as a deterrent for possible snatchers in the area?
Team: (Silence. No specific answer.)
KJ: I for one is one very unsuspecting victim and I felt secure in this place and now that has changed because of what happened.
Team: You said you have been dining here for the nth time and nothing happened?
KJ: What if something like this happened to someone before and did not report to you? It’s possible something like this already took place in your dining area. That’s why not until the news went out to media will people know. If this will not come out people will not talk about this unless someone will stand up and open their mouths to speak out. It did happen to me at Gateway mall food court and to think that it’s unthinkable that this will take place when there is security. So maybe something like this happened only that they did not report it to you. That is how I see it.
Team: Again sir, in your case, there happened to be an opportunity for the snatcher.
KJ: I think there are others who experience the same at Gateway Food court. Its just that they did not report. And because I was aggressive about this, this is the only time that an action or alertness was done on the part of the security agency and on the part of the management. I haven’t written to the management as of this time but I will be writing a position letter to them stipulating what needs to be done. I will tell them this is what happened to me and as a patron of this establishment where I always go and dine and watch movies, I felt like this is a home for me and this has to happen. It’s only now that you come upfront with the challenge to upgrade your alertness because someone like me demanded to focus with the case, otherwise if no one will speak up, no proactive action will be seen. So this is not the end of it. Since I learned from you that you will not give an amicable settlement to what was lost from me, I know what my next step will be. So after this meeting, I will see the office of the Araneta admin. This time will I write a blog about this. And considering that you already have 12 cameras and any snatcher can still get away with this is something that you guys will have to ask yourselves? How did this happened when your men are monitoring. So meaning if you eat there and your team is monitoring then you feel better and relaxed that no untoward incident could happen. It is imperative to post messages like “Do not leave your things unattended”. In other establishments like your, they have that posted. That’s my suggestion to the management.
Mundo: We already told it to our department and artwork is already in process. I personally requested that.
KJ: When? Before the incident?
Mundo: (No direct answer) Were very careful on posting as it should be done in a gentle manner.
KJ: That message is not critical, its just a warning.
Mundo: Yes but the impression you get when you have those post are not so positive.
KJ: Actually it’s positive, it will give an impression that your place is not really that safe and in retrospect, it will help. It’s kind of scary already. I felt that way now, but before it’s not like that. Now I felt that you need to do that because I felt that the place is no longer safe. Even there at the corner of EDSA and along Aurora there are many snatchers and it’s likely they the same people who go inside your mall because anybody can get there. Actually even in the cinema area at the railings there I saw some young people who frequents there all the time. I could remember their faces over time. I was asking myself why this person is always here, and none of you are even aware of this? So you begun to suspect already. What happened could probably take a lull and then will attack again in six months time or so. But I don’t want this to happen or even the management does not want this to happen again because it’s giving Gateway a bad impression. Even writing a blog about this is giving you a good face for the mall but for constructive criticism, I am inclined to do that so other people who might have the same experience can have a platform to speak up. They will post comments on the blog and I expect this to be supportive spills of information. I will just tell about my own account and not add a thing nor fabricate stories. August 6, 2019, this happened to me, I will just tell all. Because if this happened to me, then it could happen to any unsuspecting victim. I even wanted to secure the video of Chowking but you said I’m not allowed. But media news platforms like GMA7 and ABS-CBN already had some videos published or reported on similar circumstance I was in, and helped solve some cases. I hope this will also help the mall curb the same problem and put a stop to this crime. If we don’t make a move, they will come again in certain times, six months time, a year’s time, they will come back to you if your level of alertness does not change and you become lax about your operations. I heard someone from your ranks said this is an isolated case. Well, I don’t think so. This could happen again. To prevent that thing to happen again, and so in my position paper, I will propose ideas of what to do next. I don’t intend this writing to be viral but really to encourage people who kept mum about their cases to speak up now. It’s possible that she will victimize others in the future again. Possible right? As of now I don’t even know if its still safe to eat at Gateway mall food court. I am now so alert about my bags when I’m out. When I was in Divisoria it’s a given or in Recto but inside a mall, like Gateway? it’s unthinkable and unfortunate indeed. Its really unfortunate that this has to happen but it will serve as a lesson in the future both for me as a personal experience and you at the management. You at the management really have to be vigilant because all who patronizes your place come here because they felt safe. If they don’t feel safe anymore how will they come back if crimes like this happen again? Why would I eat there? People will be alarmed already. See I read in the blog, so I won’t go there anymore and if I have to go there my bags should be in front of me all the time. It’s lessons learned. We still make ways to solve problems like this. Vice versa the management also has to learn from this. I don’t think management has all the details yet that’s why I will be writing them stipulating everything. The side of the story from my own account.
Leaving the Food Express office, Mr. Ivan, assistant of Mr. Mundo accompanied me out. I was looking around the food court and pointed out to him two customers who were seated so carefree and just put there bags on the side. There was a guy who was sleeping with his cell phone on the table and anyone can easily get it. I told Mr. Ivan that their men can warn those sleeping to keep their belongings. I also noticed there were no signs on the columns on warning about unattended things. And also took note of the four cameras at the center aisle. I went back to the place where my incident happened and Ivan directed me to the admin camera which was quite far from where I once was seated. The Chowking camera, yes was near and just across me. I was taking pictures and Ivan asked me to refrain from doing so. I asked why. He said with your situation now it’s not allowed.
I then proceeded to the administration office. There, I talked to Mr. Mark Jacaban, assistant to the VP Operations. I got the operation email address and sit down with him about my case.
KJ: Ok I understand you are reporting directly to the VP for Operations, Mr. Morriel Abogado. This is regarding what happened. The incident on August 6, 2019. I guess you know about this already.
Mark: Yes, I do.
KJ: I just want to be able to talk to the right people, the management. I had a meeting earlier with the head of security, Col. Bulalin and the head of Food Express, Mr. Edgar Mundo. I was asking for an update of the claims for settlement of the lost belongings. So I don’t know if they are the right persons to talk to but I guess it’s the management because this is also your concern. I don’t know if you’re aware that there is not even a warning at the food court not to leave your things unattended.
Mark: Oh so there is none?
KJ: None, I haven’t seen one posting. There are announcements there but are related to other concerns. All the while the opportunity of snatchers to do their thing is a given. But to think that me being a regular patron of your food court for more than five years or so, since the time that Gateway opened its doors to the public, I always come here, is one important concern.
Mark: Where are you from?
KJ: In Cainta now. I would always come here on Mondays and Tuesdays since I have a privileged card to watch movies here. What happened is really unexpected all the while I thought the place is very secured and having a snatcher there never crossed my mind because it’s inside the mall. Also considering the snatcher will take precaution because all the exit points will get her cornered. I don’t know also if the management is aware that I was looking for a security guard at the time I need help for one? To no avail. I know for a fact that there were roving guards there because I frequently ate there. But at the time this happened, there was none, at least not that I know. Because I didn’t see one, logic is, the next guard that I know is in the entrance at the LRT Aurora wing. So I went down, it’s logical that’s one of the reasons why I went down and the second is to apprehend the snatcher. It was also the time that the guard was able to radio to the roving guards at the food court. It’s something that you also have to investigate why at that time I don’t have any guard to help me. I didn’t create a commotion because I’m not that kind of person who would shout that there is a snatcher. It was a fast reaction and my instinct lead me looking for ways to solve it and look for the guard down. As far as my own account is concerned there was none at the food court. But based on Mr. Mundo’s account, he said they were two roving guards there.
I said I still have to see you at the admin office to know how to properly address the issue and send a letter to those in charge. I plan to give some unsolicited advice to the security fiasco. I said if there are only four cameras at the center ceiling then they have to add more. We discussed this with the team earlier at their office. They were saying there were 8 cameras from Food express admin and four from the center from Araneta admin for a total of 12 cameras plus the one on every tenant. But we only relied on the video file from Chowking’s CCTV because the admin camera is quite far from my angle.
Mark: I will give you the email for operation.
KJ: If you want I can address to your attention the email I’m sending later. I asked the team earlier if they know of the same case that happened before. And the answer is not that they know of. The only difference now is I made this move to report as I felt an aggrieved party here. I lost around P30k worth of valuables and cash. And also I just bought the Samsung A50 at the Automatic center which is also adjacent to the food court last month. The thing is this is still under installment for two years. I used a credit card and still have to pay it even if I don’t have the item in hands already. Added to this is the torment that this thing has to give upon me what with all the cards that were lost. All the IDs which are for business transactions are all in one bag. One Oppo F5 phone, one new Samsung A50 phone, one original Asus power bank, five BDO ATM cards, Metrobank ATM and PNB ATM, four Credit cards and more or less P1500 in cash. My wallet was inside the bag and so other cards were also there. I have two silver necklaces there worth P1800.
So I said I plan to write the admin department and I also will blog about this but haven’t really written a thing yet. I would just write about my own account or my side of the story. I will just tell all and hoping that this will serve as a warning also for others who would visit this mall. This has happened to me and it could happen to anyone else. Whether or not there is a settlement, along with the probe on the subject, it will create a precedent, me being the sacrificial lamb. People will know in the process and that it won’t happen again. So one of the suggestion is additional CCTV at the center ceiling and coupled with a warning not to leave things unattended. I haven’t seen one. But Mr. Mundo said their graphics man Is working on it. Maybe they will just about to start working on it because I suggested it earlier.
Mark: There are incidents of lost items left by customers, but were all returned.
KJ: So that’s good. But in my case this is different. In broad daylight, with all the security setup there, this is something unthinkable and never crossed my mind. I recalled how Mr. Mundo kept saying for the nth time that opportunities for the snatcher were there.
I said and insisted I was eating and it’s illogical to get hold of your valuable while your two hands are busy taking the food to your mouth. At the same time, an ambiance of security is there. But this crime still took place and so something has to be done now. In the meeting, I asked them if is there were really someone who monitors round the clock at your CCTV command center? I said there has to be, and that would have prevented the suspect. And that there could have been a higher level of alertness and instead a very lax environment is seen there. No one is going to make a bad move here, and so I thought. I think the security personnel should maintain a vigilant level of alertness there. Just before the suspect can materialize her plan, the ones who manned the monitors will already be able to alert the roving guards there. Once you see the lady moving her eyes and body around and acts suspiciously it’s also a move to catch her attention.
I pointed to Mr. Ivan’s attention, before I meet you, leaving the food court, as I noticed a man seated there, eyes closed and his cellphone is just in front of him. In those scenarios, the team should have come in handy to warn them.
In my case, several attempts were done by the woman who took my bag. I wasn’t probably aware of what she was doing until maybe she realized it was time to get my sling bag. The two ladies who were eating nearby told me about the woman’s description.
Mark: You could have told the crew there.
KJ: I don’t know that idea that the crew there is part of the security setup? Lastly, I said if there was only advise from the command center that a suspect was seen, this could have not happened. So evidently there are security lapses and sort of negligence also on your part.
(After taking the email, I motioned to leave. I felt so exhausted already with my very redundant narrative. I was ready to go home and good thing I already got my driver’s license. Going towards the door out of Mr. Mark’s office I asked where their Command Center is. He pointed me to the direction of the command center where the monitors are located. I asked him how many are manning there. He said it’s classified and it’s not for him to tell)
Following is the position letter I sent via email to Mr. Morriel Abogado, VP/ Property General Manager of Araneta Center:
August 14, 2019
Attention: Mr. Morriel Abogado
VP, Property General Manager
On August 6, 2019, Tuesday, at the Food Court particularly at the side of Chowking in Gateway mall, I was snatched of my sling bag containing valuables. I reported both to Police Station 7 and to your security office at Basement 1, as I felt an aggrieved party here.
I lost around P30k worth of valuables and cash for this. And also I just bought the Samsung A50 at the Automatic center which is also adjacent to the food court last month. The same is this is still under installment for two years. I used a credit card and still have to pay now even if I don’t have the item in my hands already. The torment that this thing has to give upon me was unbearable, what with all that was lost. All the IDs which are for business transactions are all in one bag. One Oppo F5 phone, one new Samsung A50 phone, one original Asus power bank, five BDO ATM cards, Metrobank ATM and PNB ATM, four Credit cards and more or less P1500 in cash. My wallet was inside the bag and so other cards were also there.
I was so tired and hungry coming from Divisoria that time, that I decided to order at Chowking. The Gateway Food court is the usual destination for me whenever I watch a movie at Gateway Cineplex. As always, today is just an ordinary dine at the food court not realizing this is going to be a real trouble for me as an unfortunate incident is about to transpire. This happened when a lady in pink shirt, suddenly swift my sling bag away from my back without me being aware of it. Apparently she made several attempts to suspend my consciousness until I finally let go of the bag while I was busy having my meal.
I consider this place, the whole Gateway mall and the food court area as safe from snatchers. But this event entirely change my perspective of eating inside a mall not to mention there were roving security personnel. I surmised, I was one valuable catch for the culprit. I’m not here suggesting to people to beware of going to Gateway, not even that, coz I like the place, but the fact that this happened is something of great concern not only for me but for all the patrons of this mall. Fact is there is relatively good ambiance of the place – thus I kept frequenting it. It’s just that it’s very alarming indeed that just like that, in a moment all my valuables are gone in a place where you felt secured and safe.
It’s also very disappointing that a gesture of verbal apology is the only thing security heads and the Gateway management can do while saying that a thorough investigation of the matter is underway. I will yet have to wait and see for the day that a final summary result of the same is done.
As of this writing it’s been a week already and all they are saying particularly the security and the food management team, somehow is pointing to my fault short of being irresponsible of my own affairs, without them having to say that literally. I felt I was to blame by the way they handled the case. Ok fine, given that I messed around and left my bag unattended. I was still expecting an immediate response by roving guards in the area, which I did not see visible during that time.
The only CCTV that was able to capture my angle directly, was the one that was privately owned by the tenant, Chowking, which was across where I was seated. I learned later on, that the food court has only four CCTV cameras at the center ceiling. The other 8 CCTV cameras were near the Food Express management office which was far from where I was eating. About a few minutes after I realized my bag was gone, I asked around from the people at my back, Two ladies said a middle-aged woman in pink dress got my bag, but they did not tell me right way not until the snatcher was gone and not until I was looking for it. Were they part of the cast?
And since I couldn’t find a guard at that time, I walked fast as I could, going down to the next level where LRT exit at Aurora side is located. I know the area is where the guards are stationed. So they were the ones who probably radioed the roving guards at the food court. After trying to find the snatcher down Aurora Blvd, I went back to the food court. It was only at that time that a commotion took place. And people were already aware I was looking for my stuff.
Friday morning, August 9, 2019, I got a call from Mr. Edgar Mundo, head of Food Express, the food court management department of Gateway. He said that the case has been elevated already to top management and the legal department and he said he had talks with you as of yesterday. Mr. Mundo said he will meet me personally on the next day to discuss about the matter. We did not meet until Sunday, August 11, when both of us were available. I told him I wasn’t able to meet him this midweek since I was busy processing the replacement of all the cards that were lost starting with my driver’s license. I told him that in fact it was very inconvenient and troublesome to secure back all the cards.
I also told him I was accompanied by security of Gateway to Police Station 7 on the night the incident took place and got a certified copy of the Police report. I was already asking him what is the course of action of the management and if they are willing to settle my claims of the items that were lost not withstanding the moral damages that were incurred. I told him I wasn’t able to sleep well because of this. He said we just meet and I said if I’m not satisfied with the meeting, then I will have to talk to the operation management themselves.
I said I don’t think this is the first case that this happened in the food area, it’s just that I was the only one intent on reporting it to them and to the police authorities. I said this is going to be a precedent of all the case that could happen in the future.
So in the light of all that has transpired I deemed to suggest the following course of action on the part of the management:
- The security system has to be reviewed and increase the degree of alertness on its ranks.
- There has to be a round the clock or 24/7 monitoring on the office of the Command Center of the CCTV. By the time there was a sighting of a possible suspect by the monitoring team, there would have been a prompt response to call the attention of roving guards by radio on the area.
- A number of staff should man and monitors your CCTVs
- A posting of “DO NOT LEAVE YOUR THINGS UNATTENDED” should be posted on all corners of the food court as a warning for possible snatchers.
- A notice of information that all the crew, bus boys and staff at the food court are part of the security system whom people can talk to in case problems arises
- A memo to all tenants there to also be pro-active and aware of the activities near their turf.
- Let the security office have their own CCTV system monitoring staff as a backup to the already existing Command center at the admin office. This will engage in a more vigilant and secure environment at all levels.
- Provide accurate training to security and operation crew on the actual settings there, since I felt that they were very lax on their part and not really pro-active like what happened to me.
I hope you will attend to this matter accordingly. Thank you.
#ABS-CBN #Gateway Mall #GMANews #GatewayFoodCourt