Congress probes “ground zero for car smuggling”

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/06 August) — The 30-hectare Mindanao Container Port in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, is now the subject of a congressional probe for allegedly serving as ”ground zero for car smuggling” in the country.

The House Committee of Ways and Means chaired by Rep. Hermilando Mandanas (2nd district, Batangas)  has subpoenaed three officials of the Bureau of Customs and 11 consignees of  hot cars seized last month.

The Bureau of Customs seized 14 vehicles placed in container vans and declared as truck replacements at the Mindanao Container Port in Tagoloan on July 16.

A report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation which was furnished to Philippine authorities revealed that suspected car smuggler Lynard Allan Bigcas shipped stolen cars from the United States through the Mindanao Container Port.

“This port was intended to help export products from Mindanao to the world. We never intended this port to become a smugglers haven,” Rep. Yevgeny Vicente Emano (2nd district, Misamis Oriental) said.

Rep. Benjo Benaldo (1st district, Cagayan de Oro) said this is probably the reason why so many right-hand converted vehicles are found in Cagayan de Oro.

“There is definitely a collusion between the smugglers and the Land Transportation Office here,” Benaldo said.

National Bureau of Investigation Director Jose Justo Yap said they have included two other persons in the smuggling charge sheet along with Bigcas, who was accused of stealing an US$ 80,000 motorcycle owned by Hollywood writer Skiff Woods in April this year.

Yap said they have found Bigcas shipped a total of 11 container vans from the US to Cagayan de Oro from 2009 to 2011.

He said aside from the stolen vehicles, Bigcas also shipped assorted number of AR 15 rifle parts and ammunition.

“The FBI was able to interview the gun shops where Bigcas bought the rifle parts and ammunition,” Yap said.

Yap said of the 11 vehicles seized from Bigcas, the FBI found eight were  stolen from the US.

Bigcas has not been detained  pending the resolution of the two cases filed by authorities which was questioned by his lawyer.

Yap said the FBI sent him a report detailing how Bigcas was able to send the stolen vehicles from Houston, Texas to Cagayan de Oro.

“Bigcas shipped the vehicles and motorcycles by train from Houston to Los Angeles,” Yap narrated.

From Los Angeles, Yap said Bigcas shipped them to Singapore where it was transferred to a smaller ship that brought his cargo to the Mindanao Container Port.

“He declared his container vans as surplus household appliances,“ Yap said.

Bigcas was invited to the public hearing of the Committee on Ways and Means in Cagayan de Oro last Friday, August 5, 2011 but his lawyer said he was in the hospital for treatment. (Froilan Gallardo/Mindanews)