POSTSCRIPT / February 8, 2011 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Why many stolen cars ended up in Pampanga

SAN FERNANDO CITY — With the discovery in this province of depots selling stolen vans and stripped parts of used cars, for a while Pampanga was in danger of being mistaken as the fence of choice for hijacked vehicles.

That was before the authorities caught up with the carjackers and local officials took quick steps to deny the thieves a hospitable place of business.

A closer look at the activities of the syndicates showed that while most of the vehicles were stolen in Metro Manila, the thieves used some Pampanga towns as havens with the North Luzon Expressway serving as conduit.

Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda noted that the stolen vehicles and stripped car parts were discovered in the cities of San Fernando and Angeles and the towns of Mexico and Mabalacat.

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NEAR NLEX EXITS: The carjacking depots found in this province have one thing in common: They sit at the northern exits of NLEx only 30-50 minutes away from the entry toll plaza at Balintawak.

Pineda said that the syndicates, with obvious criminal and business sense, have not bothered to locate their depots in smaller towns that are far from the NLEx exits and where the local folk knew one another.

All the stripping/selling sites used by the carjackers were very close to the NLEx exits, always less than a kilometer away from the Expressway.

In San Fernando, the car exchange for stolen SUVs sits cheek by jowl with the showrooms of legitimate car dealers near the exit. In Mexico, it is right behind a prominent mall beside the expressway.

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DRUG MENACE: Nothing unusual happens in a barangay without being noticed by the neighbors. So Pineda rallied these basic political units, stressing to them their crucial role in stopping illicit activities of outsiders.

She met all barangay captains recently to stress their being “frontliners.” In their meetings, the governor enlarged the area of concern and included the drug menace.

Having received reports that some drug rings are eyeing the Clark international airport as an entry and transshipment point, the governor sought more aggressive anti-narcotics operations in the Clark-Angeles area.

She is helping Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency get a permanent station in the former US base whose air traffic now includes some 85 regular weekly flights.

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ARMY HELP?: The lady-governor said she realized the daunting dimensions of fighting carjacking and drugs syndicates.

She needs the involvement of mayors and other local officials, as well as non-government organizations, media and other civic elements. City and town officials should improve their screening of businesses, she added.

“Fighting crime could be exhausting,” she said, pointing out that enforcement is largely a police matter.

She realizes that the local police are in dire need of logistics. To boost their law-enforcement capability, she is studying how the military can help maintain peace and order.

One idea being suggested to her is to tap civilian guards attached to the army to do quasi-police work so regular policemen can have more time attending to their regular peace and order tasks.

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COLLUSION: A big stumbling block in the anti-carjacking drive is police collusion.

In one recent case in this province, a civic-spirited cabalen went out of his way to report what he and his neighbors suspected were activities of carnappers in his hometown.

He went to report it, unaware that the carjack rings have police connections right where concerned citizens are encouraged to report criminal activities.

Before the poor whistle-blower reached home, he was dead.

How do we face a scary problem like that?

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TOP-LEVEL PROBE: The top brass of the Philippine National Police are troubled by reports that two senior officers may be protecting car theft syndicates, particularly the reported Dominguez gang.

Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz, PNP spokesman, said an investigation is ongoing on the reported links to carjackers of Director Roberto Rosales, head of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations in Northern Luzon, and Superintendent Napoleon Cauyan, a former head of the defunct Traffic Management Group of the PNP’s Task Force Limbas.

The PNP asks those with information on carjacking to report it to the PNP by texting a message to 2920 or09178475757.

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LTO CLEAN?: Cruz said that the renewed campaign involves strengthening inter-agency coordination, particularly with the Land Transportation Office which registers all vehicles. He said the PNP is reviewing clearances in the movement of vehicles from one area to another.

But this will work only if no LTO personnel, especially key officials, are in cahoots with car theft syndicates. The integrity of LTO officials must be beyond doubt.

Cruz said the PNP is exploring a proposal to make carjacking a non-bailable offense. But Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has said that that could be done only if carjacking is first made a capital crime.

The PNP spokesman said the police are improving the flash alarm system that enables authorities to immediately determine if a vehicle is stolen.

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ADOPT RFID?: Maybe they should consider adopting the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) system that uses a special decal on the windshield that tells an officer instantly the status and critical data on the vehicle.

The RFID proposal, although already approved, has been blocked by quarters who fear that the electronic gadget may violate privacy.

As public service, we are repeating an alternative advice in Postscript on how to check if a car is registered. Text the message LTO VEHICLE to 2600 and wait for a reply.

The “ABC” stands for the letters on the car license plate and “123” for the three-digit number after the letters. Do not put a space between “ABC” and “123”. Do not omit the brackets (< >).

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 8, 2011)

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