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Intelligence: The Neglected Better Half of Security


“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Today I repeat these same oft-repeated words of the great Chinese strategist Sun Tzu quoted from ‘The Art of War’. When I was in the military, I only knew this too well. When we thought we had the enemy, we never encountered him. But, when we left and the enemy knew we had, and that it now faced a lesser foe then there was an encounter. The letter but most especially the spirit of the words actually now seems too fundamental in our world of security today. I wish it were true.

Security plans and their execution are based on our knowledge of the threats facing our organizations. The more complete, accurate, and timely that knowledge; therefore, so are the programs and projects we adopt to contain those threats allowing our businesses to continue and be resilient.

The second sentence from the phrase: ‘If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.’ Is probably truer in the world of security today; At least, this is what I see. They are not an indictment of how people and things are; nor, are they judgmental about how people and things could have been. They are just how things are; that, we may be informed and hopefully draw what is useful to us and to our organizations. So that next time around, the self-efficacy we take away today may pay dividends in terms of the lives that we protect; the assets we safeguard; and, the businesses we help to survive and flourish.

To accomplish my task, I will review six (6) case studies (this list keeps on growing), draw lessons learned, conclude, and suggest some recommendations. If at all I am able to get you thinking proactively than reactively then perhaps I would have achieved my goal.

Case Study 1

On a Monday morning in May 2008, 5-6 gunmen robbed the RCBC bank in Cabuyao, Laguna Province south of Manila of approximately P15M or USD 349,000. In the process, the robbers killed nine (9) bank employees and a lone client who happened to walk in. All victims, including the security guard, were shot in the head. The suspects accessed the bank through the back door, destroyed security cameras and alarms, and waited for the employees to arrive. They used the vehicle of one of the slain employees as get-away vehicle. A guard seemed to be involved. Police later claimed they killed some of the suspects further south in the Visayas where they had fled. The PNP chief reactivated the clustering system among policemen and the sustained conduct of checkpoints to effectively run after escaping robbers following the robbery. He also ordered the PNP to work closely with the Joint Anti Bank Robbery Council (JABRAC) and the Bank Security Management Association (BSMA).


  1. Although the bank is located some 100m from the manned entrance gate into an industrial park, no immediate response came from the guard force manning the gate or the estate despite the many shots heard.
  2. Law enforcement response was slow and came only after the suspects had already fled.
  3. Private security or law enforcement was unable to report or check the presence of a vehicle without license plates used by the robbers before the robbery.
  4. Apparently, due diligence done on employed guards / third parties proved insufficient resulting to the involvement of a guard in the heist (i.e. ‘inside job’).

Case Study 2

On a Sunday morning in October 2009, some eleven (11) heavily armed men robbed a luxury watch store inside Greenbelt 5 Mall in Makati City. The suspects smashed glass casings to steal Rolex watches and stuff them in bags. Five (5) did the robbing while six (6) others acted as look-out. The gunmen escaped in three (3) vehicles driven from the mall basement car-park. One of the robbers was shot and killed by one of two policemen who responded as they happened to be in the area at the time. The armed men shot it out with these two responding cops for about five minutes before they fled. The robbers were dressed like cops and initially introduced themselves to mall guards as members of the bomb squad responding to a bomb call.


  1. Law enforcement response was slow and came only after the suspects had already fled. The two policemen who responded just happened to be in the vicinity as the VIP (a politician) they were escorting was in the area. Also, one of the policemen decided to immediately engage the robbers without calling or waiting for back-up to arrive.
  2. The guard force responded by not antagonizing the robbers to protect further endangerment of lives, which is commendable. The guards on duty also verified with their HQ whether the bomb squad was to be expected, to which the response was a negative.
  3. A couple with child was briefly held hostage by the robbers. They were lucky to not have been hurt during the exchange of fire between the policemen and the robbers.
  4. The alarming brazenness of the robbery right at the heart of the financial district prompted the Vice-President of the country and Mayor of the city to reemphasize the importance of ‘vigilance and preparedness’ especially during hard financial times brought about by the recurring calamities, among others.

Case Study 3

In March 2012, three (3) armed men robbed two (2) roving bank tellers of the money they were carrying at Robinson’s Galleria Mall in Quezon City. The robbers had declared a hold-up after tailing the tellers and ended shooting at them and their two (2) guard escorts. They then escaped lobbing two (2) grenades as they got away which injured three (3) bystanders. Following the heist, one (1) security guard lay dead and six (6) others were injured. The robbery occurred on a regular Thursday morning soon as the mall opened at 10:00AM. Police later arrested one of the robbers in a follow-up operation.


  1. Mall CCTV cameras caught the suspects on video but since there was no effective reaction by control room security, if there was any, this information only became useful after the fact for the police investigators.
  2. Law enforcement response was slow even with the commotion and loud sounds from gunfire and explosion; and, came only after the suspects had already fled despite the fact that the robbery happened just a day after the national police went on full nationwide alert for the summer period.
  3. The national police admitted that operational and procedural lapses appeared to have been committed, referring to both private security and law enforcement.

Case Study 4

On a Thursday in August 2012, four (4) armed men robbed the Tambunting Pawnshop inside the Metro Point Mall in Pasay City. According to pawnshop guards, one of the suspects entered the shop and declared a hold-up whereby two (2) more companions likewise entered the store using iron pipes to destroy display cases. One other acted as lookout outside the shop. Tambunting reported a loss of P33M or USD 805,000.


  1. Mall CCTV cameras caught the images of the suspects on video but since there was no effective reaction by control room security, this information only became useful after the fact.
  2. Investigating police officers claimed the modus operandi employed was very similar to that of the ‘Martilyo (Hammer) Gang’.

Case Study 5

On a Saturday evening in January 2013, suspected members of the ‘Martilyo Gang’ robbed a jewelry store inside SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City. The suspects smashed glass casings and put stolen jewelry inside bags then fired shots toward the ceiling before vanishing into the crowds. While there were no reported injuries, the robbers were able to steal a significant amount of jewelry.


  1. Investigating police claimed the modus operandi employed was very similar to that of the ‘Martilyo (Hammer) Gang’.
  2. Mall CCTV cameras caught the images of the suspects on video but since there was no effective reaction by control room security, this information only became useful after the fact.
  3. Mall management publicly stated that it was cooperating with police to ascertain how or why the suspects were able to escape detection despite the security systems in place. It reassured the public that it was enhancing its security and conducting a thorough investigation.
  4. The robbery gang obviously employed diversionary and psychological tactics.

Case Study 6

Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia

A band of robbers armed with guns and hammers shot it out with Philippine police inside the Mall of Asia on March 30, 2014, sending Manila shoppers scrambling for safety. Waves of police commandos in bullet-proof vests and helmets and armed with assault rifles stormed the SM Mall of Asia (MOA), an AFP photographer saw, after the gang entered a jeweler’s shop inside.

Chief Superintendent Jose Erwin Villacorte, Southern Police District chief, said witnesses saw five to six men storm the mall, ransacking a jewelry store on the ground floor by destroying a display case with hammers around 7:30 p.m. Two men were seen smashing the glass cabinet of the jewelry store.

Hundreds of frightened shoppers, waiters and store clerks ran for dear life amid gunfire toward the exits of the nearly four-hectare (10-acre) complex of department stores, boutiques, restaurants and entertainment establishments by Manila Bay.

“The security guards initially blocked us, apparently because they feared some of us would steal items off the shelves on our way out. But they were swept aside after another burst of gunfire,” witnesses added.

“Mall [security personnel] are working with the PNP on the situation and no one was hurt from the incident,” Steven Tan, senior vice president for operations of the SM Supermalls, was quoted in the mall franchise’s official Twitter account.

‘No one seriously hurt’

One of the robbers fired shots to trigger a commotion among the people and distract the security guards, Villacorte said.

Diners rushed from a restaurant as an officer from the Philippine police moved toward the scene. One suspect was arrested in the resulting firefight that caused hundreds of shoppers to stampede out of the mall. Police and the operators of the SM Mall of Asia said no one was seriously hurt in the incident.

He said, “Four of our policewomen were able to give chase to the robbers,” in the course of which one suspect was arrested. The rest of the gang apparently escaped.

Asked how much the robbers managed to take from the jewelry store, Villacorte said: “They could have scooped out jewelry from the glass cabinet.”

“This is a common tactic. These robbers would go into a shop and start smashing the display cases with a hammer to grab things inside,” Villacorte told local television station ABS-CBN in an interview.

Lessons Learned

  1. The casualty list in terms of lives lost and injuries as well as financial losses reveal an alarming trend.
  2. The criminal threats presented have occurred even in broad daylight despite existing security systems in place.
  3. The robbery suspects appeared professional and knew what they were doing.
  4. Across all the cases presented, most if not all actions by both private security and law enforcement were merely reactive, not proactive. All incidents highlight the fact that proactive solutions jointly undertaken by in-house security and law enforcement were almost nil.
  5. In-house intelligence appears very weak as these criminal threats that have been presented, though recurrent, do not seem to have figured in any risk-based analysis or assessment done by the usually targeted businesses leading to effective protection or at least mitigating strategies being adopted.
  6. Mutual aid strategies appear lacking among businesses even those located in the same areas.
  7. Alarm and response systems especially between high-risk businesses and law enforcement need drastic improvement.
  8. Real-time monitoring of in-house surveillance systems and effective response can be improved.
  9. Vigilance and prompt reporting by private security of suspicious sightings and activity; i.e. vehicle without plates, needs to be improved.
  10. Effective intelligence projects should include the ability to ensure due diligence in screening personnel, including and especially security personnel.
  11. The publicly aired support by political leaders towards better law enforcement against emboldened criminals is favorable political capital for both businesses and law enforcement to follow-up on towards improved, proactive responses.


  1. Companies and industries must realize that traditionally reactive solutions no longer suffice to effectively deter escalating, serious crimes especially robbery.
  2. Most security systems are able to address the majority of potential threats just by being in place. However, these are unable to effectively address the 1% of threats that are determined, despite the solutions that are in place. We have already seen time and time again these threats at work, like the ones I’ve just presented.
  3. Proactive security solutions that anticipate a threat before it strikes must be adopted. By effective partnerships with law enforcement for instance, in-house security may be able to validate internally-generated data with that of police or the National Bureau of Investigation, etc. to identify and preempt potential threats before they can strike yet again. Apart from formal data, by nurturing our informal relationships with members of the law enforcement community or private industry we can be alerted to what could be out there that has not yet fallen within our radar screen.

Recommendations: Solutions Worth Trying:

  1. When mayhem breaks loose in a mall, security guards have this basic assignment: Get people out of harm’s way, and let the police move in. Gunfire and hostage situations are a rarity at malls. But with the large number of shoppers, the relative ease of getting inside and rising anxiety about criminal or terrorist attacks, shopping centers must adequately prepare for that possibility.
  2. Security work at a large mall involves careful planning with emergency responders, mall security, and merchants. It involves regular and at times frequent meetings with local police and emergency officials and must offer safety training to merchants and their employees.
  3. While some shopping centers may employ gun-toting guards, this may need to be reviewed amid concerns about ricocheting bullets, adequate training, and legal liabilities.
  4. The retail real estate industry needs government assistance. The vice-president supports intervention by the government and that is encouraging. Hopefully, some concrete action takes place fairly soon, before more and deadlier robberies occur. The situation is very urgent, depicted by how the robberies are being executed. ”The police or a security guard just went in to check a suspect, and it explodes,” witnesses narrate. “There was no time.”
  5. What mall and shopping owners and operators haven’t done is turn their properties into fortresses — and they don’t have plans to do so in the future. Some experts suggest crime prevention through environmental design, a concept dubbed CPTED.
  6. Retail owners should continue to fine-tune their security plans. Similar to how industries in the US partner with Homeland Security, security professionals should perhaps put together risk assessment and communications plans aligned with law enforcement’s so that if an incident occurs somewhere, alarms are triggered real-time allowing the security services to respond more efficiently and effectively.
  7. The fact remains that although mall operators may implement a variety of enhancements in addition to standard security programs, like physical changes such as erecting bollards at mall entrances to simple things like controlling parking at curbs and fire lanes to carefully check the manifests of trucks that go into loading docks, commercial reality requires that increased security cannot impact the day-to-day business of the mall.
  8. Prohibit curbside parking. Unattended vehicles should be towed quickly; so are vehicles left overnight in parking lots. Delivery people should be given updated and specialized delivery instructions to minimize risks.
  9. Security teams to perform hourly sweeps of properties on the lookout for unusual or out-of-place packages, or other items. Restricted areas such as utility rooms, mechanical rooms, and roof hatches should be re-keyed. Each access must require company and personal identification.

Increased coordination with local police, emergency services, and civil defense authorities; Mall owners can for instance make their blueprints accessible to law enforcement and rescue personnel. Data such as photos of stores, sprinkler system maps and details of evacuation procedures can be uploaded onto the Internet. Owners and managers can also work with retailers to coordinate emergency plans so that if something does happen, everyone will be “reading off the same page.”

More importantly, mall owners, operators, and retailers can exchange risk assessments and threat information which should drive mutual preparation planning and response.

I call intelligence the other and BETTER half of security because if properly pursued, this covert part of the security function has the tendency to make the other, overt part much more successful. As I have said, most people see only the visible part of security which may be the security guard or CCTV or technical access control system – arguably the 99% of this enabling function. But, seldom do people realize that there is also the covert part of it all – the 1% if you will – which is equally if not the more important part, as it is the one that effectively addresses the actual potential risk to the business, if properly executed.