Cops accused of using recovered stolen cars relieved

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/28 February) – Five days after commending them for recovering 16 alleged stolen motor vehicles here, the Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG) relieved its key personnel in Region 12 over accusations that they had used some of the seized units in their operations.

In a directive effective on Monday (Feb. 27), PNP-HPG national director Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina relieved HPG-12 chief Senior Supt. Jaime Macarilay pending an ongoing investigation into reports that the official and several other members of their unit utilized for various purposes two of the recovered stolen motor vehicles that were in their custody.

The relief order was endorsed by PNP-HPG’s human resources and development director Senior Supt. Fortunato Gutierrez.

Espina designated Senior Supt. Romeo Campomanes of HPG-Region 8 to replace Macarilay, who was directed to temporarily report for duty at the HPG headquarters in Camp Crame in Quezon City.

Aside from Macarilay, the HPG central office also relieved HPG-12 deputy director Chief Insp. Romeo Mon.

Reports came out Tuesday that 10 other HPG-12 personnel have sought their immediate relief and transfer to other assignments but personnel at the HPG central office’s operations management division told MindaNews over the phone that they have no information about the matter.

The vehicles allegedly used by Macarilay and his unit were among the 16 units that were reportedly stolen by the notorious Baktin car theft syndicate in Metro Manila and were later shipped and disposed in the area.

HPG-12 personnel recovered the alleged stolen motor vehicles, which included several sports utility vehicles (SUVs), in a series of operations in the city in the last two months as part of HPG’s special intelligence project dubbed Case Operation Plan “Inbox.”

Espina, who inspected the recovered stolen vehicles here last week, confirmed that they were investigating the accusations against Macarilay, who was also facing a similar complaint before the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman-Mindanao.

“We’re presently looking into it based on the complaint and some evidences that we received,” the official said.

Interior and Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo earlier warned policemen against using recovered stolen vehicles stressing it “constitutes grave misconduct that may subject them (violators) to summary dismissal proceedings.”

“Using recovered vehicles is both unethical and illegal, and we will definitely not tolerate cops who are doing this unacceptable practice in the police organization,” he said in a press statement.

The 16 seized motor vehicles were part of the 26 stolen units that they recovered in the second phase of their operations against the Baktin group, which was described by HPG as a big-time car theft and carjacking group operating nationwide.

The Baktin group, which was reportedly named after its leader Ryan Cain Yu alias Baktin, was considered a top player in car theft operations in the country and runs the “re-birthing” of stolen
vehicles, from hot cars to commercial-ready units, HPG records showed.

In a statement, the HPG noted that among the stolen vehicles that were recovered in the city was a white Hyundai Starex van “that was forcibly carjacked from a businessman in Angeles City and replaced with license plates assigned to another car registered to movie and TV celebrity Luis Manzano.”

HPG-12 operatives seized the vehicle in a raid last Feb. 8 at the residence of Barangay Dadiangas Heights councilor Joseph Salangsang, who had been charged before the Department of Justice for violation of Republic Act 6539 or the Anti-Carnapping Act of 1972.

Salangsang earlier protested the confiscation of his vehicle saying he had obtained proper clearances from the HPG, Land Transportation Office and other concerned government agencies before acquiring it on July 11 last year.

Also charged was former Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG)-Mindanao director Mohamad “Bong” Aquia, who sold the unit to Salangsang in July last year.

“Case build-up efforts against Aquia uncovered his alleged involvement in other criminal cases, prompting the PNP to revoke last January his license to possess 29 firearms registered under his name. He has since been given reasonable time to surrender the guns after these firearms were deemed subject to confiscation in favor of the government,” the HPG said.

Police operatives raided Aquia’s residence in Barangay San Isidro here last Feb. 23 but it turned out negative.

Aquia, in an interview aired over radio station Bombo Radyo on Tuesday, described the HPG’s actions against him as “harassment” and vowed to file the necessary counter-charges against all those who
participated in the raid. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)