CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/18 May) — Suspected vehicle smuggler Lynard Allan Bigcas has asked the court for an extension within office hours yesterday to submit the documentation of the 20 motor vehicles he claimed was unlawfully seized from his residences here and in Talakag, Bukidnon.
This was the outcome of the first hearing of the special civil case—writ of replevin and damages—that Bigcas’ through lawyer Alejandro Jose Pallugna filed before the Regional Trial Court-Branch 18, this city on May 11.
In an interview before the court hearing yesterday, Bigcas said the motor vehicles seized from his residences were three all-terrain-vehicles, five motocross bikes, seven urban big bikes and five cars. The big bikes included the alleged stolen Martin Bros custom-built chopper owned by Hollywood screenwriter Skip Woods.
He added he did not need documentation for the five other big bikes since these were never for road use but were “really just show bikes.”
“I just lay a blanket over them in my room. Those were just show bikes and part of my collection,” he said.
Meanwhile, RTC-Branch 18 Judge Dennis Alcantar yesterday clarified to reporters that the first hearing was not a closed-door proceeding.
“The hearing earlier was actually open to the public. It’s the taking of pictures inside the court that is prohibited,” Alcantar said.
Clerk of Court Atty. Eileen Joy Pakino-Bonghanoy explained that only Bigcas was summoned to the court yesterday as it was just a clarificatory hearing of his claim and prayer for the issuance of a writ of replevin.
Also known as “claim and delivery,” replevin is a legal remedy for an owner to recover goods unlawfully withheld from his or her possession.
“What happened earlier was a clarificatory hearing for the petitioner to prove his ownership of the vehicles he claims were taken from him unlawfully,” Pakino-Bonghanoy said.
Rule 60, Section 2 of the Revised Rules of Court requires the petitioner to prove ownership of the articles the latter wants returned to his or her possession.
Only after the court grants the petition will the court summon the defendant—in this case the National Bureau of Investigation Region 10—and ask for an explanation why the items in question were “unlawfully” taken.
In another development, TV reports on Tuesday said the Bureau of Customs (BoC) had issued a Seize and Detention Order for all of Bigcas’ motor vehicles pending the outcome of an ongoing joint investigation of the BoC and the NBI.
Pallugna scoffed at the reported order saying their camp should be properly notified if there was indeed such order so that “we can respond accordingly.”
“We have not been notified officially yet (on the said order). The announcement over the TV or newspapers cannot be considered as official notice of the order,” he said today.
For his part, Bigcas said he would not fault the BoC if indeed it has issued the order.
“That’s their right. If they will take my motor vehicles and then let me pay the taxes, those are just fine with me. At least, then, I could enjoy riding these vehicles around Cagayan de Oro since they will then be legit,” he said.
“Even if I have to pay for the taxes of each of the vehicles one by one, I will do it,” he added.
In an earlier report, City Prosecutor Fidel Macauyag said he was disturbed over the failure of the BoC to file a case against suspected smugglers here and noted that not a single smuggling case has been filed in the last four years.
This pronouncement was confirmed by Regional State Prosecutor Jaime Umpa in an interview today.
“Totoo ‘yan kasi si city prosecutor ang nagsabi eh,” (That’s true because it’s the city prosecutor who said it) Umpa said.
Umpa, however, declined to comment further saying he has no jurisdiction on the case. (Cong B. Corrales/MindaNews)