MANILA, Philippines — A former member of the anti-carjacking unit of the Philippine National Police (PNP), who was tagged in the bloody 2008 shoot-out in Parañaque City, has been arrested for allegedly stealing vehicles from car rental companies and pawning them to casino financiers, the PNP said on Monday.
In a news briefing at Camp Crame, PNP Director General Alan Purisima lauded the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) operatives for arresting one of its former colleagues, Chief Inspector Michael Saturnino, who had been AWOL (absent without leave) since in 2012.
Chief Superintendent Arrazad Subong, HPG director, said Saturnino, 37, was arrested on April 10 with his girlfriend Mary Grace Balingit in an entrapment operation at the parking lot of the Casino Filipino in Barangay San Isidro, Parañaque.
“They are known to be the ‘king and queen’ of the ‘rent-tangay’ modus victimizing operators of rent-a-car business,” Subong told reporters.
He said the pair tried to sell a Toyota Innova (UOY 215), which was forcibly taken from its owner Amalia Estrada in Mexico, Pampanga, on April 4, to a casino financier when they were arrested.
“The arrest was an offshoot of a two-day operation. Our operatives sensed that the Toyota Innova could be stolen because it was sporting a license plate which was issued to another vehicle,” Subong said.
He said Balingit, who also used the aliases Marivic Orollo Castillo, Amalia Esola Estrada, Pia Balingit and Emma Rose Camia, had an arrest warrant in Cebu City for an estafa case.
He said the pair had victimized a number of car rental firms in Metro Manila, Bacolod City and the provinces of Bohol, Iloilo and Cebu.
“Their modus was to pose as legitimate customers who will rent vehicles from unsuspecting car rental companies. Upon getting the vehicles, they will immediately sell or pawn them to casino financiers using fake car registration papers,” Subong said.
During a follow-up operation, he said two casino financiers in Resorts World Casino surrendered 11 vehicles pawned to them by Saturnino and Balingit for P3 million.
Saturnino was one of 24 policemen ordered charged for the deaths of six civilians during a firefight between policemen, elements of the Naval Intelligence and Security Forces, and alleged robbers at United Parañaque Subdivision 4 in Barangay Marcelo Green on the night of Dec. 5, 2008.
Among the 16 fatalities in the shootout were seaman Alfonso de Vera and his 7-year-old daughter Lia Allana, who were caught in a crossfire, the police claimed.
But several witnesses maintained that the father and daughter, who were then aboard their Isuzu Crosswind, were killed by policeman who apparently mistook their vehicle for one of the getaway cars of robbery suspects.