Police seize 16 suspected ‘hot’ cars in GenSan

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/23 February) – Police operatives recovered 16 more motor vehicles that were allegedly stolen in Metro Manila and later disposed in the city by members of a busted bigtime car theft syndicate operating nationwide.

Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina, Philippine National Police(PNP)-Highway Patrol Group (HPG) director, said Thursday the stolen vehicles were seized in the area in the last two months by elements of HPG Region 12 as part of their ongoing crackdown against the remaining operations of the notorious Baktin group.

“Majority of these were stolen in Metro Manila, especially in Quezon City, and eventually turned up here,” said Espina, who personally inspected the recovered motor vehicles at the HPG-12 compound in Camp Fermin Lira here Thursday morning.

The official said their verification showed that the seized motor vehicles here, which included several sports utility vehicles (SUVs), have tampered documents, chassis and engine numbers.

He said some of the units were subjects of car theft alarms based on their records and of the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

Espina said 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.

He said the 10 other vehicles were recovered recently in Bacolod City.

In their initial operations last year, he said they recovered 29 motor vehicles that were stolen by the same group in Metro Manila and later shipped to the cities of Bacolod and Cagayan de Oro.

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 October last year, PNP Director General Nicanor Bartolome announced the busting of the group’s “backbone” with the arrest in Cagayan de Oro City of one of its alleged key members identified as Osmond Ray Estores Dalugdog, who reportedly used the aliases Cocoy Dee, Hashim Dee and Dee Balabaran.

Dalugdog was allegedly behind the “rebuilding, tampering and repainting of vehicles” stolen by the group’s members in Metro Manila through a shop based in Davao City as well as their registration through a network he supposedly established in Region 10, he said.

Espina said that based on their research on Baktin group’s operations, it has existed for over a decade already.

“Proof of that is the Mitsubishi L200 pickup, a 1990s model, that was recovered here,” the police official said.

He said the group specializes mainly in the carjacking of high-end motor vehicles in Metro Manila through “orders” from prospective clients; shipping of the stolen vehicles to Visayas and Mindanao; “reverting process” or tampering of their registrations, chassis and engine numbers and records; and, reselling them through their established networks.

“We’re determined to put an end to their activities and we have already filed numerous cases against some personalities that we found to have some connections with them,” Espina said.

In this city, he said they filed charges for violation of Republic Act 6539 or the law against vehicle theft “for the DOJ (Department of Justice)” against Barangay San Isidro councilor and businessman Joey Salangsang.

HPG-12 operatives seized last Feb. 8 an alleged stolen white Hyundai Starex van at the Salangsang residence.

But Salangsang, who acquired the unit from former Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group-Mindanao director Mohammad Aquia, said he had obtained clearances from the LTO, PNP Crime Laboratory-12 and even the HPG-12 before he finalized its purchase.

“I was really surprised with the sudden turn of events since my documents were properly cleared and I even submitted the vehicle for micro-etching at the crime laboratory to check if its chassis and engine numbers were tampered and it passed,” he said in an interview over radio station Bombo Radyo.

At around 5 a.m. Thursday, joint police operatives also rounded up the residence of Aquia in Barangay San Isidro here based on a search warrant by Regional Trial Court Branch 35 Executive Judge Oscar Noel.

But Senior Supt. Robert Kiunisala, deputy regional director for operations of the Police Regional Office 12, said the raid turned out “negative.”

He said they found at Aquia’s house “several firearms with revoked licenses and we advised him to surrender them to the PNP.” (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)